31 Aug #136 – Is “Quiet Quitting” Unhuman?
ESSENCE: The new viral concept of Quiet Quitting is about doing just enough at work to get by–minimizing “work” in order to maximize “life”. We believe Quiet Quitting is “unhuman” and a consequence of business as usual. God made us to flourish through work, and we are less fully human when not reflecting our God-given creativity and productivity through work that is fulfilling. Worker disengagement (at the heart of Quiet Quitting) is not new, and business as usual has been unable to solve the disengagement problem through “strategies” like perks and purpose statements. Work will not change and people will not realize their full humanity (with requires meaningful work that unleashes their God-given productivity and creativity in a culture of Shalom built on Biblical principles of relationships, community and human dignity) until business gets a new heart. The way back is business in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities–business a better way.
Integriosity® posts don’t usually focus on “viral” topics, but the recent phenomenon of Quiet Quitting touches many areas on which we have written. We believe Quiet Quitting is “unhuman” (some online sources suggest that isn’t a word, but it is in the Scrabble word list so it must be). Unhuman means “divested of human qualities” (and is not to be confused with “inhumane”).
If Quiet Quitting is “unhuman”, how did we get here and how do we get back to “human”? Like the Great Resignation (which we call the Great Dehumanization), we believe Quiet Quitting is a consequence of business as usual and the way back is business in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities–what we call business a better way.
What is Quiet Quitting?
In our minds, two Wall Street Journal articles within a few weeks is evidence that a topic is trending. Here is how it was described in an August 12, 2022 piece:
The phrase is generating millions of views on TikTok as some young professionals reject the idea of going above and beyond in their careers, labeling their lesser enthusiasm a form of “quitting.” It isn’t about getting off the company payroll, these employees say. In fact, the idea is to stay on it—but focus your time on the things you do outside of the office.
Quiet Quitting is about doing just enough to get by–not striving for recognition, “going the extra mile” or promotions. It is minimizing “work” in order to maximize “life”. (Some would say it is just about rejecting a “hustle culture” mentality of work being life.)
We don’t believe “Quiet Quitting” is a revolutionary idea (in fact, Homer Simpson expressed it years ago in his unique way–see the video clip below). There have always been workers who have done “just enough”–they actually just did it quietly. Ironically, what distinguishes Quiet Quitting from what has occurred among disengaged workers for decades is that it isn’t actually quiet. Social media has given it a name, a hashtag, tweets, posts and virality.
Refresher: Being Human
To understand why we think Quiet Quitting is “unhuman”, it is necessary to understand what we mean by “human”.
If you have following our posts, you will know we believe that one of the three bigger WHYs of business a better way is to Humanize People. We do not believe that being human is the same as being homo sapien. A person can be more or less Humanized.
You might be asking, “I was born a human and have always been a human–what does it even mean to be Humanized?” We were certainly created by God to be human–creations uniquely brought to life with divine breath (no other aspect of creation received divine breath) in the image of a creative, productive and relational God, made for a purpose (Creation Mandate) and deserving of dignity and respect because we were created in God’s image. It is “who we really are“, but not necessarily how we are living and working in broken workplaces that are part of a broken world.
Our friend Dr. Skip Moen argues that “humanness” is something we must choose to move toward in our lives:
We become human when we act as the Creator acts. We earn humanity over the course of our lives.
He writes that “becoming human” is an act of free will. We are born with everything we need to truly become who God created us to be, but being “human” means working toward reflecting our God-given characteristics in a broken world that is dehumanizing:
If I am going to become human, I must move in the direction of the divine design in me. That does not happen by random chance or automatic pilot. I must decide to become human. That is essentially what it means to have free will, to be able to choose. I can move toward God’s design innately implanted in me, or I can move away from His design, forging a self-made creature fashioned by lesser purposes. I am equipped to manifest God’s design. He has insured that I lack nothing necessary for this project. But accomplishing the task of becoming human requires a continual connection to the Maker. . . . The systems of this world are designed to remove your humanity because they are designed to remove you from a relationship with your Creator. Whatever is self-driven leads to inhuman behavior. True humanity is found in humble submission to the Creator.
Because we were created by God to reflect God’s image through work (post #048-Work Is Good), working actually moves us in the direction of becoming more fully human. Consider these observations by Skip and Jeff Van Duzer:
You see, when I align my deepest need to create with the gentle restraint of God, He and I produce something fabulous, something that glorifies Him and blesses others. In the process, I experience who I really am and I am flooded with joy (who He really is). (Dr. Skip Moen)
When humans engage in creative, meaningful work that grows out of relationships and gives back to the community they become more deeply human. (Jeff Van Duzer)
Quiet Quitting and Humanness
In a LinkedIn post that has received much attention, Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, wrote something we believe is profoundly Biblical. She said:
Quiet quitting isn’t just about quitting on a job, it’s a step toward quitting on life. . . . Work can give us meaning and purpose. It’s part of a thriving life.
We agree–God created work to be part of a thriving life!
We have written in many posts about our objections to the phrase “Work-Life Balance”–most recently in post #114 (Words that Shape Work). The phrase “Work-Life Balance” represents toxic disordered words that undermine God’s design for our lives, which means they undermine God’s design for our humanness. They are toxic because they deceive us into believing that work is an oppositional force to life, rather than a critical part of a fulfilling life.
Work is not just necessary to “pay the bills”–it is necessary for our humanity (post #047 Lessons from Creation–Imago Dei). Just as God creatively and productively worked to create all things, as God’s image-bearers it is in our very nature to be creative and productive workers. Through the Creation Mandate in Genesis 1:28 (be fruitful and steward the earth), God commands us to work to steward and cultivate His creation. We are more fully human when we work because it is an important aspect of how we live out Imago Dei and fulfill the Creation Mandate.
Like our cultural obsession with the phrase “Work-Life Balance”, Quiet Quitting is evidence that many people no longer view work as part of our life–part of the rhythm of life. They see it as something that keeps them from life.
Remember Skip Moen’s words: “I can move toward God’s design innately implanted in me, or I can move away from His design, forging a self-made creature fashioned by lesser purposes.” Quiet Quitting is a decision to move away.
Quiet Quitting and Business as Usual
Quiet Quitting and business as usual are part of a vicious “dehumanization cycle”. People choose Quiet Quitting because business as usual makes their work dehumanizing, and the act of Quiet Quitting is itself even more dehumanizing.
Business as usual cultures fail to treat people with dignity and respect. They are cultures with a WHY of Profit as Purpose, which means people are, by definition, tools of production.
In a recent post about the “Great Resignation” (#120–The “Great Dehumanization”), we discussed the dehumanizing impact of toxic organizational cultures. We noted that the toxic conditions driving people to resign fit perfectly with our description of the characteristics of business as usual way back in posts #012-#016: Profit As Purpose, Scarcity, Self-Interest and “Can We” Ethics.
In early posts, we explained ways in which business as usual and work as usual actually undermine key aspects of our intended humanness–working against God’s design for work and for us.
Quiet Quitting seems like a close cousin of the Great Resignation. One involves actually quitting and the other involves virtually quitting–quitting in spirit.
Sadly, people “not working”–whether literally not working or just going through the motions–exacerbates the dehumanizing impact. God made us to flourish through work, and we are less fully human when not reflecting our God-given creativity and productivity through work that is fulfilling. So people who “Quietly Quit” exacerbate one dehumanizing situation (a toxic work culture) with another dehumanizing situation (disengaged working).
Quiet quitting isn’t just about quitting on a job, it’s a step toward quitting on life. (Arianna Huffington)
The Quietly Quitting Opportunity
Much of the debate about the causes of, and solutions to, Quiet Quitting seems to be focused on causes like “burnout” and “stress” and solutions such as an increased focus on employee well-being as the path to increased worker performance and business success. For example, Arianna Huffington in an article titled “Why Quiet Quitting Is Not the Solution To Our Burnout Crisis” writes:
Investing in employee well-being and mental health is increasingly seen as critical to business success, including recruitment, retention, productivity and healthcare costs.
We believe this gets at the heart of the business as usual problem and the reason business as usual can’t solve the Quiet Quitting/worker disengagement problem–people are merely a means to the end of “business success”, which is what got us to the disengagement/burnout/Quiet Quitting/Great Resignation problem in the first place.
Worker disengagement (at the heart of Quiet Quitting) is not new, and it has not been a secret. Gallup has been tracking and reporting on worker engagement since 2000, and business as usual has been unable to solve the disengagement problem through “strategies” like perks and purpose statements. It has failed because the “real” purpose of business as usual remains unchanged, and it has nothing to do with the people.
In the words of Albert Einstein, “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.”
Like the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting is an opportunity for faithful leaders to demonstrate that there is a better way–a different way. It is God’s way of business in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities–what we call business a better way. Instead of changing strategies to achieve the same WHY of Profit as Purpose, leading faithfully through business a better way changes the WHY.
Quiet Quitting calls for leaders with a RENEWED understanding of God’s purpose for work and business–leaders who recognize that:
(1) God created work as a good thing and created people to work,
(2) business is a vehicle through which people can reflect Imago Dei, to live out the Creation Mandate, and fulfill the commandments to love God and love neighbor,
(3) people are more “fully human” when engaged in meaningful work that unleashes their God-given productivity and creativity in a culture of Shalom built on Biblical principles of relationships, community and human dignity,
(4) the ultimate WHY of business is derived from the ultimate WHY for humans–glorifying God and
(4) God is glorified when God’s people are Humanized through work (which requires making people part of the WHY rather than just the HOW–the end rather than just a means to an end of Profit As Purpose).
Quiet Quitting calls for organizational heart change:
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Work will not change and people will not realize their full humanity (with requires meaningful work that unleashes their God-given productivity and creativity in a culture of Shalom built on Biblical principles of relationships, community and human dignity) until business gets a new heart–removing its “stone” heart of Profit as Purpose and business as usual and taking on a new heart of business a better way–with maximizing flourishing of people as the “end” and profit in its proper place as an essential means to that end.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): This past weekend I had the privilege of being part of the largest Christian unity, service and outreach initiative to come to Connecticut (and possibly all of New England) in over 20 years. CT CityFest was organized by the Luis Palau Association in partnership with 175 churches in Southwest Connecticut.
As I reflect on what happened, I can see some parallels to the problems underlying Quiet Quitting, the inability of business as usual to solve them and the importance of business a better way to transform work and Humanize people.
CT CityFest will change Southwest Connecticut for the better. It will not be change because people were given “strategies”–convinced to “do better” or “behave better” or “give more” or “go to church”. It will be change because God gave hundreds of people a new heart and awakened the already-transplanted hearts in thousands of others.
It will be change because those new and awakened hearts will have an opportunity to work together with people from different backgrounds (the 175 churches cross racial, geographic, socio-economic and denominational lines) living out the second great commandment to love their neighbors through an ongoing effort called CT CityServe.
Bringing work back to God’s original design will take faithful leaders leading businesses faithfully–just like the faithful leaders of the 175 churches who humbly put aside their differences and their institutional agendas to come together in CT CityFest (and hopefully will remain united in the continuing vision of CT CityServe) for the highest purpose of glorifying God.
Homer Simpson on "Quiet Quitting"
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Photo Credit: Original photo by Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash (photo cropped)