Going Through the Motions

Tom Cardella

Quietly Quitting is suggested for folks who are employed in a toxic workplace environment. Disengage. Work the necessary hours to keep the job. But no more.

The idea is presented as something new. The antidote to working extra hours instead of going home. It isn’t. Back in the LSD days of the ‘60s, we had the Timothy Leary slogan “Tune in and drop out.” I don’t remember that it solved anything. Many who dropped out never found their way back.

Anyone who has ever worked anywhere knows some of his or her colleagues are just going through the motions. “It’s just a job,” they’ll say. I’ve not only worked in such situations, I’ve been one of those employees.

Let’s first understand that there are certain jobs no one should hold if they intend to slide by. You don’t want to be operated on by a surgeon who is just going through the motions. There are other jobs in the same category. We don’t need teachers, cops or anyone in a sales position to be quietly quitting, for obvious reasons.

Unfortunately, our national problem is we don’t have enough dedicated employees who are devoted to doing the best job they can do. In some ways we have the reverse problem. We’ve become to some extent a nation of quiet quitters. At least some of that is the employer’s fault.

Loyalty can’t be a one-way street. Working conditions often dictate whether your employees are willing to do their best for you. So does whether you’re part of a union or not. I have worked in the best of places and the worst of places. The boss who accused me (wrongly) of tampering with my time card never got the best out of me from that time on. Good supervisors are hard to find. I’d say out of my four decades or so of employment, only 12 of those years were worked under a great supervisor. That counts government service and a broadcast career. His name is Nick Gallup.

Nick’s motto was, “You spend eight hours a day at the workplace, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy it.” Working for Gallup, it was impossible for me to go through the motions. Nick was a wonderful motivator. And he proved that it’s not only financial rewards that are important. In the middle of an ass-busting day, you would receive a yellow sticky pad with a note that read, “Another great job, Tom” or words to that effect. You knew he cared about you. He was willing to lose you as an employee if it would further YOUR own career. You weren’t quietly quitting when working for Nick. At least I wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that you make your job more important than your personal life. No one should be sleeping in the office on a regular basis like former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. You’ve got to keep things in balance. Former Eagles Head Coach Dick Vermeil wasn’t able to do that and burned out. On the other hand, quietly quitting underestimates the importance of job happiness in a person’s life.

Doing less than your absolute best at the workplace corrupts the soul. Eventually, there is a price to pay for holding yourself back from doing your best as an employee. Better to flee the toxic workplace if that’s what you’re rebelling against. Better to leave than sit in place for years doing the minimum. And I believe that’s exactly what is happening in some workplaces today.

Is there anything much worse than getting up each day to go to a meaningless job? I did it for a number of years. At the time, I worked for supervisors who never seemed to reward their employees. The job was thankless. I was lucky because I got rescued from that situation by Gallup, who saw something in me I didn’t know I had. Too many others are not so lucky.

My luck changed for the worse at the end. Reorganization left me without an actual job. I was placed in an office. Alone. No workload. Without purpose. Forgotten for days and weeks on end. If that’s an example of quietly quitting, it’s my version of Hell. Why didn’t I just quit? The benefits were too good, and I convinced myself that I was prostituting myself at the workplace for my family. There is no kidding myself. It took a moral toll on me. In retrospect, I should’ve quit. I didn’t have the guts to do it.

That’s how I see quietly quitting. It’s not something to be done lightly. The better option is to start looking for a new job ASAP while temporarily putting up with your job while putting food on the table. Our makeup requires us to feel useful. Our job is a good part of our life. Human beings aren’t made to go through the motions. Inevitably, the process not only robs our job of any meaning, but more importantly robs our life from having any meaning.