Or why more and more people are losing the desire to pursue a career
24-year-old Georgia Gadsby started her career in the marketing department of an English retail company. Like any new employee, she initially accepts to work overtime without pay. She thinks that showing dedication will get noticed and help her get a promotion. And indeed she has been offered a position of principal administrator with a higher salary, but also has to take on more responsibilities. Thus, imperceptibly, from 40 hours of work a week it reaches 60. He turns to his bosses for additional pay for overtime.
“I was promised one, but I never received it… I felt humiliated. When the pandemic started, I felt like I could just slow down and look for another job, but the weather was stormy and it didn’t happen quickly,” Georgia Gadsby told the BBC. She starts turning down tasks that are outside of her job description. The bosses don’t like that. She gets criticized a lot, but she doesn’t care anymore. “I felt like I was getting my strength back,” she recalls. In the end, when her dream job turns into a real nightmare for her, she leaves.
31-year-old Emma O’Brien finds herself in the same situation. She also stops working hard at her job after being denied a raise. “My workload was increased during the recession and I was taking care of the whole team,” she says. For several weeks he hounded his boss to negotiate pay for the overtime he was doing. When he succeeds, he simply tells her “no”. I felt empowered and motivated after his answer to just do the bare minimum of my duties because I had mentally given up on that job, Emma explains.
Both women are part of the “quiet retirement” trend that is increasingly seen among young people around the world. It begins in China even before the shocking lockdown of the world due to the coronavirus forced us to rethink what the important things in life are. There it is called “lying on your back” and means refusing to work excessively.
It later became popular in the US after a TikTok star released an infectious video saying, “Work is not your life.” It becomes widely shared and commented on, and so it is understood that many people have simply quietly retired from working long hours after realizing that they neither provide them with a living wage nor bring them satisfaction. They also concluded that there is a fulfilling life without a perfect career path. So they’ve reached a state where they don’t take their job seriously, but still do the bare minimum of it to avoid getting fired.
According to workplace behavior expert Patti Ehsay, this isn’t a workable solution, even if a person feels like they’re suffering from overheating. “Quiet retirement means doing the minimum that is required of you and settling for mediocrity. In this situation, career advancement and pay increases will go to those whose level of effort is greater,” she explains.
Career coach and podcast host Joanne Mallon agrees. “Everyone has quietly given up at some point in their lives, but ultimately it can be a sign that it’s time to move on and physically get out of a place,” she warns.
However, other experts believe that the tendency to work less diligently is a natural response to the overheating that has been so much talked about in recent years. And with the ever-increasing demands of the modern workplace, it’s no wonder that more and more people are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Silent retirees often find that their career path no longer aligns with their values or lifestyle. Instead of coming to terms with a situation that makes them unhappy, they break emotionally with it quietly and without fanfare.
If for them this is a good option until they find a new professional field that makes them happy, it is a serious challenge for the work team. Not only because a replacement has to be found for their skill set and experience, but also because cutting them could create tension and damage morale among their colleagues. Therefore, it is very important to understand all the reasons behind this trend.
A survey in the US shows that one in ten employees admits to putting in less effort at work compared to a few years ago and is not worried about it. Which shows that the decades of long hours with little or no extra pay are coming to an end. Younger generations, who are vulnerable to depression, anxiety and frustration, have much more knowledge of how fatigue and stress affect the body in the long term. For this reason, they do not tend to overexert themselves. And they don’t get enough incentives to do it.
Due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, more and more businesses are unable to offer their workers satisfactory wages and career security. Besides, it turns out that it’s not even such a serious incentive anymore. A survey by US asset management company Mercer last year found that around 50% of employees expect overtime bonuses, but 49% prioritize physical and psychological well-being. 37 percent cited a sense of purpose to work hard, and 36 percent cited environmental and social justice concerns in their work.
According to the authors of the study, it makes it abundantly clear that companies need to rethink their policies on building good working conditions, as the mainstream expectation is to work smarter, not longer, to increase productivity. Some of them are already trying to do it by introducing a four-day work week without reducing pay. Others are turning to programs to bring team members together and for greater communication, such as group yoga and pilates sessions, for example. Role plays are also done to encourage employees to say what they really think about the work environment. In this way, employers hope to save themselves from the “quiet withdrawal” craze that seems to be taking over the world.