While I was in Lisbon for Web Summit, Dead Cat co-hosts Tom Dotan and Katie Benner kept the podcast going without me. They brought on my old colleague Aki Ito, who is now a reporter at Insider, to talk about her reporting on coasting culture, which helped to spark the global discussion of “quiet quitting.”
The trio discuss how a recession will yet again change society’s relationship with work.
You can read Ito’s stories here:
And here’s her latest on how the trend is reversing: RIP, quiet quitting — layoff fears have workers back to the grind
One of the first documented cases of quiet quitting was a recruiter I'll call Justin. Deep into the coronavirus pandemic, after working 10- to 12-hour days for much of his career, Justin had decided to dial it back on the job. When I spoke with him in February, he had whittled his workweek down to 40 hours. In the ensuing months, he went even further, working as little as 30. Every week he worked a little bit less, freeing him up to spend more time with his wife and their newborn baby.
It was Justin, in fact, who helped spark the national debate that's been raging over quiet quitting. After speaking with him and other recovering overachievers, I wrote about how hustle culture, thanks to the job security granted by the roaring economy, was giving way to coasting culture. When a popular career coach on TikTok riffed on my story, the phrase "quiet quitting" became something of a new cultural dividing line. You either loved the Justins of the world for striking a reasonable work-life balance, or condemned them as slackers and cheats.
But by the time the US was furiously debating his new approach to work, Justin was already shifting gears. Over the summer, as the economy began to slow, he noticed his clients were scaling back their hiring plans. Performance reviews seemed to be getting tougher. Some of his colleagues were let go. "It made me nervous," he told me. "It hit me that I'm the only one who works in my family." So he decided to "play it a little more safe." Today Justin, the OG Quiet Quitter, is back to going above and beyond. He's working 50 hours a week.