By Rebecca Wiessmann
Recently I was trying to set up a meeting with one of our partners to discuss a new project we are working on. Dates and times were suggested, and before I saw the email chain, the following Monday was suggested, which happened to be Labor Day.
And then I felt it, that old familiar pang of guilt and anxiety. I knew, intellectually, that no one on my team, definitely not my boss, would begrudge me for pushing back on setting a meeting on a holiday. And I did reply reminding everyone that it was a holiday, even though I gave the caveat that if that was the only time everyone else could meet, I would make it work.
It got me thinking about that guilt and anxiety. It’s so automatic. I spent most of my 20s and 30s working in completely toxic environments. And that knee-jerk reaction that the company always comes first seems ingrained in me still.
My Toxic Story
My last boss before I came to work for Senior Living Foresight worked tirelessly. She was often in the office well into the night, and I’m sure she did a fair amount of work from home. And she expected the same of her employees.
My desk was situated in such a way that I had to walk past her office when I was leaving. Whenever I would pack up to go home (which was almost always significantly later than 5 p.m.), I would say bye as I walked by. When I would do this, she would instantly look up toward the corner of her office, where there was a clock on the wall. I don’t think she did this intentionally, but it made me feel awful and guilty every single time.
When the government upped the minimum salary income some years back, I was below the threshold. She had me spend a week counting my hours. They determined that it would be cheaper to raise my income to the new minimum rather than move me to hourly and pay me overtime. It was the biggest one-time raise I ever got, and it felt completely demoralizing.
She would routinely complain about another employee who always packed up and left promptly at 5 p.m. I would nod and commiserate with her, all the while wishing I had the courage to do the same.
It eventually became too much. And, with no plan in place, I quit.
I’ve been seeing a lot in the news about this concept of quiet quitting. For those who may not know, it is the practice of not actually quitting, but limiting your work time and production to the job requirements laid out for you. To not go above and beyond. Another associated term being used is to “act your wage.”
There is a lot of debate about whether those who quiet quit are lazy or are creating healthy boundaries. I kind of think it’s deeper than that. If you are thinking about quiet quitting, or are already engaging in it, you need to get out. There is a bigger problem that has caused so much distrust between you and your employer that you feel like this is your only recourse. And it is not likely to change. It will most likely just create more resentment on both sides. Start looking for a job where there is mutual respect and value.
If you are a leader of people who have started quiet quitting, you have broken trust with your employees. There is something wrong with your leadership or the leadership above you. Don’t blame them; it’s not their fault.