The Millennial PhD: Creative Survival at Work & Beyond

Ep 31. We need to talk about "quiet quitting"

September 21, 2022 Carmela Season 3 Episode 31
The Millennial PhD: Creative Survival at Work & Beyond
Ep 31. We need to talk about "quiet quitting"
Show Notes Transcript

What is quiet quitting? What does it mean to set boundaries in our work and personal lives? Is there such a thing as anticapitalist work practices? Is quiet quitting one of them? Love it or hate it, the phrase "quiet quitting" is firmly in the popular lexicon. And now that the fall season of settle-down-and-hustle has arrived, it's a great time to talk about setting boundaries and making room for our full creative humanity.

Interested in starting your own podcast? I host The Millennial Phd on Buzzsprout and I love it because, for me, it was the easiest and most user-friendly podcast hosting site. Follow this link to sign up, and you'll automatically get a $20 Amazon gift card included in your sign up; plus, it helps support The Millennial PhD. Happy podcasting!

Support the show

Dr. Carmela Muzio Dormani - aka your host, Mela - is a sociologist, dancer, and creative consultant.

Learn more about Mela and get access to creative resources at

The Millennial PhD is all about building community. Join the conversation:
- Connect with Mela on IG @melamuzio
- Follow @themillennialphd for up-to-date info on the podcast & blog.
- Email with feedback.

Speaker 1 (00:09):

Welcome to the millennial PhD, a podcast about creative survival and beyond. My name is Dr. Carmela Muzio Dormani, and I'm a sociologist, dancer and creative consultant from New York. In these episodes, you'll find inspiration, ideas, and actionable tips for building new pathways forward in work and life. You'll hear from artists, activists, creative entrepreneurs, PhDs, and professional pivoters. We talk about radical humanity and practical steps to follow your dreams, even in the context of challenging social conditions. Before we jump into today's episode, a quick reminder to follow the millennial PhD on Instagram and to please take a minute to rate and a review the millennial PhD on Apple podcasts. Your rating really helps the show reach as many listeners as possible. You can learn more about me and get access to free creative resources on the millennial PhD Instagram page I hope you enjoyed the episode. 

Welcome back to the millennial PhD. This is your host me. We are now knee-deep in season three of the podcast. We're heading toward a one year anniversary of the show in general, and the theme for this season is new possibilities and building what we wanna see in the world. This week's episode is about quiet, quitting the new but not so new phenomenon of actually drawing boundaries related to your work. So what is quiet? Quitting a new term for an old phenomenon? If you haven't really heard this term before or you're not sure what it means, just for clarity, it's been hitting the news pretty hard right now. Um, it came to prominence on TikTok and other social media. It has a really catchy vibe to the name Quiet quitting. The alliteration is in there, it's all right there. And then it was picked up by mainstream media sources in terms prompting kind of a little bit of an uproar, a little bit of backlash, kind of the standard reactions for when workers stand up for themselves and their full humanity. 

So it basically has nothing to do with actually quitting a job. Again, just for clarity, if you've heard this term bouncing around, but you're not sure what it is, this is the discourse around it. So this term quiet quitting that people have been using on social media and now all over mainstream media outlets, is basically referring to when employees limit their work to the hours that they're contracted for and to the tasks that they're specifically supposed to be completing within their job description. So, uh, one of the TikTok creators Zed Con says in one of the videos that went viral and has millions of views on TikTok, says, I recently learned about this term called quiet quitting, where you're not outright quitting your job, but you're quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You're still performing your duties, but you're no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality. 

That work has to be your life. The reality is it's not in your worth as a person, it's not defined by your labor end quote. So this idea and this challenge to tying up our identities completely in our work and in our labor, it's very with the times. Um, it's definitely got an anti-capitalist bent to it. So we can definitely get down with that and talk about it a little bit. Like I said, the think pieces from more mainstream media outlets have been rolling in with the basic back and forth being between kind of a, the, you know, this is people developing boundaries. This is a good thing to have kind of some regular boundaries around your work versus, oh, this is people being over entitled and lazy with some shades in between. Uh, the titles of the think pieces are amazing. Some of 'em are really funny. 

Some of 'em are nice and simple, like the economics behind quiet, quitting. Or on the other hand, we have Harvard Business Review, which says, when quiet quitting is worse than the real thing. Okay? So there's a lot of, uh, a lot of tension and scare tactics around the economic effect of workers actually sticking to some boundaries in their work lives and not going quote unquote above and beyond. It's really interesting that much more capitalist bent leaning and supporting news outlets kind of openly acknowledged that business models are predicated on workers doing some extra uncompensated labor. Um, I also saw some news that said, Don't quite quit the church, which was hilarious. Um, as I would, in fact, and sort of on a separate note, as I was prepping to record this episode from the morning that I first started to look at it to this afternoon when I'm recording, an article came out in the hill called Students Are Quiet, Quitting to Preserve their Mental Health. 

So the term has taken off, it's been applied in a bunch of different areas. Um, there was also an article that's listed as in progress at The Atlantic right now that's talking about quiet quitting isn't really a thing, or I think it says Quiet quitting is a fake trend. And it sort of takes in the same vein that people were saying, The great resignation isn't really happening, It's just the term referring to people shuffling around in the late Covid era. Similarly, it takes that tone of saying, this isn't actually kind of a brand new thing, right? So workers being disenchanted with their labor being exploited is not actually a brand new phenomenon. That being said, I do think we're in a social and cultural moment where pupil's articulation of that is coming to the forefront and talking about not wanting anymore to tie their entire lives to their work and to their labor. 

And as working conditions have become increasingly more and more exploitative as years pass by, people are are trying to draw these boundaries for themselves more and more. Okay? So it is interesting that kind of the debate between, I guess, more conservative and liberal media is starting to shift to a debate between this is, this is awful and terrible for the economy, and businesses are gonna fall to pieces on the conservative end, and then even the more moderate or quote unquote liberal media outlets are like, this doesn't even exist. Um, but it is, you know, like I said, I do think it's something that goes with the social and political moment that we're having where people are trying to find terms to articulate their experiences and how they're trying to respond to those experiences. And it attests to the power of social media as well, which takes these concepts and takes these terms and then broadcast them to a really broad audience, which obviously can be utilized in really positive ways and then can be really challenging in other areas in terms of mental health, right? 

Is this though an anti capitalist idea? And probably a lot of people, I don't know, you know, how many people are gonna be listening to this that are, that are deeply engaged in anti capitalist politics, and I'm sure there's a good amount of people who would dismiss its anti capitalist potential, but I do think that this goes along with these ideas. It's not like a revolution in and of itself, but it goes along with these ideas that people have been trying to put forth and spread to a wide audience of prioritizing rest and care for ourselves as, as full human beings and as full, full people that have value beyond our labor and beyond the, the production that we can provide for companies and beyond profit that we can help companies accrue. So I do think it's an, it's in line with that. I always talk on this show and kind of in the, in the copy for this podcast and, and the blog that's coming out. 

I mention creative Humanity a lot. It's just my way of articulating that our full range of being and how we can move through the world transcends just our work and our productive labor. And for me, I articulate that in terms of creativity and art and dance and movement and expressing ourselves and building community with each other. So hopefully building boundaries around work can be part of that, right? And what, what does it mean to set boundaries? And I think it's actually, this has been something it's called on, not just with this quiet quitting terminology, but in recent years, this has been on social media a lot, just people talking about setting boundaries in their work lives, in terms of relationships. It's become a, I would say, a popular discussion about defining the lines that we are and aren't willing to cross again. And that can be in terms of work, um, also other areas of life, including our relationships. 

And this is one way that people are trying to figure out how to guard and protect your full humanity to protect against things like microaggressions or just straight up exploitation when it comes to labor. And it involves, right, this work of setting boundaries, it involves releasing and kind of combating sometimes the social roles that we've been taught, especially for those who've experienced internalized oppression in one form or another. Um, so the fact of the matter is that this is more work for folks who are experiencing ongoing oppression and marginalization, which might be women, people of color, queer folks, anyone who's living at the intersection of any of those identities, as well as anyone who's experienced poverty, abuse, trauma, right? And as we collectively try to work through these realities in our lives, letting go of the idea that we need to be deferential in work environments can be part of that. 

Again, this could also, someone could have this conversation about our personal one-to-one relationships. That's not really what I'm focused on here. Um, but that, that's definitely a conversation to have as well. Um, and I actually, I had a solo episode planned for later in the season just called Breaking the Habit of Deference, which we'll see if, if that makes it to, to being recorded and being released. But even though this conver that conversation that I had in mind for that was about individual ways of coping with systemic marginalization. It's never just an individual process, right? So it's something that we engage in collectively and it ties us to each other, okay? But I still think that setting boundaries in our personal lives and in our work lives can be, can be great work to do, and especially if we're in communication with each other collaboratively around that work. 

I have also noticed, I think when we think about setting boundaries for ourselves, it, it's something where we need to think about the fact that we can't actually execute control over other people. Now in work environments, we can, folks can organize, they can unionize, they can, they can push back against management decisions. So that's, that's organizing and that's one realm. But in terms of our individual lives and day to day, when we talk about setting our own boundaries, it's really something that's about our behaviors and what we're going to tolerate or not tolerate for ourselves in different environments. You sometimes I see people trying to set boundaries by trying to control the behaviors of others, and it's one thing to communicate how you're feeling about something to other folks. But, and of course, we can always try to communicate with the goal of, you know, telling people why something that they've done has bothered us, and hopefully strengthening the relationship and making it healthier and making it more sustained. But ultimately, we can't control what other people do necessarily, right? At least you can't completely embody that process and completely control it. So I do think that's a pitfall with this conversation about setting boundaries. 

So yeah, that's an ongoing conversation, but it does draw our attention to question of what are some everyday kind of approaches that we can take to mediate the harm and mediate the effects of hyper exploitation and of capitalism as we're currently living it. And I'm not an all or nothing person. I do believe that there are everyday things that we can do just to make conditions more equitable and more humane for ourselves and for each other. So definitely if you're here because you're launching a business or you're a creative entrepreneur, I think that there are practices that you can bring into that if you're here because you know me through dance and you're here because you're an artist, or you're, you're building up your creative work, there are definitely practices that we can bring into the way that we relate to creating and to art that can embody kind of more equitable futures. 

And absolutely, you already know if you're here because you're an academic or you're leaving academia and looking for new pathways forward, we definitely know that there are, there are ways that we can build toward more equitable futures, right? Which is the theme of this season. Once again, that was not planned. Um, but anyway, I think some of those things we talk about this idea of drawing our boundaries, of speaking out when we see exploitative labor conditions of leaning into this, this prioritization of rest, of leaning into this idea that we have a, a full humanity to express learning ways of working, less learning ways of being cooperative in our, our businesses and our practices, learning ways of focusing on the collective and on the community rather than the individual, right? Every day actions that we can take to move forward in a different manner than we've been so far. 

So I'm excited. I think the quiet quitting conversation is interesting. I think it's timely, and I think it's a way of people articulating how they're trying to mediate their current labor conditions. So I'm gonna go ahead and wrap up the episode here. I'm thinking about doing a bonus segment or a little bonus episode on quiet Quitting Academia. So if you'd be interested in that, definitely send me a message. If I do do that, that'll come out in between episodes. So maybe in a couple of days after this one, just as a little bonus, something interesting to talk about and think about, if you are into this idea of quiet, quitting, hit me up with an email at the millennial PhD or DM on Instagram at the millennial PhD or Mela uio, and let me know what that means to you, because I'm really interested in how this is playing out for different people. 

Um, I think there's, there's still more complicated conversations to have about it, about how it plays out in different environments in different industries for folks of different identities, right? What is this, what is this meaning to people right now? And maybe in a couple weeks the term will be gone and we'll be talking about something else. But, uh, I love this entry away into talking about how we can draw greater boundaries in our lives around work and hopefully create some more humane conditions for people as we continue to survive, um, what has been a very challenging couple of years. So I hope everybody has a wonderful week. We'll be back next Wednesday with a, an interview based episode. That's a really good one. And that's it for now. That's it for this week's episode of the Millennial PhD. You can find more content, resources and information on Instagram at the millennial PhD in this collective moment of reevaluating our relationships with work and exploitation. I look forward to connecting with you and building stronger bonds of community and collaboration. I would love to hear from you via email at the millennial PhD with any feedback, comments, questions, or concerns, or if you're interested in coming on the show as a guest. That's all for now. It's been real. See you next time.