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‘Quiet quitting’ goes against the grain

You may have heard of the term in recent months called “quiet quitting.” Having grown up in Summit Hill, my work ethic was forged by my parents who operated a corner grocery store for more than 35 years.

Although my Italian immigrant father never sat me down and lectured me on the importance of goal-setting, hard work and perseverance, he embodied these characteristics by his actions, examples and the results they produced.

Just as many immigrants of that era in Northeastern Pennsylvania, my father knew that to snatch a part of the American dream for him and his family, he needed to work hard and meet our customers’ needs. Our store was open 14 hours a day Monday through Saturday and four hours on Sunday. Aside from taking an hour out for lunch and one for supper, my dad worked about 76 hours a week, not including the time he spent after hours cleaning the store for the next day.

I have been described as a “go-getter” with an incredibly strong work ethic. I owe this trait to both of my parents. I suppose this is one of the prime reasons why I resent the term “quiet quitting,” because it represents the antithesis of the coal region mentality in which I was brought up and my approach to my professions - communications and education.

I was always motivated to climb the corporate ladder, starting as a reporter, promoted to several editor positions before becoming my newspaper’s editor-in-chief, then general manager, and, finally, promoted to publisher, the equivalent of a CEO, at the daily newspaper in Oswego, New York, where a number of area fishermen visit annually.

During this long journey, the idea of “quiet quitting” or something like it was utterly nonsensical. Maybe back in the day it was called “just getting by” or something like that. Today, the concept of “quiet quitting” is being applauded by some, although employers find it absolutely maddening.

In a nutshell, “quiet quitting” refers to those employees who are at a job just for the paycheck and are not really emotionally or intellectually challenged. It’s basically about doing the bare minimum and showing little to no interest in going above and beyond.

A Pew Research project found that the main reasons for “quiet quitting” were low pay, lack of opportunities for advancement, feeling disrespected at work, lack of flexible hours, poor benefits and child care issues.

Of course, many of these complaints have been around for a long time, but now they have been lumped under this “quiet quitting” umbrella, and it has been catching on and spreading.

As you can imagine in today’s “do more with less” business atmosphere, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, “quiet quitting” flies in the face of this reality. Employers, on the other hand, are, to say the least, no fans of “quiet quitting.”

If you’re wondering whether employees who adopt “quiet quitting” as their modus operandi can be fired, the bottom-line answer is “yes,” because employers in Pennsylvania still have wide latitude when it comes to dismissing employees with or without cause, especially when an employer feels that employees are not pulling their weight or are a disruption or distraction to their colleagues.

There are many employees who see “quiet quitting” as a way to restore balance to their lives, especially those who work long hours that are squeezing free and family time out of their existence. These employees also believe that taking this step back will prevent burnout.

Employers warn that embracing “quiet quitting” techniques could harm their career in the short term and the company for which they are working in the long run.

We wonder whether “quiet quitting” is just a flash-in-the-pan fad or something more consequential. One notable statistic that says it’s catching on is the fact that our country’s workforce is less productive than it was a year ago. In fact, productivity is down 4.1% year-over-year, which represents the biggest decline since the Fed started keeping statistics nearly 75 years ago.

While not overly concerned at the moment, economists warn that if the concept proliferates, it could have a profound effect on our nation’s well-being.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.