Editor’s note: In this Future View, students discuss “quiet quitting.” Next week we’ll ask, “News reports suggest that New York University has fired a long-time professor because students complained that his organic-chemistry course was too hard and the grades he gave were too low. Are the students right that the old rigor of such courses needs to be relaxed? Is this a problem with antiquated teaching methods that don’t make students’ well-being a priority, or is it a problem with today’s students?” Students should click here to submit opinions of fewer than 250 words before Oct. 11. The best responses will be published that night. Click here to submit a video to our Future View
In the past, people were lauded for hard work. The modern world praises comfort and balance instead. Think of remote work: Few white-collar workers go into the office anymore. They would rather lounge in
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sweatpants in their Google Nest homes. Instead of wearing suits with combed-back hair, billionaires such as
sport plain white shirts with tousled locks.
The 21st-century dress code of corporate American leaders reflects their approach to work: It isn’t high-stakes. This trickles down on their Gen Z subordinates who look for excuses to work less, Zoom instead of travel, and demand ridiculous HR benefits. If you don’t have to work hard, why would you? The farmer working to put food on the table is a distant memory, as acai bowls,
and TikTok dominate the mind.
A recent interaction demonstrated this new apathy for hard work. My mom told her friend from a local tennis club that her son hoped to join the military. The woman responded, “Why would you let him do that? He has so many safer options!” This is the sentiment about hard work in our country: Someone else will do it.
—George Bednar, University of Notre Dame, English and business
Quitting Bad Corporate Culture
Free-market advocates ought to accept the old adage that you get what you pay for. Gen Z is quiet quitting because young people no longer feel motivated to try at work. And rightfully so. For decades, minimum-wage laws and median salaries, particularly in the service industry, haven’t kept up with inflation. Rising wages and Covid are only part of the inflation picture. For decades, America has struggled with corporate bloat. The Harvard Business Review estimated that we waste $3 trillion on corporate bureaucracy, with an average of one manager for every 4 to 5 employees—more than any other nation studied.
From sectors as disparate as fast food and healthcare, many workers lack independence and feel exploited. No longer do average workers own a part of their small business or pursue private practice. Instead, they feel like cogs in a machine, watching salaries stagnate as corporate profits grow to record highs.
If American companies want to reinvigorate their employees, they can learn from Japanese management culture.
promoted the philosophy of approaching a company like a family, giving employees the independence to explore their interests and innovate on the job, while rewarding them when the company prospered. Workers in Japan are still some of the longest-working and most productive in the world. Instead of pointing fingers at Gen Z’s work ethic, corporate America ought to re-evaluate its own management practices.
—Adam Barsouk, Jefferson University, medicine
The Bad Effects of Quiet Quitting Linger
It is easy to see how working from home encourages complacency. The lack of office structure, together with declining motivation to climb the corporate ladder, influences the low effort and concern that Gen Z demonstrates.
This will continue. The expectations of high schools and colleges declined during the digital learning of the pandemic. Students taking classes and exams didn’t experience the typical work load and diligence that school normally requires. The new norm of doing as little as necessary is bleeding into the workforce.
This will become an issue for quiet quitters and the businesses that employ them. One of the drivers of the American economy is the motivation to succeed and prosper in a career. How can you present yourself to an employer as someone who deserves a chance at a better job if you can’t demonstrate thorough work in your current position? It will take a post-pandemic education to begin rebuilding the motivation and diligence to succeed in the workforce.
—Adam Beaver, Virginia Military Institute, economics and business
Open Your Eyes
Quiet quitting is only the latest symptom of a general problem that plagues Gen Z: apathy. The idea of caring is no longer considered cool, and a dangerous combination of laziness and entitlement has left Gen Z wholly unprepared for work. Quiet quitting isn’t caused by the hardworking employer but the indifferent employed.
Employers should treat quiet quitters the same way they treat employees who don’t adequately perform their jobs: Tell them to change or be fired. Before the past few years, the decision would have been simple: An employee who was performing below average would be let go. In today’s economic environment—where workers are scarce and hiring is expensive—the firing of an employee hurts the employer. The employer, however, is eventually harmed even more by holding on to a quiet quitter who is a drain on the business. Employers should dump the deadweight and set an example for employees who will readjust to be more productive members of society.
This isn’t a popular opinion in my generation. Most of Gen Z are blind to the harsh realities of the world while they dream of what they think they deserve. It’s time for us to open our eyes.
—Jackson Crass, Duke University, biology
The Generation of Change
Whereas other generations put work above all else, Gen Z is shifting priorities. As a result, Gen Z has become known as lazy, entitled and wanting to just get by. But as burnout levels continue to rise along with mental-health conditions, inflation and social injustice, Gen Z is simply reallocating time to resources that support their needs.
The correct response is to adjust the workplace environment to accommodate our modern world. Companies should offer flexibility within the working day to promote the well-being of their employees. Additionally, companies should pay attention to their mission, the inclusivity of their message, and the impact of their products and services on the community.
To increase the labor-force-participation rate, businesses should focus on attracting employees by prioritizing employees and making a commitment to a better tomorrow.
—Francesca Reicherter, Pepperdine University, clinical psychology
Quiet quitting is a feature of privilege. Advocates discuss such forms of quiet quitting as not answering Slack messages after 5 p.m.—but that already indicates their advantages. How many minimum-wage workers even know what Slack messages are? How many minimum-wage workers have the privilege of stopping work at 5?
This movement benefits only privileged white-collar workers, and only while the labor market is favorable. When one worker does less, the others step up, no matter what sector. I’ve heard people arguing that quiet quitting is a new form of unionization, but unions joined workers, and this new movement belongs only to highly privileged individuals. If this is a collective movement, why is there no organized push for new labor guidelines? Where is the bite to the bark? Perhaps they bark only because circumstances allow them to now.
—Alicia Liu, Swarthmore College, economics and mathematics
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