Arbeit: Wie „Quiet Quitting“ überhaupt erst möglich geworden ist

Sebastian Friedrich is a columnist for Friday and has been exploring the ideologies of everyday life in his „Lexicon of the Performance Society“ since 2013. Denise M’Baye and he are the hosts of the NDR Philosophy Podcast „Tea with Why.“ The current episode’s topic is „Quiet Quitting.“Zu Gast ist die Soziologin Nicole Mayer-Ahuja, außerdem wird über Frigga Haug und ihre marxistisch-feministische 4-in-1-Perspektive diskutiert.

It should not be a problem if employees do exactly what is agreed upon in their contracts. However, the phenomenon of „working to rule“ is causing increasing panic among HR professionals worldwide. Business publications provide tips for desperate managers to improve the work ethic of their employees, especially those from Generation Z, who were born between the mid-1990s and 2010 and are now entering or slowly approaching the job market.

As often happens in moral debates, the essential aspect is overlooked. Quiet Quitting is only possible where it is even possible to slow down, where no algorithm relentlessly dictates every step. Compliance becomes a problem especially in a work environment that is characterized by the approach of internal control.

Freie statt Festangestellte

Once upon a time, it was a trick of the strategists in executive offices to increasingly rely on self-responsibility; to turn regular employees into freelancers in their everyday work, thanks to teams that self-organize and take responsibility for achieving the set goals, without the boss constantly looking over their shoulder or even fixed working hours. A means to increase motivation so that, if necessary, work can continue on the project even when sick, because deadlines don’t catch a cold either.

There is now more resistance against indirect control, as not only is there pressure, but also a high proportion of additional work calculated by companies. However, the logic of indirect control allows employees to push for a quieter existence – because there is not as much monitoring. This dialectic of pressure and counterpressure is complemented by changing circumstances: 20 years ago, during times of mass unemployment, isolated protests like „Quiet Quitting“ would hardly have been possible. However, today there is a shortage of skilled workers in many places.

Der sogenannte Arbeitnehmermarkt

Eine demografische Besonderheit, die die Verhandlungsposition der Arbeitnehmer stärkt, Ökonomen sprechen von einem Arbeitnehmermarkt: Wenn der Chef keine Vier-Tage-Woche, Sabbaticals und nicht Homeoffice auf Lebenszeit bietet, schlurfen gut Ausgebildete zum nächsten Betrieb.

Was für einige Fachkräfte, etwa in der IT-Branche, zutreffen mag, gilt aber nicht in der Breite: Die Reallöhne sind seit 2020 in fast jedem Quartal gesunken. Trotz Arbeitnehmermarkt.