In an office today, an employee will close their laptop at 5:00 p.m. and go home—without their laptop in hand, without a “to do” list of emails to write before bedtime, without a stack of work papers to read before returning to the office.
Why? Because work that spills into life beyond the office sucks dry their enthusiasm for the work’s purpose. Because work-related stresses are deteriorating their mental health. Because their job description specifies 40 work hours per week.
In a fast-food restaurant today, an employee will greet customers and run the register and take orders and mop the floor—but they will not step in to supervise the kitchen or offer to complete end-of-day tallies or stay late to cover a missed shift.
Why? Because life commitments beyond work need to be honored. Because work satisfaction doesn’t drive their self-satisfaction. Because additional responsibilities should come with additional pay.
“Above and beyond” is a highly praised work ethic in employees, but as a work culture of employers, “above and beyond” can contribute to dissatisfaction, burnout, and turnover.
Why? Because unspoken expectations (“You’ll complete 55 hours’ worth of tasks in 40 hours/week”) lead to unmet goals. Because “going the extra mile” is too often code for “working more for the same pay.” Because busyness isn’t purpose. Because the constant hustle to impress an employer problematically ties self-worth to professional achievement.
That’s why “quiet quitting” is trending in business news, as employees reinforce their personal boundaries around work: “I will work on my responsibilities within the limits of time and pay set for this job.” They’re not quitting work. They’re quitting the work culture of “above and beyond.”
Quiet quitting echoes the desire for justice heard across historical movements for workplace fairness: movements that urged fair wages, reasonable shifts, protections from exploitation, equal pay across genders and races, paid sick days; movements that achieved measurable rights for the sake of an immeasurable belief that people should not be defined by their economic benefit to others.
People should not be defined by their economic benefit to others.
Not in the for-profit world. Not in the nonprofit world. Not in the church world. Not at all.
Somewhere in a workplace today, an employee is known as a person, not a job title; supported as a person, not a buffer against the bottom line; respected as a person, not a means to an end; engaged as a person, not an asset or liability. May it be so in every place of employment.
written for Witness for Justice
I love this post!!! As the wife of a retired partner in a public accounting firm, I saw my husband sacrifice so much of his time with family and friends because he had to work on evenings and weekends, especially during tax season. It continued until his retirement. I saw the other employees do the same. If they didn’t “go the extra mile” they were encouraged to find employment elsewhere. I felt this was so wrong, but never found my voice enough to say something about it. You have put words to the feelings I have had for so long. Thank you so much. I plan to send your words out to many of my family and friends who are still in the work world. Maybe things can change for the good. Please keep writing. You touch my heart every time I read your posts.
Thank you, Tobi. I read a recent Washington Post article on “quiet firing,” which describes what you mention: employers encouraging (subtly or not so much) their employees to “find employment elsewhere” if they’re unwilling to sacrifice everything for their work.
Yes. And now let’s address the idea that a pastor works 24/7, is on-call while grocery shopping or about to enjoy a movie at the theater or any other time seen in “real life” when one thinks, “Oh, but I have just one thing…” Let’s push our boards, councils, administering bodies (adjudicatories too) to address life-work balance with integrity and intention. Thank you for your thoughtful words this Labor Day.
This is the reason I “retired.”
Sigh. I’m sorry, Milton.