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.“The sociologist Nicole Mayer-Ahuja is a guest, and there will also be a discussion about Frigga Haug and her Marxist-feminist 4-in-1 perspective.

It should not be a problem if employees do exactly what is agreed upon in their contract. However, „working by the book“ is increasingly causing panic among HR professionals worldwide. Economic newspapers provide tips for desperate managers to improve the work ethic of employees, especially Generation Z, who were born between the mid-1990s and 2010 and are now entering the job market – or slowly making their way towards it.

As often happens in moral debates, the essential aspect is overlooked. Quiet quitting is only possible where it is actually possible to slow down, where no algorithm relentlessly dictates every step. Following instructions 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 clever strategy of executives to increasingly rely on individual responsibility; to transform employees in their daily work into freelancers, thanks to teams that self-organize and take responsibility for achieving set goals, without the boss constantly looking over their shoulder or fixed working hours. A means to increase motivation so that, if necessary, work on the project can continue even when sick, because deadlines don’t catch a cold.

There is now more resistance against indirect control, as not only the pressure, but also the proportion of additional work calculated by companies is high. However, the logic of indirect control allows employees to take it easy – because there is not as much control. This dialectic of pressure and counterpressure is complemented by changed starting conditions: 20 years ago, during times of mass unemployment, isolated protests like „Quiet Quitting“ would hardly have been possible. But 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.