I think the reason #quietquitting is simultaneously “nothing new” but also “new all of a sudden” is because we have been relying on discretionary effort in the workplace for so long, it has become normalised.
This started after the 2008 crash when redundancies stopped being something that companies were embarrassed about but actually became seen by the market as a sign of strength, decisiveness and of being brave & bold.
Of course the people who paid the price are every single one of us; the ones made redundant, the ones left behind, the ones looking for work and the ones left trying to keep businesses afloat too. I see it in the job market: lots of jobs out there advertised, but in reality, companies seem to be figuring out how to operate with fewer staff, and hiring new people has been an absolute last resort. That creates unemployment and also fear among the employees who are left behind.
I’ve helped out in voluntary organisations for years and sit on committees and boards etc and it’s always amazed me how people came along all gung-ho at the outset, but quit as soon as they got a new job or have to go to work. The busy-culture meant we all got used to being Duracell bunnies but that led to burnout and fatigue at the slightest bit of adversity that comes our way.
Vague and half-hearted attempts have been made to address this, such as banning email being sent out of hours (something that I personally feel is well intentioned, but also insane in equal measure, given that it’s an asynchronous comms channel and supposed to work that way). But in reality people have just been quiet-quitting inside. That sounds like they’re doing something naughty but I think it’s just been a gradual withdrawal of the discretionary effort that became normalised.
So I think “quiet quitting” is probably a good thing to have happened because it’s a chance to reset and make sure that jobs/teams/companies are staffed properly so that once again we can have joy in giving discretionary effort when we want to…
… at our discretion.