Lord give me the serenity…

For a while there were numerous articles on a phenomenon that the press labeled “quiet quitting.” (Why am I convinced that term was generated by management and not workers?) If you read these articles, there really isn’t any “quitting” involved; people are still perfectly willing to do their jobs, no matter how crappy. What they’re not willing to do is extra, unpaid work that is outside of the scope of their job. They’re not willing to do work before clocking in; they’re not willing to take on extra responsibility without being recognized for it (preferably with a promotion); they’re not willing to work extra shifts when they’re ill, and especially not feeling as if they have to be on the hook to find someone to cover their shifts when ill (that’s what you’re getting paid for, managers).

And this is being called “quiet quitting.”

When I started work in earnest after I got my degree in computer science at 22, I had been working in the service industry for 7 years. I had put myself through college with service jobs; kept myself fed and clothed with service jobs; and was acutely aware of just how many employers tried to abuse their power in squeezing more work out of you for free. (In fact, I think everyone should be required to work in—and live off the pay of—hourly service jobs for at least a year before they take on a non-service job. And anyone getting an MBA should have to put in an additional year.)

My first day on the job in high tech, one of my coworkers, as part of his training, told me, “Well, we’re scheduled to work 8 hours/day, but you’ll get lots of overtime.” And I thought, “Yeah, no way.” And then and there I came up with three rules for my work-life balance that I have stayed with to this day:

  1. No overtime
  2. No working lunches
  3. No trade magazines on my free time

(I think the implementation of “brown-bag lunches”, where execs schedule a talk during lunch time and strongly hint you should give up your lunchtime to attend, is yet another example of management trying to squeeze workers. My lunchtime in mine; you want my attention, you go ahead and pay me for it.)

Word, Agent Sully

Now yes, I have occasionally broken those rules in extremis. I’ve attended working lunches, mostly for political reasons (ie to make my team look good in front of an executive). I’ve read some articles in trade magazines, but almost always on company time. And while I have sometimes stayed late or worked weekends because of the press of events, it is extremely rare.

Plenty of people have told me over the last 35+ years that I was limiting myself by being so stringent; that I would get poor performance reviews, wouldn’t get promoted, wouldn’t get bonuses, etc. And that’s turned out to be nonsense; not only have I gotten raises, promotions, bonuses, and accolades, I have regularly been tagged as a top performer. I’m not saying this to brag; I’m pointing out you can have a good work-life balance and do solid work that gets appreciated.

What aggravates me with the current situation is this: Workers finally have some leverage with business, and business is whining that they’re using that power to demand a reasonable work-life balance. And I’m actually thrilled that Millennials and GenZers are fighting back against the soul-sucking demands of pushy, fascistic, out-of-control managers. That the workforce is saying, “Enough!” is nothing but healthy, in my opinion.

I want to make clear that I don’t believe all management are pushy, fascistic, and out-of-control. But far too many, especially in service jobs, absolutely are. (Read any story about Elon Musk for examples.) You have all read the stories about Amazon drivers urinating in bottles, and factory fulfillment people being monitored by the second. Or Walmart workers forced to do work off the clock. Restaurant workers made to feel guilty for not coming in and working while sick. That’s absurd. It shouldn’t be borne. And I’m glad to see fewer and fewer people are accepting it. Because you don’t have to.

So those are my three rules. What are yours? And how have they worked out for you?