How Marx Helps Us Understand Quiet Quitting, Quiet Firing, and Loud Retaining
What is going on with quiet quitting, burnout, and quiet firing on college campuses? This episode explores them through the Marxist idea of alienation from our labor. Alienation is a natural outcome of systemic accretion: the ongoing increase of small tasks and assignments that seem individually manageable but taken together become impossible. Institutions that engage in habitual system accretion may be unintentionally “quiet firing” their people by giving them work that is designed to leave them feeling undervalued and disengaged. The solution? Leaders can rebuild the connection between people’s purpose and their work.
The episode at a glance:
>> 0:55. The three gifts that turned this episode around: the new-to-me podcasts Phronesis and the agile academic, plus coffee with my philosopher friend who recommended Elizabeth Anderson’s book Private Government.
>>03:48. How the 80s pop queens Janet Jackson and Madonna got me from “quiet firing” to alienation.
>>04:32. Today’s thesis statement: Quiet quitting and burnout, two ways employees are responding to the contemporary workplace, are both one outcome (among many) of people feeling alienated from the labor due to the systemic accretion of purpose-less work. To support folks who are quiet quitting or burning out, help them reconnect their labor to their purpose. If you are a leader in higher ed today, and you’re worried about quiet quitting or burnout on your campus, your primary focus should be reconnecting people’s purpose to their work.
>>07:39. Defining terms: quiet quitting. We’ll define it as employees setting healthy working boundaries: giving their all while they’re at work, and then ending their workday by…stopping working.
>>11:54. Defining terms: quiet firing: According to Bonnie Dilber, “Quiet firing is when an employer does the bare minimum to keep their employees: no support, no development, no growth, no rewards.[…] Women, and especially women of color, are particularly susceptible to quiet firing.”
>>13:39. A layperson’s history of the link between becoming a professor, having a vocation, and the systemic accretion of purpose-less work.
>>21:09. How does higher ed contribute to burnout by habitual quiet firing? Through the systemic accretion of assignments that literally prevent you from completing the work you need to do to advance.
>>21:58. Defining terms: loud retaining. Actively engaging, promoting, and advancing your team.
>>22:54. Jonathan Malesic imagines how colleges could combat burnout by reimagining the way we operate.
>>24:16. Two things leaders can do to build connections between people’s work and their purpose. OK, actually there are three things.
>>24:36. First: Build trust, build trust, build trust.
>>24:55. Second: Diagnose the problem(s). Separate the purpose-less work from the purpose-full work, and rebuild your team’s work calendars to prioritize their purpose.
>>32:38. Third: Advocate for change. Help your campus see how connecting people to their purpose is beneficial for the entire institution. If you lead the way, you’ll make it possible for others to follow. That vision of a campus that gets together and decides to change because they see themselves as a collective? You can be part of making that happen.
>>35:07. How are purpose and connection economic matters? You are solving a problem about resources, expenditures, operations, exchange and interaction. It is 100% about the economy on our campuses. In the debate about quiet quitting over burnout, we need to choose humanity. Because without humanity there will be no economy.
>>38:30. During October, The Uplift will explore the interrelated issues of difficult conversations and democracy. What do you want to hear about? Leave a comment or drop me a line and let me know!
>>40:17. My 16YO kiddo gets in the last word with a joke about feminism, labor, and divas. Love that girl.
Extra readings and resources – no affiliate marketing, just information-sharing:
Rebecca Pope-Ruark’s book Untangling Faculty Burnout (https://www.press.jhu.edu/books/title/12574/unraveling-faculty-burnout) and podcast, The Agile Academic: https://theagileacademic.com/2021/01/09/the-agile-academic-podcast/
Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders (ILA podcast, hosted by Scott L. Allen): https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/phronesis-practical-wisdom-for-leaders/id1510441734
Google history of the search for “quiet quitting.” https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205-y&geo=US&q=quiet%20quitting
“Quiet Quitting Explained: Everything You Need to Know,” by Amanda Hetler. @TechTarget: https://www.techtarget.com/whatis/feature/Quiet-quitting-explained-Everything-you-need-to-know. Published September 1, 2022. Accessed September 12, 2022.
“Quiet Quitting Isn’t Really About Quitting: Here Are the Signs,” by Taylor Telford. @Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/08/21/quiet-quitting-what-to-know/. Published August 21, 2022. Accessed September 15, 2022.
“The Backlash Against Quiet Quitting is Getting Really Loud,” by Kathryn Dill and Angela Yang. @Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-backlash-against-quiet-quitting-is-getting-loud-11661391232. Published August 25, 2022. Accessed September 10, 2022.
“How the 40-hour Workweek Became the Norm,” by Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi. @NPR: https://www.npr.org/2021/11/05/1052968060/how-the-40-hour-work-week-became-the-norm. Published November 5, 2021. Accessed September 10, 2022.
“The Cure for Burnout is Not Self-Care: Amelia Nagoski discusses Quiet Quitting,” by Carolyn Mimbs Nyce. @The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/09/what-is-quiet-quitting-burnout-at-work/671413/
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, by Amelia Nagoski and Emily Nagoski. https://bookshop.org/books/burnout-the-secret-to-unlocking-the-stress-cycle/9781984818324
“Are We All Really Burning Out?” by Jonathan Malesic. @Chronicle of Higher Education. Published December 21, 2021. Accessed September 13, 2022. https://www.chronicle.com/article/are-we-all-really-burning-out
“Forget Quiet Quitting: Bosses Are Quiet Firing,” by Bonnie Dilber. https://www.businessinsider.com/forget-quiet-quitting-bosses-quiet-firing-employees-deny-raises-quit-2022-9. Accessed September 15, 2022.
“Quiet Quitting is Understandable, But It Won’t Save Us From Predatory Capitalism, ” by Anthony DiMaggio. @Salon: https://www.salon.com/2022/09/14/quiet-quitting-is-understandable–but-it-wont-save-us-from-predatory-capitalism/. Published September 14, 2022. Accessed September 15, 2022.
“The Employee-Employer Disconnect That’s Fueling the Great Resignation,” by Joe Andrew. @FastCompany: https://www.fastcompany.com/90728005/the-employee-employer-disconnect-thats-fueling-the-great-resignation. Published March 13, 2022. Accessed September 15, 2022.
“Even Tenure-Line Professors Are Quitting,” by Joshua Doležal @Chronicle of Higher Education. Published May 27, 2022. Accessed September 12, 2022. https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-big-quit?cid2=gen_login_refresh&cid=gen_sign_in
“The Great Faculty Disengagement,” by Kevin R. McClure and Alisa Hicklin Fryar. @Chronicle of Higher Education: https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-great-faculty-disengagement Published January 19, 2022. Accessed September 12, 2022.
“Why Great Managers Are So Rare,” by Randall J. Beck and Jim Harter. @Gallup: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/231593/why-great-managers-rare.aspx. Accessed September 16, 2022.
“Majority of workers who quit a job in 2021 cite low pay, no opportunities for advancement, feeling disrespected,” by Kim Parker and Juliana Menasche Horowitz. @Pew Research Center: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/03/09/majority-of-workers-who-quit-a-job-in-2021-cite-low-pay-no-opportunities-for-advancement-feeling-disrespected/. Published March 9, 2022. Accessed September 12, 2022.
The Progress Principle, by Teresa Amabile and Stephen Kramer. http://progressprinciple.com/books/single/the_progress_principle
The Heartless Bastards. Because I wasn’t kidding, yo. https://www.theheartlessbastards.com
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