Quiet quitting comes down to bad management: 5 Things podcast – USA TODAY

On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast:
The term “quiet quitting” has been used a lot lately. It means different things to different people but the term essentially means you are drawing a line with your employer and saying you are not going beyond your duties. The term really became popular after millions of people watched a Tiktok created by Zaid Leppelin where he talked about what quiet quitting is. You can watch the Tiktok here.
Mary Chao of northjersey.com and USA TODAY New Jersey has been researching the concept. She sat down with 5 Things Sunday host James Brown to talk about why this concept is so popular right now. She also talks about which generation has really brought out this concept the most and why and how much a boss has to do with this mindset.
For more on quiet quitting, read:
What is quiet quitting?: Employees suffering pandemic burnout say they’ve just stopped working as hard
‘Quiet quitting’ trend may lead to layoffs, and complicate the Fed’s inflation fight
Quiet quitting: Does it come down to bad workplace managers?
Here’s what it means to ‘quiet quit’ and why it’s a new trend
Quiet quitting is all the rage. But let’s not stop there. How about ‘quiet dieting’?
‘I’m going to put a box around work’: That’s a country song waiting to happen
Feel the urge to ‘quiet quit’? Time to check in with your mental health, experts say
Follow James Brown and Mary Chao on Twitter.
If you have a comment about the show or a question or topic you’d like us to discuss, send James Brown an email at [email protected] or [email protected] You can also leave him a voicemail at 585-484-0339. We might have you on the show.
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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below.This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text. 
James Brown:                  Hello and welcome to Five Things. I’m James Brown. It’s Sunday, September 18th, 2022. Go, Bills. Every week we take a question, an idea, or concept and go deep. If there’s anything you’d like us to look into, you can always email me at [email protected] or [email protected] You could also find me on Twitter at JamesBrownTV or leave me a message at 585-484-0339. We might have you on the show.
                                           One of the reoccurring themes on this show is how Americans in this era are reshuffling their lives, their homes, their families and more in droves. So much around us is in flux. Reasons vary, but economic, political and cultural factors all play major roles in those decisions. Few sectors are changing as fast as work is. That’s our focus today. People are unionizing in unexpected places like Amazon factories and your local neighborhood Starbucks, to name a few. Workers are demanding and getting more options like remote work.
                                           I switched to remote work early this year. I’m recording this episode in my apartment. I can literally see my washer and dryer from my desk, and if you listen closely, you may hear the rumble of a busy street in the background or the birds in my backyard. As the height of the COVID-19 pandemic appears behind us, other workers are asking for hybrid work or flexible hours and our resisting going back to the office full time.
                                           The upheaval is more widespread than that. New phrases like quiet quitting have emerged. Quiet quitting means different things to different people, whether it’s taking less work home or working fewer unpaid hours, or as I see it, quietly drawing a line with our employers, saying that we won’t go beyond our assigned duties. Like so much in our culture these days, this idea became popular because of TikTok posts like this one.
TikTok Post:                      I recently learned about this term called “quiet quitting,” where you’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is it’s not, and you’re worth as a person is not defined by your labor.
James Brown:                  Millions watched that video and journalists like Mary Chao of northjersey.com and the USA Today network have been researching the concept. She talked to a few experts and has some theories about why this is happening and why right now.
Mary:                                My daughter is the Gen Z type that is being described who are quiet quitting, and Gen Z basically are saying, “We don’t want to be taken advantage of anymore.” So it could mean anything from doing the minimum to get by or refusing to be exploited, meaning that if you’re a Starbucks barista, I’m not going to spend an hour cleaning the bathroom and stacking the shelves, not getting paid an extra hour, which is totally reasonable. So it has a couple of connotations when it comes to quiet quitting.
James Brown:                  Your piece comes from the perspective that bosses play a major role in all of this. Can you elaborate?
Mary:                                Yes. From a Harvard Business Review study that just came out in August, it showed that perhaps bosses have some of the blame when it comes to quiet quitting. Why? You and I could all relate to this. We’ve all had bad bosses, when an employee is ignored, maybe not given good projects or stereotyped or perhaps the boss would say inappropriate things. So are you really motivated to work for that kind of person? I say no.
                                           Now we’ve all had good bosses who inspire us, will pat us on the back, look out for us, give us interesting projects to help us grow, and we will go the extra mile for those kind of bosses. If your boss, who always looks out for you, needs you to stay extra late for a project, are you going to do that? Of course, you are because you want to live up to that expectation. People live up or live down to their expectations.
James Brown:                  Of their bosses?
Mary:                                Yes, of their boss’s perception of them. I pretty much have the same work ethic through my three decades of a career. Depending on the boss, either they view me very, very favorably or they could be somewhat lukewarm and I’m the same person and not really an accurate reflection of who I am as an employee. I have to keep that in mind. When it comes to quiet quitting, if someone has personal biases against a group of people and stereotype a whole group of people and their negative stereotype for all kinds of people, Asian-Americans are perceived as not leadership material. We’re seen as meek and docile and Asian-American women are the least likely to be promoted in the professional ranks. Perhaps that boss has already stereotyped me. If I think that bosses stereotype me, should I work extra? I can’t change his mind. I can’t change his unconscious bias. So a lot of people quiet quit because of a bad boss.
James Brown:                  For those who don’t know, Mary is Asian-American.
Mary:                                Yes, I am from Taiwan.
James Brown:                  I’m African American. Obviously, there are similar stereotypes in play, whether it’s not being leadership material or not being as bright or being hyper athletic, any number of stereotypes you could think of.
Mary:                                Right? I’m supposed to be good at math.
James Brown:                  Sure.
Mary:                                So that’s a stereotype.
James Brown:                  Everybody’s different, right?
Mary:                                Exactly. Exactly. Believe it or not, they’re Asians who are not good at math. So stereotypes are all false and people do fall into that. Hopefully, our managers will have had enough training to understand that people are different and stereotypes are hurtful.
James Brown:                  Not every African-American is hyper athletic. We’re not all dunking all the time.
Mary:                                But I am good at math, so I do fit the stereotype.
James Brown:                  I can’t dunk. But to be a bit more serious, this does have an effect on office life and how we interface with others.
Mary:                                Sure.
James Brown:                  Those who make, whether it’s unconscious assumptions or conscious assumptions based on their employees and their first glance at their employees, they don’t actually get to know who they are.
Mary:                                Exactly. First impressions count, and a lot of times those first impressions just stick in the boss’s mind. Okay, she’s an Asian woman, so she’s not leadership material because I see Asian women being portrayed on television as being meek and docile. Yes, yes, yes. That’s entirely false. They don’t take the time to get to know their employee, and yet they’ve made this false assumption about them. That’s why employees don’t go the extra mile for those kind of bosses.
James Brown:                  Tell us about Beth Sher. Who is she and what does she do?
Mary:                                She is a human resources consultant at CBIZ, which is a nationwide consultant. So she consults with companies, what they should be doing in terms of how to treat employees and best human resources practices. She has studied the issue of quiet quitting for some time, adding that it’s not any phenomenon. It’s been around and the bell curve has always been around. You are always going to have people at the top of the curve who will stay two, three hours extra every day, work on weekends, and you are always going to have people at the bottom of the ladder who are people who need guidance and may not be cutting it.
                                           But for the wide majority, that’s the 85% of us, we are the worker bees, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We are the people who put in their work. We are reliable. You can count on us. Maybe we’re not on call 24/7, but we are here to do the work and companies need us.
James Brown:                  That speaks to the concern that I would imagine employers would have, that this kind of trend spreading would encourage more of that worker bee class to take their foot off the pedal a little, and that could affect productivity. Any thoughts on that at all?
Mary:                                I would say that a lot of worker bees are super efficient and super productive with the time that they’re at work, and it also depends on the profession. You and I have been in media for a long time, and it’s a competitive field. It’s also a passion field, so we give it our 110% all the time because we love our jobs. It’s a part of us, and it’s not like being … I hate to say accountant. I’m sure there are accountants who love their jobs, or let’s say you’re cleaning teeth as a dental assistant. You should be paid for the hours that you’re working.
                                           Should you work extra without extra pay? It depends on the profession and the field. In any passion field, whether it’s publishing or media or like my daughter’s going to film, you have to be willing to go the extra mile. There’s no way around it, and you and I did that. But in other industries, if you are an engineer, electrical engineer, you work your hours and you go home. If you’re an accountant, for the most part, you work your hours unless it’s April during tax season, and then you work extra hours. So there are different expectations for different fields.
James Brown:                  The best argument that I heard for this was from a friend of mine on a Facebook post where she called quiet quitting, matching my hours to my salary. That seems like a fair approach. I’m not sure I could do it.
Mary:                                But you and I can’t do it because we’re in a different field. I don’t know where she works at. Most people, if you are anything from a police officer to say an engineer, you are expected to just work certain hours and you go above that, you get extra pay or a little bonus or maybe a nice little gift card from your boss for going the extra mile. We’re just in a different profession. We’re in a different place and we’re used to doing what we’re doing. I would say that for the majority of people who are not in the competitive passion field, why should you work a few hours extra for free? It’s just being compensated fairly.
James Brown:                  You also spoke with Frankie Firo.
Mary:                                Yes.
James Brown:                  Can you share that bit of that conversation with us?
Mary:                                Frankie is 20 years old. She’s a college student and she is Gen Z, and she talks about, depends on the field. If it’s something that she is working towards a goal at in her career, yes, she would go the extra mile. But she’s a babysitter. She’s also an office worker. So if she’s putting in two more hours at the office, she expects to be compensated for it. If, let’s say, she’s babysitting and parents don’t come home for another three hours, she wants to be compensated for those extra three hours. That’s fair. Fair is fair.
                                           So again, it’s that expectation. Am I doing this for myself or am I doing this to help somebody else? If you’re babysitting, yes, you’re helping out a couple or a family and you should be compensated for the extra hours. But when you’re starting out in a career, let’s say you’re starting out in radio and I’m starting out at the newspaper, I’m going to put in the extra hours because that’s for me. I want to learn as much as I can about my field because this is my career for the next 20, 30 years. I’ve been in this business 30 years and I don’t know how long you’ve been in it, but in the beginning, any extra time I put in, I felt like I got something out of it because I’m learning. So it’s for me. It’s not really doing the extra work. That extra work is really helping me as well.
James Brown:                  I’ve been in a business about 10 years, but I totally get where you’re coming from there. It makes total sense to have multiple buckets that what’s your passion career versus-
Mary:                                Right.
James Brown:                  … the wider variety of jobs, whether you’re an office clerk or any number of other positions that are more strictly hourly.
Mary:                                Yeah, if you’re a Starbucks barista, you’re probably doing that because maybe you’re working as an actress at night or doing cabaret at night. So if you’re a Starbucks barista, you would be paid by the hour. If they need you to stay an hour or two extra, I hope you would be compensated. Or it’s probably against the law not to be compensated. But those kind of hourly jobs you’re compensated for. Then if you’re working towards a career goal, you’re learning while you’re at work. Especially in the beginning, you’re trying to learn as much as you can, so it’s really a self benefit to do the extra work.
James Brown:                  Mary Chao, where can we find you on social media?
Mary:                                I am at Mary Chao style, that’s Mary. C-H-A-O. Style. S-T-Y-L-E on Twitter and Mary Chao Style on Instagram. You can just search me on Facebook and you’ll find a couple of Mary Chaos, but my headshot pops up as northjersey.com.
James Brown:                  Any famous last words?
Mary:                                I say, always, always give your 110% no matter what. I’m not one to ever quietly quit. If you go the extra mile, you’ll be surprised at what you get in the end.
James Brown:                  If you like the show, write us a review on Apple Podcast or wherever you’re listening. Do me a favor. Share it with a friend. What do you think of the show? Has work changed for you? Let me know. Email me at [email protected] or leave me a message at 585-484-0339. I love hearing from you. Thanks to Mary Chao for joining me and to Alexis Gustin for our production assistant. Taylor Wilson will be back tomorrow morning. For all of us at USA Today, thanks for listening. I’m James Brown, and as always, be well.


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