Ep 188 Make it Make Sense: Quiet Quitting and Sabbaticals
In today’s, Make it Make Sense segment, we’re going to discuss quiet quitting and sabbaticals.
For those new to the show, the make it make sense segments are basically my take on current events or topics that caught my attention or my random thoughts about life.
As many of you know, I’m all about protecting my peace, so I do my best to limit how much news I watch and/or read. I’m a huge fan of newsletter round-ups, if you’re not sure what I mean by that check out Ep. 160 How will you make this an extraordinary year to remember? In addition to the roundup newsletters I’m subscribed to, I sometimes checkout LinkedIn because they sometimes have interesting articles as well.
So I came across this article that mentioned the term quiet quitting. Now I heard about this phrase but I never took the time to look up the definition of quiet quitting to see if it aligned with my definition of what I thought it was. When I heard the term quiet quitting, I was under the impression it was someone who decided to go ghost. I thought it was someone who had enough of their job and just decided never to return again.
I’ve definitely been there and yes, I’ve even done that before. Yes, you heard that right. I walked off of a job.
In case you’re curious, I was working on a long-term contract assignment for this one-woman staffing agency. This was one of my earliest experiences of working in a toxic environment. Again, I don’t come from a wealthy family. So that whole college experience of going off to college, focusing on getting an education, and calling home to ask my parents for money was not an option.
DePaul University isn’t cheap so I had to work full-time while I was getting my education. So when I was in college, I worked full time and attended college at night. I worked from 8 to 4:30 and then went to class from 6 to 9. I did this 4 days a week for 4 years. I never did an internship when I was in college because it never made sense to me why someone would work for free. I mean I guess if you’re rich you can afford to work for free, but I had bills to pay, so while I was attending college I worked on various contract assignments for staffing firms.
It gave me the ability to pay my bills while gaining experience working in the marketing arena. I’ve always been ambitious so I was really eager to learn and wanted to prove to the companies I temped for that were skeptical about hiring me because I was so young (I was 18). I just kept reiterating that I picked up concepts quickly, was very creative, and reliable, and could bring a lot to the table if they would just give me the opportunity to do so.
Again, this was during the early phase in my life when I hadn’t truly found my voice or strength to stand up for myself because I didn’t want to be labeled with the Angry Black Woman stereotype (Ep. 125 I’m Speaking). Which by the way, is just a clever attempt to silence Black women from defending themselves from those who wrong them. I was trying my best to project a confident demeanor, but I was really insecure. It was almost like I had to be completely backed into a corner before I got the strength to tell someone off so I was internalizing all these negative emotions that were causing me to feel more and more like a doormat. That was totally my fault and I take complete responsibility for allowing that nonsense to occur. So anyway, I’m working for this one-woman agency. It was just me and her. I’ll never forget, I tried so hard to be kind to this woman but she was just a jerk.
She was on the verge of losing the one client that was keeping her business afloat. She was taking her frustrations out on me. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when she started complaining about how I did not cut a newspaper article clipping neat enough for her.
I told her I did cut the clipping straight. That clipping was cut directly on the dotted line. I told you she was nuts. She just wanted to pick on me. So anyway, she had just given me my paycheck, and she went to lunch. I called my mom who then proceeded to yell at me for allowing that woman to treat me that way. My mom literally told me, “If it’s that bad, quit. No job is worth your dignity.”
So that’s exactly what I did. I wrote a note telling the woman I was done working for her, taped the office key to the desk, and never went back.
Again, this was what I had in mind when I heard the term quiet quitting. So imagine my surprise when I learned that the definition of quiet quitting is essentially doing your job and not going above and beyond the job description. Ok, call me crazy, but this is insane.
Whenever I do something, I give it my all. My mom always instilled in me that I’m working for God and to always do the best I can. Early on in my career, after graduation, I would say somewhere between the first 5 or 10 years I was working myself to the bone for managers or management that were a couple of fries short of a happy meal.
I was going above and beyond my job responsibilities in hopes that people would realize that I was a hard worker and did what it takes to get the job done. I worked a lot of overtime, outperformed my coworkers in terms of productivity, and volunteered to work on “special assignments,” the list goes on. This type of behavior was not healthy nor was it sustainable. Yet, I would tell myself it would all be worth it. There’s no way that I won’t get that raise or promotion.
After all, I went above and beyond what my job required me to do. Surely, they would have to reward my hard work with a promotion and raise right? Wrong! Many of you are probably laughing because you already know how this movie ends…Instead of getting the raises and promotions, we both knew I deserved, the folks I worked for rewarded my hard work with wait for it, wait for it…more work.
The promotions and raises I was expecting went to coworkers who were good at office politics. They got promoted for who they knew not what they knew. I was a little slow and stubborn y’all so it took me a minute to realize that regardless of what I did my efforts would never be enough.My managers saw the opportunity to take advantage of me being naive.
I learned the hard way that in order to truly make it in this world, you need to put Christ first and use the time and energy He gives you to develop your talent so you can share it with the world. Many of us fail to realize that even though we view our lives as ordinary someone else sees it as extraordinary. Our lives can inspire people. You never know whose life you’re going to impact, but you’ll never get the opportunity to do so if you don’t set boundaries.
To me, this whole “quiet quitting phenomenon” is nothing more than an attempt to shame people like myself who finally decided they didn’t want to play the corporate mind games anymore. Having a healthy work-life balance should NEVER be associated with quitting.
Why in the world would I continue to work 60 to 70-hour work weeks, not get a promotion and be content with a 1 or 2 percent raise that fails to factor in the cost of living increases, inflation, and other external factors that erase any trace of that 1 to 2 % raise as a “reward” for your hard work.
People are no longer allowing themselves to be satisfied with the leftover scraps management decides to drop from their table. It took me a minute, but I learn from my mistakes. These folks, the “quiet quitters” aka those who desire to have a work/life balance like myself decided to put themselves first. They work to live, not live to work.
I designed a life that works for me. I work from home. I’ve been working from home for several years, even before COVID. One of the main reasons I enjoy working from home is because I enjoy my freedom. I’m not about to unnecessarily waste my time, energy, and money to commute to an office where I not only have to focus on doing my job but then be drafted into participating in office politics regardless of whether I want to or not on top of trying to figure out which microaggressions I feel in the mood to address that day.
Don’t expect me to volunteer for special projects, be part of committees, or anything that causes me to feel uncomfortable, doesn’t benefit my career, or adds value to my life. Especially when I’m being asked to do so by the same people who repeatedly turned down my requests to take continuing education courses or workshops which would allow me to actually gain new meaningful skills that would place me in a position to get to the next level within the company and my career. Been there, done that, and never will I ever do that again.
Years ago, I made a conscientious decision to choose myself. I’ve spent my entire life juggling more than one task so I don’t need to be micromanaged. I take pride in my work so just give me some space and you will without a doubt see results. I will continue to always give it my all, but I have a balance. I don’t mind working overtime now and then because I know certain times of the year are busier than others, sometimes there’s last minute requests, I get it. Many times folks don’t even know I’m working overtime because I don’t make a big deal about it. I just do it.
However, if I find myself in a situation where I’m constantly working overtime I ask for help. If management continues to ignore my requests for help I prioritize my responsibilities and do what I can. Meaning, I do what I can within my agreed upon timeframe and tackle the rest of my tasks the next day.
Not sure if you noticed but in both of these scenarios, I’m still productive but I’m conscientiously putting my mental health first. Now I know my decision not to burn both ends of the candle regardless of the fact that I was still performing at a higher level than my coworkers, rubs some folks the wrong way. Again, the irony in all of this is that my productivity which was already high, increased even more once I stopped working myself to death.
Yet, my decision to no longer participate in corporate mind games resulted in me being overlooked for promotions and receiving decent raises. All because I decided that I would no longer work myself to death in order to prove that I am enough. I don’t need anyone or anything to validate my worth. I am worthy and more than qualified to be in role XYZ and deserve to be properly compensated.
The way that I see it, companies fail to realize the difference between someone who “quiet quit” which again is someone really choosing to have a work/life balance, and those who have become disengaged. Someone who is truly disengaged doesn’t even bother trying to do their actual job anymore. They already realized that their hard work was in vain, so they have already mentally moved on and are in the process of staying on the job doing nothing until they find a new job.
Sadly, management is either so far removed or intentionally chooses to ignore the types of compensation or gestures of appreciation their employees truly desire which is why they fail to realize the difference between quiet quitters and disengaged employees.
Management can avoid these types of scenarios by honestly answering the following questions:
- Are ALL employees properly compensated in their current roles?
- Are employees encouraged to have and supported in their endeavor to have a work/life balance?
- Do employees have the chance to take ownership in their roles?
- Are employees acknowledged for achieving milestones?
- Are paths for growth opportunities within the company clearly defined?
- Are employees encouraged to develop skills and take classes to help them prepare for the next step in their career?
- Are employees aware of and encouraged to apply for available open opportunities?
If you can answer yes, to all of the aforementioned, then you’ve done everything within your company’s power to demonstrate that you respect and appreciate your employees. If an employee decides to leave it’s not your fault. You both outgrew the relationship and it was time for them to leave.
However, oftentimes, companies can’t even say yes to the first question which addresses employees being properly compensated. People can’t pay their bills with thank yous. If you really appreciate them start with paying them first and then work your way down the rest of the list. It’s super interesting how in Europe, if an employee even if they are salary, works overtime they are actually paid extra for the hours they work. In the U.S. it’s just expected. The rules are so pro-business in the U.S. that I don’t ever foresee this type of attitude or law being adopted here, but it is food for thought right?
I think the main reason why quiet quitters aka folks who seek to have a life balance and disengaged employees are viewed the same way is because the result is the same…if neither one feels that their issue is addressed they will find another job at a company that gets it.
The sad thing is in both scenarios, I sometimes wonder if all the quiet quitters and disengaged folks needed was a break. I don’t care how much you enjoy your job, you’re going to get tired. At some point in time, you will feel burned out, physically, mentally or even both at that the same time.
That’s where the sabbatical comes into play. For those of you unfamiliar with what a sabbatical is it’s when you take an extended leave– paid or unpaid from your job, but you’re guaranteed your position once you return.
Sabbaticals are typically taken by university professors, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Honestly, if employers are looking for ways to entice or create a sense of loyalty within the company incorporating sabbaticals into the hiring practice could be a game changer. Sabbaticals are typically given to employees who have worked with a company for several years. They are not often offered and employees have to initiate the conversation with HR. Then the employee and HR work out a plan to address whether the leave is paid or unpaid, length of time, etc.
I’ve heard about companies normally allowing sabbaticals for employees who have been with the company for at least 5 years. However, if I were a company I’d offer it every 3 years, because this tends to be the timeframe when most folks start to get tired and wonder what else is out there especially if they don’t see any opportunities within their present company.
Sometimes, employees think they need a new job when all they needed was a break. The breaks allow you the opportunity to get some much needed rest so they can focus on their health, which in turn is going to place them into a relaxed mode whereby they can be creative. These employees can then focus on gaining new skills and creating ideas that will not only place them in a position to get to the next level in their personal and profession life, but the company will easily benefit because that employee is going to be more likely to share those skills or ideas with the company that allowed them to take a sabbatical.
I think the whole idea of a sabbatical scares companies because they think, “What if the employee leaves?” I understand the concern but this type of mentality is disturbing. YOu hired the employee, you didn’t buy them. Plus, the odds of that happening are relatively low. Most people wouldn’t want to leave a company that allowed them this type of opportunity.
It’s really sad how companies are so focused on whether employees are quiet quitting or disengaged. If companies took that same energy and focused on creating an environment of respect, being transparent with opportunities to advance and the freedom for employees to grow their skills, employees would not view their job as something they need to do to survive but a place where they can actually thrive.