Stop Using Quiet Quitting to talk about doing your job

Stop Using Quiet Quitting to talk about doing your job
The current obsession with "quiet quitting", a term apparently created on TikTok to mean people who go to work and do their jobs without taking on extra, has really steamed me. 

How did we get to a place when merely doing your job, the tasks you were hired and paid to do, was in some way slacking, implying dereliction of duty?

The consistent creep of job duties over the past couple of decades  has normalized overworking to such an extent that many employers now view overworking as the baseline required - not the exception to the rule but the norm. In many salaried employee contracts, overworking is even written into the contract!

So where does that leave employees who are doing more than ever for the same pay -- in effect experiencing a reduction in their wages per hour or salary because the obligations have increased.  It leaves them with a organizational expectation to spend their own time to complete work that the employer has assigned without remuneration. It leaves them working longer hours for the same pay. And EVEN IF there is overtime pay involved, the expectation to complete more work cuts into an employees personal time, reduces the recovery time off needed to be a great employee, and introduces shame/guilt as a tactic to "motivate" more work out of them.

I haven't seen a conversation anywhere about how this defacto reduction in wages is being addressed or even acknowledged --NOPE what we see is a label being applied to it that implies employees are in some way slacking from their duties. 

I call Bullshit to using the term "Quiet Quitting" to define "Doing your Job" -- Let's start naming the expectation of overwork for the abuse of the employer/employee relationship that it is. 

Terms like "Expected Extras", "Task Creep", "Freebie Assumptions" are all much more honest depictions of what the culture of the workplace is. "Quiet Quitting" doesn't even come close to naming the revolution in the workplace that is happening. 

I, for one, applaud those workers who have looked at what their work lives have become, how they have taken over much of their private life and their own brainspace, and said enough. I will do my job to the best of my ability and no more. 

If employers cannot get the work of their organization done in the time of the work week with the employees they have, it is time to rethink the business model, hire more people, and honour the efforts of those already working for you. 

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The 4 Horsemen of Type A

The 4 Horsemen of Type A
i have been working for over 2 years now to vanquish my Type A tendencies. Type A personality traits are typically associated with motivation for high achievement, impatience, overworking and competitiveness. I call these the 4 Horsemen of Type A. And their uncontrolled impact on your life can be deadly.

Don't be fooled that these only show up in work life. They infiltrate your private life and family. Hobbies are competitions and mine was gardening. I maxxed out at 175 tomato plants one year and didn't even think it was a problem. Two years later we are still living off of the canned tomato products that I made from that harvest.

You also tend to project these behaviours onto your kids -- why have fun playing hockey when you could try to be an NHLer? Or your happy journaling girl is suddenly heading for a Nobel Prize in literature. Or making your track loving boy watch hours of the Olympic to "motivate" them. So much for hobbies for fun.  

This is where the problem lies. Us Type A riders take normal, fun activities, and make them all competition for success and acknowledgement. And our achievement seeking leads us to be really great at our jobs.

These traits are not, in and of themselves, harmful, except that our culture HIGHLY prizes the results these traits bring. When you ride with the Horsemen, the exhilaration, the public succes, and the financial rewards make it nearly impossible to get off the horse. 

We have been taught since grade school to seek out external validation - from winning reading awards, to science fair competitions, to striving for grades significant enough to get us scholarship -- all this validation sets us up to continually be striving and putting off things that are more esoteric, calm or quiet. We are bombarded with effort/reward scenarios from the time we are born and our parents start us off on the journey often living out some of their unfulfilled history and we, in turn, pass it along to our children. 

Our desire for this external validation becomes the source of some of our biggest burnout activities in adulthood.

Much like grade school, our work lives have report cards. Evaluations, performance reviews, 360s, even Accreditation, all fall into the work/validation vortex. And here is where Overwork becomes the Horseman you can't escape. 

Organizations are under massive pressure these days -- more than ever there aren't enough people to do the work, so the work gets piled onto those who are already engaged. 

Why don't we notice and respond? Because  it happens in increments. You start out working 45 hours in your 40 hour week then suddenly and surprisingly you are at 60 -- not counting the hours you work at home. 

Non-work activities get cancelled, rebooked, ignored, and forgotten. Your kids look at you and learn. Jim Croce called in in Cat's Cradle as a kind of Cassandra doomed to foretell the future and have no one believe her. 

So we find ourselves working more, living for the adrenaline of the top marks in performance review, the possible wage increase for excellent performance, and continue to get pulled back into the negative vortex until we can no longer see the problem.  "Somebody has to do the work".....

But let's really think about what our riding the Overworking horse means -- fundamentally it means we are enabling the system to continue on without having to change. 

Yes, we are the reason that the system hasn't changed!!! It relies on both our tendency to value overwork as a signal of success AND our refusal to allow our colleagues to work short. 

This is the sword that kills us. That we must stop doing the overwork in order to force change. 

It won't happen fast. All the data the system uses to function is based on decades of overworking employees and it is scary to step into the unknown where people ONLY work their designated hours.....time has come to get off this horse.

Sitting with My Demons

Sitting with My Demons
I spent my entire Sunday sitting with my Demons. And it made me a better person today. 

My demons worked hard to tell me that taking downtime meant that I was lazy. I could feel the disdain of my maternal grandparents as I argued with my demons that my body and mind were tired and needing rest. A day without work. Without tasks. Without expectations. 

Those demons were loud. "How can you be successful if you sit there doing nothing?". 

"You are never going to achieve your goals being lazy"

"Who do you think you are just leaving your house in this state -- what will people think if they see it?"

"Just get up and do a couple things -- you will feel better and won't have wasted the entire day"

"There are a LOT of tasks on that to-do list and they won't get themselves done!"

All these demons, picking away at my brain -- telling it that my body was lying to me and was really just a layabout. That my body is lazy, in need of strong action to get it moving. 

But my body whispered, "I just want to be." 

So I put my coaching hat on and asked my demons where did they feel the feelings they were shouting at me? Where in life did they learn the lesson that rest was lazy and that doing something, anything, would make an exhausted body feel better.

They didn't like the questions and the messages just got louder, as if maybe I wasn't hearing them enough to take action. My demons demanded action to feel fulfilled and no amount of meditation, of oneness, of being, suited their agenda. 

My body just smiled and said I will be stronger if you let me rest. 

My demons howled with laughter. HOW can you be stronger if you sit around doing nothing. 

Then my body said "But I am not doing nothing. I am being. And being is my most profound answer to your loud, abrasive action. Being is what makes me strong. Being is like plugging me in to the universal energy charger. "

And now, exhausted by their endless fidgeting, their yelling, their aggression towards my being body, they slumped down frustrated and finally fell asleep. My body just smiled and said to them all "being is what you all need to do as well. it is truly the only way to change the world."

It was interesting watching my demons get more and more riled up bymy body's revolutionary act of being. The quieter she got, the louder their messages of societal disdain became. Lazy. Failure. Wicked. Slothful. Unsuccessful. Pathetic.  All these weapons of busyness were thrown at my body. 

But she quietly remained being in her space and I with her. The laundry remained undone. The dishes are dirty in the sink. The dusting was left for another day. The garden remained unweeded. We practiced being in a fundamental space of no expectations. Of quiet. Of pondering. Of stillness.

Now this morning, my body smiled at me and said "Thank you - let's go out and conquer the world. I am ready" 

What do your demons say to you when you honour your body and rest?

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On Doing Nothing

On Doing Nothing
One of the first things to go, in  my experience, in the swell of 21st Century work culture is our commitment to look after ourselves. 

It starts slowly.Maybe a missed meal or two during the week. Or that really long day where you don't leave your desk for 6 hours. Or the weekend where you just slip in for a couple hours to get caught up.

In our Zoom after Zoom world, it is increasingly easy to ignore simple bodily functions until we start asking ourselves "did I pee today". 

I have seen signs of resistance to this culture of overwork -- office water challenges. Team weight loss challenges. And even pot luck lunches as a way of ensuring people actually _take_ a break and eat. 
These are hopeful, communal signs of support and proactivity. 

But what we don't see often is the visible leadership to challenge us when we are overworking. When we are staying late and coming in early. When we cancel our holidays because there is just too much to do and no one to cover for us. The system is actually set up to rely on these types of behaviour.

But the system is abetted by our internalization of the idea that no one else is there to do our work and our work cannot be left undone.  That we are uniquely placed to complete this work and in order for it to be successful we must appear to be filling every moment of our day with it.

Byung-Chul Han, in his book The Burnout Soceity, tells us that it is the "pressure to achieve that causes exhaustive depression" and that the "achievement subject [the current citizen of the modern world] gives itself over to compulsive freedom -- that is to the free constraint of maximizing achievement" (The Burnout Society 2015, pg10-11).

Our indoctrinated desire to achieve creates in us both the discipline to work, or overwork, AND the outcome of burnout. We are bound by our own "free constraints" of belief of what it means to be a success.

He also notes that our society (within which achievement is the ultimate goal) has little time or respect for idleness, for boredom, for daydreaming, even for sleep -- the very states of mind that are MOST conducive to creativity and resilience because of the state of deep mental relaxation (pg 13) gained during that time.

So if our achievement society demands both creativity and overwork, we set ourselves up for a cognitive impact where disdain and desire clash. This space is where cynicism and negativity grow. It is where hopelessness and helplessness flourish. It is where we lose a LOT of good people to the tyranny of busyness.

In this environment, rest is a disruptive behaviour. It disrupts the common narrative that achievement requires overwork and highlights the value, the necessity, the gift that is non-achievement. 

And it is our own sense of achievement, our own desire to be successful in this world, that compels us to overwork so it MUST be our own efforts at downtime, at "doing nothing", that is our response to our own burnout and depression. 

It is time to nurture the belief that "profound idleness" is what we require to enhance our creativity, our passion, and reverse the onslaught of burnout that we see in every industry and in particular in Healthcare. 

So take the radical position that doing nothing is as or more vital than finishing that report that no one needs today. Leave work unfinished on your desk while you head into the sunshine to breath. Let others see you prioritizing your health and well-being and ask them to join you in rebellious system change.

Systems will, finally, HAVE to adjust if workers start putting themselves first.

Taking Time Out

Taking Time Out
This week I decided to do something subversive. I decided that instead of continuing to push through on a couple of projects I am working on, I am taking a break. 

Now that might not sound subversive to you -- but for the Type A me, the two stress-induced heart attack me, the create so much value me, it is as subversive as it gets. 

I am trying hard to confront the cultural norms I have internalized that have me feeling like I am "doing nothing" if I am not working. But I have to tell you, it certainly isn't easy. 

Our entire western culture since about the early 90s has shifted how it evaluates success from a life full of leisure time to a life so full of work that giving up leisure time is a badge of honour and a hallmark of the true leading edge. 

Just go look at the TV shows we are presented with. How many of them focus on the life of the characters with work as a backdrop versus how many focus on the work of the characters with their lives as a backdrop? 

Gone are the Happy Days, the Full House, the Fresh Prince. And we have firemen, doctors, lawyers, and all manner of overworking as the thing we get to know the most about.  We don't see characters on vacation. We don't see characters going to parent teacher interviews at their kids' school. We don't see characters living full lives in the majority of shows. Oh yes, there are a few exceptions but they ARE exceptions. 

Our cultural obsession has distilled down to the glorification of overworking to the expense of having a life.

Well, I have decided -- um no, sorry, my body decided -- that continuing this type of relentless work, relentless stress, and relentless self-minimizing will have increasingly bad outcomes.

My first stress-induced heart attack (what I now see as the true warning shot across the bow of my obsession with burnout) was NOTHING compared to my second one. 

During my second heart attack, I required a clot-busting medication that stopped my heart (happens in 50% of the people it is given to) and I needed 4 minutes of CPR. And while I was not conscious for the CPR (actually technically my heart had stopped so I was kind of dead) for the next three months my upper chest felt so bruised and sore that I was reminded repeatedly of how close I came. 

So while my head keeps telling me "you won't get back on your feet if you don't work harder", my literal heart tells me that if I don't change, I could be floating back in the vibration of the universe where none of that matters. 

This is where the decision to take a break comes. 

I have taken a break from my garden (it felt so much like work this spring that I just knew it had been colonized by my Type-A attitude). 

I am taking a break from worrying about what happens in November when my yearly medical comes up  -- my secondary superpower is worrying over stuff I have NO control over and that is just another Type-A change the world habit. 

I am taking a break from anything that feels like it is Type-A me struggling to regain control. 

But there are a few things I am not taking a break from.....because they bring me joy and peace in this very chaotic and ultimately scary world. 

I am not taking a break from posting my self-care message across my social media platforms. Those posts help me as much as they help anyone else and i am reminded, while I write them, what to practice in my daily being. 

I am not taking a break from dog shows -- honestly, the dog show world is my escape into something competitive and fun and gets me with groups of people I would otherwise never know and interact with. After these pandemic years, I am more inclined to seek out community that I had in the preceding years because work sucked the desire to be around people right out of me. 

I am not taking a break from creating the life I want to live -- no matter how slow it seems to go (I am thinking that a SLOW LIFE can be as good as SLOW FOOD -- so there is that).

And I am NOT taking a break from my new work of listening to my body as the ultimate arbiter of what is right for me. I have spent my entire life ignoring or burying the messages my body is sending me and those 4 minutes of oblivion are there to remind me what that behaviour leads to -- so this is a habit I must continue. 

So let me ask you -- what do you NEED to take a break from? How is your body signalling you and are you listening?

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