You Can’t Fire Me, I Quietly Quit!

Back in our day (note to self: ever since I turned 55 last year, I’m saying things like “back in our day” a lot more; stop doing that), finding a job wasn’t difficult. We finished school, got a job and moved on with life.

But, in the last few decades, we have heard sad stories of a lack of good jobs for young people. They were graduating but unable to find work in their chosen fields and were forced to fend with high debt, low income, and poor job satisfaction.

Perhaps the pendulum has now swung back in favour of young people again. For several economic and societal factors, including the pandemic and the aging baby boomer demographic, it appears to be a young person’s world again, and interesting concepts are taking hold.

Work from home: Many companies are finding employees don’t want to come to work every day anymore. If you try to make them, they likely can find other employment that suits them better.

Non-negotiables: Many young people have created a list of important items they must have: a big starting salary, frequent time off for travel, four-day work weeks, fixed hours, etc. If one company doesn’t offer these, others likely will.

Quiet quitting: This term has been gaining a lot of traction lately and is about employees fulfilling their employment requirements but not going above and beyond by working longer hours, checking messages in the evenings and weekends, etc. According to the Tik Tok messenger who has recently made the term popular, “you are still doing your duties, but you are no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.”

This quiet quitting concept means different things to different people: doing the bare minimum, or equal pay for equal work, or a proper work-life balance.

All this makes me think back to my articling year with a large Bay St. law firm in 1991. I recall a weekend in November when my alma mater, Mt. Allison University in Sackville, N.B., was playing in the Vanier Cup that weekend. I had a lot of friends from across the country coming to Toronto for what shaped up to be a great reunion weekend.

But literally, on the Friday afternoon before that weekend, a senior partner called me into his office and gave me a legal research assignment that he required on his desk by Monday morning. I couldn’t believe it. My weekend plans were ruined. This was something that he could have requested weeks earlier and didn’t require the Monday deadline.

It was like he was testing me. And wanted to ruin my weekend.

If this was “2022 Me”, I might have reminded him of my non-negotiable terms of employment and that I quietly quit every Friday afternoon, not to return to work until Monday morning, and turning off my email and cell phone until then. And, oh yeah, I work from home on Mondays and Fridays.

However, poor old “1991 Me” didn’t stand a chance, and I spent the entire weekend at the office, missing the big game and the parties.

How do you look at this? It was character building, and taught me the value of hard work and the sacrifices that need to be made to advance. Or, it was unfair and unnecessary, and it’s great that young employees today know what they want and better advocate for themselves.

I see both sides. We need to keep our work ethic and the ability to grind out challenging, unpleasant tasks. But it’s also a different world now, with everything and everyone connected, 24/7. The pressures are overwhelming. I commend the younger generation for creating and demanding the work-life situations that best suit them.

“I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” 
– Bob Dylan

Submitted by: Ted C. Yoannou, B.A., LL.B.
he Law Firm of Ted Yoannou, Professional Corporation 16 Huron Street, Unit 2, Collingwood
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