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Here’s Why the Movement of ‘Quiet Quitting’ Can Be Harmful to Black Workers

The concept of “quiet quitting” has become one of many trendy buzzword terms shifting the attitudes of millennials and Gen Z in the U.S. to refuse to go above and beyond in the workplace. Yet, for Black employees, the phenomenon is much more far-fetched from reality. 

Simply put, “quiet quitting” is when workers consciously choose to not go the extra mile to impress their manager, but, instead opt to do their required daily tasks as satisfactorily as possible. Work-life balance over promotions has taken precedence. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio:

“Quiet quitting has been around for a  while for now it’s just been branded, but Black people don’t have the privilege to be overt in doing it like their white counterparts,” said LaShawn Davis, founder of The HR Plug, a consulting firm. 

The Quiet Quitters

“Quiet quitters” make up at least 50 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to a recent report by workplace insights platform Gallup. The report also found that U.S. employees retreated in being engaged with work tasks. The number of workers who remained in tune stayed stagnant at 32 percent in the second quarter of 2022, but the number of disengaged employees increased to 18 percent. Particularly for younger workers, under 35 years old, the statistics are troubling.

While the notion of quiet quitting may carry a negative connotation, giving the impression that employees are purposefully coasting during the eight-hour work day, it’s important to not misconstrue the so-called movement with laziness, said Jacqueline Shualis, an author and leadership consultant. 

“Much of the discussion of ‘quiet quitting’ has been framed as an issue of lazy workers and centered on the white experience, but for countless workers of color this is anything but the case,” she said.

Some experts believe the that term, which was coined out of resistance, can put a bullseye on people of color’s performance reviews when their work ethic is already scrutinized more than white colleagues’. 

Quite Quitting and Black Workers

“Quiet quit is challenging when you’re disfavored. For Black people to work at a level of mediocre puts [them] at greater risks,” said Davis. “The magnifying glass is on you and you’re already being micromanaged, so when you give in to quiet quitting, you’re giving them a reason to believe you weren’t worth hiring to begin with” she added. 

The vast majority of the time, workers that are only doing what their job description outlines is because of poor management, experts found. As remote and hybrid working arrangements become the norm for many corporate employees, managers will have to be strategic in ensuring employees feel valued and not burned out. 

According to Davis, quit quitters feel “these companies feel a level of entitlement because they believe you need to do whatever it takes to make sure [they] are successful but that’s a CEO’s function.”

The hustle culture of living and breathing your career continues to be viewed as a sacrifice to be made in order to be recognized and rewarded for your efforts, which does not always translate into a bump in your paycheck. Inequities in performance ratings have been the impetus for dissuading Black workers to not buy into the concept of quiet quitting but choosing to resign altogether. Lack of career advancement and rightfully earned pay increases forced many Black professionals to search for new opportunities. 

“People don’t come to work to quiet quit, there are certain factors that lead them there,” said Davis. “Companies need to look at how they are incentivizing people because that’s tied to how valued people feel.”

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