Quitting the Trolls

Harry paused, stretched, and rubbed his eyes to stop them from focusing on the screen. He glanced at the clock. Still morning though he had been hard at work for several hours trying to catch up on the pile of work he always seemed to have. He had put in at least 10 hours a day for many months trying to catch up, all in vain. It seems the more he worked, the more work he received.

He allowed himself a few moments of rest and not attending to all the unread emails in his inbox, each screaming that the requester’s work was the most important in the world. He opened a new tab in his browser and glanced over the articles in the newsfeed if for no other reason than to take his mind off all the inbox screaming.

His eyes lighted upon another article about ‘Quiet Quitting’. It wasn’t the first one he had read about the phenomenon, but he noticed the stream of articles had grown since he read his first one a few weeks ago.

He smiled at the name. It wasn’t about quitting at all, quietly or otherwise. It was about what his generation would have called disengagement. In essence, Quiet Quitting was about doing your job. The twist was that it was about doing nothing more. It meant doing your eight hours and then logging off and having a life. It was the opposite of ‘hustle culture’, where you were expected to do more than your work and were looked upon suspiciously if you didn’t.

Quiet Quitting was also about something else, at least to Harry. It was about a broken promise. Hustle culture promised workers that if they worked the long hours, put in the extra work, they would be noticed in the organization and rewarded with raises, promotions, and upward advancement. Workers bought into that agreement, did their part, and saw nothing from management. No raises, no promotions, and not even talk about the path to promotion. The only thing they saw was a demand for more work and, if they slacked off, were told that was a sure path to being fired.

Now the managers’ bluff was being called. Workers were questioning why the long hours, stress, and time away from their families if there was no reward for those sacrifices. The workers’ reaction was Quiet Quitting. I will do what I can in my eight hours a day and nothing more. You want to discuss this, management, we can discuss why there hasn’t been reciprocity on your part for me.

As he looked through the most recent article online, Harry skipped to the comments. They were always the best part of an article for him. There were some thoughtful responses, some venting of frustration and anger, and some case studies from the respondents included. Then there were the trolls.

Harry could aways spot the trolls. They usually had a screen handle that was meant to keep them anonymous and well hidden, like their namesakes who hid under bridges. Their responses were usually meant to inflame passions, not inspire thought. Those same responses were usually exceptionally short so they could go about trolling on other sites as well. Harry didn’t mind opinions contrary to his. He did mind if they weren’t well reasoned and rationally put. If they didn’t meet those criteria, they were trolls in Harry’s opinion.

Sure enough there were troll comments galore. Despite himself, he found himself ‘answering’ the troll comments, if only in his mind and trying to pinpoint a sense of fear that he had.

These lazy Gen Z and Millennials don’t want to do any work — If the troll had taken any time at all to review the article, he would see these generations are happy to do the work. It is the extra, uncredited work that they are having issues with. Being told they are rock stars but being passed over at promotion time or being told there isn’t enough money for a less-than-rate-of-inflation raise wasn’t acceptable to them anymore. Matter of fact, it wasn’t acceptable to GenXers or some Baby Boomers either. Worse yet, it wasn’t acceptable to be told how good you are except when you wanted to be rewarded for your efforts and then told how poorly you performed.

These lazy bums will be the first ones fired — You’re firing someone for doing their job. Doing their job. Harry wondered what those unfair labor practice lawsuits would look like when the judge saw the positive reviews received by the employee, the ‘rock star’ memos, and other complimentary pieces against an employer saying they were fired for not performing their job adequately. He also smiled as more than once in previous positions he found out companies were forced to hire two people to the work he managed to do alone.

Nobody wants to do any extra work these days — There is a difference between pitching in to do some work when the team needs to be on top of a deadline. It is something quite different to expect 10, 20 hours extra work each and every week that is above and beyond the 40 hours you are being paid for and getting no reward whatsoever besides some nice, cheap words. Loyalty goes both ways. When was this forgotten?

It was sad to Harry in a sense. He knew that many in management were using the same arguments and scare tactics when asked the respond to Quiet Quitting. He had yet to hear one person say that maybe the system is broken and that they should sit down with their employees to discuss career development — true career development, and a two-way system of accountability. That sense of fear that went through him was that the trolls were managers who were happy with the one sentence pronouncements. He would not be surprised that The Great Resignation was from their departments. Those who left would be painted with the same brush as everyone else — lazy, unmotivated, or criticized simply because the manager could not see past their own blinders.

Harry sighed. He knew his mental musings would do nothing to help the situation and that he had a ton of work awaiting for him in his email. He stretched his neck and back, closed the tab where the Quiet Quitting stories were, and prepared to go back to the emails. He took his hands off the keyboard, pushed his chair back, and went to get a cup of coffee. Maybe it was time for him to do some quiet quitting of his own.

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