Gen Z: Stop ‘quiet quitting,’ and dream out loud
The world still overflows with opportunities however we are lacking committed takers. Those who are willing to explore the opportunities as opposed to wait for them to show up at the door. It seems like, for the new generation, working hard has turned into the enemy of dreams and a roadblock to life’s journey.
The anti-work phenomenon, quiet quitting, is encouraging people to withdraw privately and silently. It is an utterly un-American act that will create an avalanche of self-destruction at a critical time for our nation. It is a movement that cannot be stopped by force but may ultimately be an awakening that could lead to the rejuvenation of the nation.
Quiet quitters are mostly members of Generation Z who are no longer looking for a dream job, but a job that can support their dreams. Those who look at jobs as an annoying distraction to life. A distraction that must be avoided by reducing the energy dedicated to it — shorter hours and never exceeding expectations.
The mantra of Gen Z seems to have changed to “work your pay” as opposed to working for prosperity — a mantra that guides people to work the minimum amount that they feel is justified for the money they receive versus working hard to build a secure and prosperous future. There has been a change in perspective from living for a self-reliant tomorrow to living for today and risking a less secure future.
According to McKinsey & Company, most entry-level workers don’t see their first job as a forever job — the idea of getting a job out of college and staying until retirement is as obsolete as traveling by horse and carriage. Gen Z is already known as a bunch of job hoppers who are looking for the next gig that offers more money for less work.
Quiet quitting should not be confused with the last year’s great resignation trend, when every month, nearly 4 million employees quit jobs to find better and more lucrative situations by changing employers or starting their own businesses. Quiet quitters are keeping jobs and collecting paychecks. The quiet quitting sensation is not about a desire to work from home either. In fact, a survey shows that only 23 percent of Gen Z feel that remote work is very or extremely important to them. On the contrary, close to two-thirds like to be trained in person and in an office environment. For quiet quitters, the issue is “to work or not work,” and not about the location.
Once upon a time, being excellent was predicated on going above and beyond in everything you do. That belief has died. The clear effect is quiet quitting, but the cause may not just be a lack of desire to work. At first look, it seems that our collective success and improved living standards are turning into the chains that impede our movement forward — we expect the same continued lifestyle minus the burden of working hard first. The cause may also be a lack of self-fulfillment from the work and a belief that their work is only building other people’s dreams and not their own — a lack of trust in the value of hard work by a sustained misappropriation of efforts and results. Alternatively, the cause may be mistrust in our shared dream, shattered by the social divisiveness of the times.
When your work is only a means to an end, you will inevitably avoid wasting your creativity on it — the very creativity that will drive our collective future. Prioritizing temperamental happiness over long-term prosperity may be just another short-lived trend from a young generation. However, temporary trends can lead to severe long-term consequences, including triggering an unpleasant movement to put out the fire with fire. The impact on productivity and the resulting corporate self-preservation reaction may lead to “quiet firing” and broad-based unemployment. This is a likely market reaction with signs that are already crystalizing: U.S. productivity losses of 7.4 percent and 4.1 percent respectively in the first and second quarters of 2022 and announced layoffs across various sectors from technology to financial.
In my opinion, the solution is not more pay for work, it is not regulation or government intervention. It is not forcing four-day work schedules or mandatory work-from-home plans across the nation.
The solution begins with recognition and appreciation of all the niceties that surround us because of the hard work of many before us. The solution is a deliberate decision not to quit on our country. The solution is to see our self-interest not in momentary pleasures but in progress and innovation.
The solution is for members of Gen Z who are dissatisfied with their jobs to create new ones; not to quit but to refuel and rejuvenate. The solution is for them to be present with ideas in force — to be upfront and personal. The solution is to be loud, not quiet, in bravely shaping a better tomorrow.
As for the rest of us, we should allow the space for them to find and shape their dreams so they can materialize as a part of the workforce and be forces of creativity. The solution is reenergizing our younger generation to believe again and to see the connectivity of all our dreams.
Sid Mohasseb is an adjunct professor in dynamic data-driven strategy at the University of Southern California and is a former national strategic innovation leader for strategy at KPMG. He is the author of “The Caterpillar’s Edge” and “You are not Them.”