Being silent is a fake instinct. Why does it seem real?

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The hottest labor legend right now is that everyone is “quitting quiet.” Earlier this summer, a million-viewed popular video on TikTok has used the term to refer to the art of doing a job without letting it dominate your life. Alliteration creeped into the mainstream-media landscape from that social-media petri dish. since August, wall street journal And bloomberg have published more than A dozen Articles and podcasts about the event. Over the past month, I’ve received countless PR pitches on quitting quietly, many of them referring to the same Gallup study alleging that people who remain silent make “more than half” of the American workforce. the allegedly silent one”Epidemic“He allegedly is” change workplace and, allegedly, making the owner very crazy,

i repeat the word Allegedly Because I want to point out that statistically speaking, being silent isn’t really a thing. Or, at least, it’s not a new thing.

Gallup asks thousands of American workers every year about their commitment to their jobs. From 2010 to 2020, engagement gradually increased. In 2022, it decreased so much that it is still higher than in any year from 2000 to 2014. Look at the chart below and let me know if it’s anything more than two steady lines within the margin of error. As a workplace phenomenon, the mild disengagement of workers is as novel as cubicles, lunch breaks, and blurry-eyed coworkers stopping by your workstation to “Monday, emirates?” What children are now calling “quietly quitting” was, in past and simpler decades, known simply as “doing the job”.

Graph showing trends for the two measures of US workforce hiring over the 2000–2002 period.  Both indicators appear to be stable over time.
Gabriella Pesquera / The Atlantic

I accept that leaving quietly will solve a major contemporary labor mystery. Labor productivity is falling after an increase in the first year of the pandemic. The best explanation for this fall, however, isn’t a sudden outbreak of TikTok-transmitted laziness. It is that record-high rates of job change in the service sector have created an inexorable bubble, such that many new workers in restaurants, hotels and others are not fully trained.

Nevertheless, the term is partly lost because of burnt or bored workers. just desperate for a new vocabulary to describe their feelings. Something like worker empowerment seems to be left silent. Amelia Nagoski, a co-author, with her sister Emily Nagoski, book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Told My colleague Carolyn Mimbs Nice said the term “makes a lot of sense” because it “comes from the perspective of people who are not only selling their time, but selling themselves to their employer.”

But realistically, the term is more likely to validate managers who think their employees are lethargic, to help ordinary workers regain their spirit. Huge number of cool-leaving articles from the point of view of owners in wall street journal And bloomberg strongly suggests that the term is even current among managers. It provides a convenient explanation for apparently lazy workers. Complex questions like “Am I running my team effectively?” and “Is hybrid work really working for us?” Beliefs can be reduced to the diagnosis that young people do not want to work.

For some reason, the news media seems eager to confirm these managers’ worst fears. Earlier this year, several outlets- new York Times, New York, teen Vogue, recodedTried to convince Americans that “no one wants to work,” even as the economy added hundreds of thousands of jobs each month. The best evidence he had was not evidence at all, but a misunderstanding of government figures. As the official “leave rate” reached its all-time high and the phrase great resignation After hitting the headlines, some commentators experienced an overall reluctance to do the work. But most people weren’t leaving to retire; they were leaving take a new job, The labor force, total jobs and hours of work soared during a period when news organizations were telling everyone that work was dead. that was weird.

The popularity of these empty-calorie labor trends suggests a divergence between statistical and deeply emotional truths. Several weeks ago, I wrote about another semi-trend: supposedly devastating national teacher shortage, Despite several news articles about the sudden shortage of classroom teachers, I could not find a single education expert who agreed with the media presentation of the story. It appears that long-standing issues in public education—such as the difficulty of hiring special-ed teachers—are colliding with the new politicization of public school and the jealousy of teachers to create an overwhelming sentiment. evil, That sentiment has bought into the idea of ​​a national teacher shortage.

In other words, these quasi-trends are bad-vibe vehicles – the delivery mechanism for unflattering negative thoughts about the world that demand the news-headline treatment. When people are looking for permission to feel their unintentional bad feelings, they are satisfied when abusive TikTok accounts or journalists chasing dyspeptic trends give them. Just as national teacher shortages are an extreme trend that marks the location of a real phenomenon (a decline in job satisfaction among teachers), leaving silently is a novel nonsense that stems from chronic labor issues such as under-representation of unions or one. can stand for. Deep American pressure to be a careerist.

When a phrase begins, it is often because new words fill a space of uncertainty, as if coining a new diagnosis. Too many workers are looking for an efficient way to describe the pressing pressures of wanting to be financially secure but not wanting to let work dominate their lives, but worrying about the dominant position. but experiencing Crime The anxiety about that situation, and sometimes feeling like a gun for that promotion, and sometimes feeling like quitting, and sometimes the sensory deprivation to put all those other worries off for a moment. Feeling like crawling in the tank. If quitting quietly is fake, then the popularity of anti-work neologism is its own data point that should be taken seriously as a cultural phenomenon.

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