There has been a lot of discourse in recent weeks about the phenomenon that is bewildering managers, and HR leaders across North America, and beyond. In some ways, “quietly quitting” is a continuation of the fallout of the “great resignation” which began in the early days of the pandemic. In short, the phrase points to the ongoing interindustry discourse whereby employees are stepping back from engaging in unpaid labour, including staying late, working weekends, and taking calls out of the office, to name a few.
“Quietly quitting,” isn’t really that earth-shattering or radical, particularly for the gen-Z and millennial workforce which is now the most educated workforce in history. With stagnant wages, dwindling job security and social service nets, workers aren’t quietly quitting; they are setting firm boundaries and politely declining to take on additional unpaid labour, beyond the scope of their job descriptions.
Needless to say, this has ruffled quite a few feathers, but for us, this comes down to a few key points:
Baby boomers have historically enjoyed substantially better buying power, even considering inflation; overall costs were lower. For example, according to a classified ad printed in the Lethbridge Herald on Dec. 9, 1953, you could purchase a “lovely five-roomed bungalow” home for $10,700, on the south side of Lethbridge. This is equivalent in today’s purchasing power of about $115k, after adjusting for inflation. On one hand, this means that today’s prices are nearly 10 times higher than average prices in 1953, according to Statistics Canada’s Consumer Price Index. On the other hand, we can see just how much a single-dwelling home has increased in 2022. We aren’t real estate experts, but a $115k budget likely isn’t going to get you a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in Canada let alone a five-bedroom single-dwelling bungalow.
With home ownership (and everything else) becoming less attainable for lower-middle-class people, it isn’t a surprise employees are no longer interested in working unpaid hours outside of their allotted salary, or working “above and beyond” leading to burnout, and sacrificing time with their families to maintain a status quo which excludes them from prosperity, or even the bare minimum necessities.
This has caused panic in the boardroom, prompting some employers to rethink how to motivate workers to maintain the historically accepted “overachieving” from their staff. Which prompts us to pose the question: is this desire to “motivate” teams and employees to continue to go above and beyond simply an exercise in creative brain-storming to continue to foster inequitable workplaces?
Employers who provide equitable pay, upward mobility, and a fair work/life balance will continue to reap the benefits of a dedicated and stable workforce, who is in fact, occasionally willing to go above and beyond: but not for peanuts.