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Quiet Quitting is A Downward Spiral

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Wow, this “Quiet Quitting” movement is the meme of the moment. Even WSJ and NYT did stories on this “movement”. You know, this isn’t exactly new. We had this same thing way back in my working days. We called it coasting. I guess that isn’t catchy enough so the whippersnappers felt the need to invent a new term. But the idea is the same. You do enough to get by and avoid taking on more work than necessary, especially if it isn’t compensated.  

How did it come to this? Basically, employers demanded too much from their workers. Employers had more power than workers for many years and they abused it. They expected employees to do extra work and be available after hours. And be happy about it. This isn’t new. I babysat my boss’ kid when I was an engineer. Now, that’s going above and beyond the job description.

Then the pandemic hit. Many workers transitioned to remote work, but they spent even more time working. It became very difficult to separate work and life. Workers got fed up. The pandemic also pushed everyone to reevaluate their lives. Now, we realize that life is short and we don’t want to spend all our time working. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate dropped to a 50-year low, 3.5%. Finally, workers have some power. Employees can work a bit less and try to have a better work-life balance. The boss has to take it because it is so difficult to find new workers right now. But…

Quiet Quitting is a bad idea

Quiet quitting might be the right move if your work/life balance is horrible. Nobody wants to work all the time. That will lead to burnout. It’s better in the long run to have a good work-life balance. I worked 60+ hours per day when I was a young engineer. The result was I got completely burned out and quit my engineering career. If I managed my time better from the beginning, I might have lasted longer.

So why do I say quiet quitting is a downward spiral? That’s because it is. You shouldn’t embrace quiet quitting unless you plan to move on. Here are the reasons.

  • Expectations – If you suddenly embraced quiet quitting, people will notice. Even if you think you’re doing your job and completing your assignments, your boss will notice that you’re putting in less effort. Their job is to drive the workers to work as hard as they can. When you cut back, your annual review will reflect this. I got exceptional annual reviews and great raises for many years when I was young. But I worked too much. Once I dialed back, my annual raises got a lot skinnier.
  • Employees will lose negotiating power – The labor market is very good right now. Employers have to lower expectations and go the extra mile to keep/hire workers. However, this will not last. The Fed will continue to raise interest rates until inflation drops closer to 2%. Jay Powell, the Federal Reserve Chair, said higher interest rates will bring some pain to households and businesses. The job market will soften and it will be more difficult to find a job soon. You can listen to Powell’s speech on CNBC. Many tech companies already started a round of layoffs. Soon, the layoff will spread to many sectors. If you’re a quiet quitter, you will be high on that pink slip list. Don’t ignore Jay Powell.  
  • Downward spiral – The biggest problem with quiet quitting is that you’re starting a downward spiral. Once your work performance starts dropping, then your review will be a bit worse. Your peers will pass you by or they will move on to other jobs. This will make you bitter and encourage you to work even less. Quiet quitters become those old grumpy guys who complain at work. Even if you perform enough to get by, you will never be happy at work. Your boss will always promote someone else ahead of you.

Move on

In conclusion, quiet quitting is not a good call. It can improve your work/life balance temporarily, but it won’t make you happier in the long term. You’ll become miserable at work as your coworkers pass you by. When the economy turns sour, you’ll be one of the first people to go. Quiet quitting just isn’t sustainable. You could do it, but be prepared to move on. Even if you can hang on to your job, quiet quitting will turn you into an even more disgruntled employee. A better way to combat burnout is to move on to a different job/career and establish a new baseline. Do it now while the job market is red hot because it will turn ice cold pretty soon. Don’t wait around to find out if quiet quitting will work. You’ll regret it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Of course, another alternative is FIRE. I coasted at work when I was close to financial independence. Once I achieved financial independence, I retired from my engineering career. But that took 16 long years of saving and investing. It isn’t a quick or easy path. This quiet quitting meme will be gone by next year. Once the unemployment rate goes up, people will do anything to keep their job.

What do you think about quiet quitting? Is this a good move or a bad one?

If you’re ready to quit your job, then you should read Financial Samurai’s book – How to Engineer Your Layoff. It will help you negotiate a severance package instead of leaving with nothing.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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