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by Jeff
Rated: 18+ · Book · Biographical · #1399999
My primary Writing.com blog.
#1040874 added November 20, 2022 at 9:47pm
Restrictions: None
Act Your Wage
I have a couple of colleagues at work who were just turned down for promotions and/or raises for no other reason than the company doesn't want to promote them or pay them more. Both of them have consistently gone above and beyond their assigned job duties (the expectation being that they would be rewarded with advancement sooner or later), and both of them have decided that a little "work-to-rule" (or "quiet quitting" as it's come to be known recently) is the only real recourse they have against an employer who is arbitrarily preventing them from achieving career advancement.

I've never been a fan of the term "quiet quitting" because it has nothing to do with quitting your job, and the expectation that you're somehow deficient for only doing the bare minimum that a company is paying you for is a toxic one. "Work-to-rule" literally means doing no more than the minimum required by the rules of your contract or job, and I actually prefer the term "act your wage," as I think it's a better description of the action in today's world where over-performance is expected (to the point where just doing the job you were hired to do is called quiet quitting!).

In my experience, a lot of employers are still riding high on the past decade-plus of favorable conditions for companies. Since the Great Recession between 2007 and 20009, companies have been emboldened to make excessive demands on employees' time and energy. There are entire online forums dedicated to employees sharing stories of how their bosses and companies have set unrealistic expectations, whether it's working mandatory overtime, taking on additional responsibilities above and beyond their job description, or even being pressured to forego benefits such as taking all their vacation days or expensing valid items.

For myself personally, I have benefit of a relatively high paid, white-collar job with a large amount of flexibility. But at least half of my job at this point is comprised expanded responsibilities that are above and beyond the job description I was given upon being hired years ago, including: managing other employees, entire processes and responsibilities that have nothing to do with my core duties, etc. During the pandemic, we worked remotely from home for two years and continue to work hybrid from home at least two days a week if not more, but the company has never reimbursed us for our cell phone or home internet usage, both of which are used regularly for the company's benefit.

Much of the world has gone through an economic shift recently. It's not unexpected; these kinds of ebbs and flows are natural where at certain times jobs are scarce and employers enjoy enormous influence over a workforce that needs their jobs more than the companies need them. But then things swing back the other way and there are more open job positions than qualified people to fill them, and the employees have more leverage to negotiate higher titles and salaries, have their pick of jobs which allows them to pass up ones that aren't a good fit for their needs, etc. It's just the natural cycle of business.

But something has happened with this latest phase of employee empowerment, and it's that the companies - after over a decade of having the stronger position - are now resentfully opposing the a world where employees have the power to object to a company's working conditions. How many op-ed articles did you read during the pandemic about how remote work is terrible for business and people just need to get back to the office? Most of those were written by CEOs and corporate HR professionals. How many reddit forums and Buzzfeed lists and the like are dedicated to stories of unreasonable managers, supervisors, and bosses who think employees should make work their sole priority? How much pushback has there been at the idea of work-life balance, where the idea of (gasp) putting in your hours and going home at the end of the day is seen as tantamount to (quiet) quitting?

Even before the pandemic, my parents never understood why I switched jobs every few years. They were raised in a generation where you could work for the same employer for decades, receiving regular promotions and raises, and very little reason to leave outside of a national economic downturn or the desire to leave. I grew up in a world where, over the first fifteen years of my professional career, I've worked for over half a dozen employers and left because I liked the place but was told there's no path for advancement (3x), or because I've been laid off (3x). I've only left one employer by choice based on it not being a good fit. For most of the years I've been a working professional, I've worked for employers who have made it very clear that they value their profits above their people. And that's not to say I haven't liked the jobs I've worked; just that they've been in an environment where the companies I've worked for have not been as loyal to me and they've expected me to be to them.

All that said, the idea of "quiet quitting" is one that I understand. The desire to just do the job you're hired for and not give 100% of your time and energy to your employer is a reasonable and human one. And that dynamic of treating your job like a job and just one part of your life instead of your whole life shouldn't be something that's viewed derisively as a character flaw... it should just be "acting your wage."

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