Friday, December 2, 2022

The not so quiet quitter.

                    'Every office has three people who work and ten who stand at the watercooler.'

I’ve been looking back on a career (a very long time!) and thinking what was all that about. And thinking of those I have employed along the way… some now have PhDs, some who have gone onto become neurosurgeons, some who still struggle to know what day of the week it is.

This mulling of those and such as those came about when I was reading about quiet quitting.

Is that a thing? Or is that being a lazy monkey? Or just not having engagement with the workplace?

And with regard to those who have worked for me, there were a few who really couldn’t be bothered to do anything properly. And I mean anything.

We had one who excelled in being late. They really were Olympic standard. And precisely late. Always ten minutes. How can anybody always be ten minutes late? Surely all you have to do is leave the house ten minutes earlier. But that might entail the additional hardship of getting out of bed ten minutes early. Having a very precise amount of tardiness is a specific skill set. It’s a bit like scoring zero on a multiple choice. Even a monkey, scoring by pure chance, would get the odd question right.  And there was always an excuse. In the end we would number the excuses 1,2,3, 1a, 2b etc. I recall, ‘couldn’t find the car keys,’ ‘road works,’ ‘loose haggis on the motorway.’ etc

But the serious upshot of the keyholder being late, was that somebody else has to go in early to make sure the heating in the treatment rooms gets put on in time. That person was usually me.

We had one co worker who could move slightly slower with than a sloth with an underactive thyroid and a heavy bag of shopping.  There was no point in asking him to go from the front desk to the store cupboard at the back, about 13 metres. As by the time he got there, the entire clinic would be running late.  I once said to him, sarcastically. ‘Do you think you could do that any slower?’ He took it as a challenge and did!

Most of them have been fine. Many have been superb. But it’s the bad ones that stick in the memory. Some of them are far too cringeworthy to mention here. Like one who asked a patient for a painkiller as they had a sore back, and they were a receptionist in an osteopath practice.

There was one with a body odour issue who we used to burn candles and aromatherapy oils round her desk, she still didn’t get it. With the flames and the scents around the PC, I’m sure some patients thought she was a sacrifice to the god of Microsoft.

And now there’s quiet quitting. Is this a new thing? Is it working to rule i.e., fulfilling your contractual duties and nothing more. I suspect it’s a bit more of an attitude than that.

My contract says that the receptionist must do anything that I ask them to do (?) but that’s also anything that I would do myself.  Seeing a patient out to a taxi, calling them the taxi, making them a cup of tea, crawling along on the floor of a taxi because they have lost their purse, cleaned up their dog pooh, cleaned up baby pooh. You name it, we have done it.

I think the key word there is ‘we’.

Laws here very much protect the employee. They get 6 weeks holiday paid, and public holidays on top of that. Much more than the boss or the self employed in the business can afford to take. With covid and lockdown, we had to give 9 weeks paid holiday to somebody.

I’m not sure quiet quitting is a new thing. Is it a state of mind? The polar opposite to ‘do your job to the best of your ability.’  If you don’t, what do you do with your life? And it is boring?

Quiet quitting seems to have come to the notice of social media, and employers, after the pandemic and those working from home for the time of lockdown.  As essential workers, we were back in ASAP and all the staff seemed keen to get back to work as they were bored and fed up with kids/spouses/ furlough pay.

But to be fair, I’ve never worked for a big company, never been bullied at work, never felt unrewarded for what I do. I hope, I try to ensure my staff have the same experience. We’ve always had very well defined, but unwritten, rules about contacting our employees out of work hours. We have a group chat on WhatsApp that they can look at as and when they wish. It’s more like ‘The heater in room three is coming off the wall, so don’t walk into it.’  Or ‘My Mum’s just gone into hospital, can somebody cover for me until 5 pm.’ It’s never, ‘get that report done now!’

What makes a good boss? The knowledge that the business needs everybody to make it work. Support and care to the workforce…. And that includes giving the quiet quitter a wee kick up the whatsit as nothing annoys an employee more than watching somebody else get paid for doing half the job, and some other poor person, with a better attitude, getting 150% of the workload to do.

Equally, it’s my world. I’m paying for your time. I encourage chit chat, telling jokes, talking to the oldies, dealing with those who are lonely. I don’t encourage looking at  phones, scrolling through Facebook, taking selfies, booking holidays on our computer. You know the taloned fingernails that pull the receipt from the credit card machine with no eye contact whatsoever….

They tend to end up in a book. You can guess what happens to them…..



  1. Quiet quitting is how I'm feeling about my ms right now. It needs another rewrite and I can't find my way back in. A new start is eluding me. I'm hoping by leaving it, the back of my mind will percolate an amazing rebirth. Or else it will remain stillborn.

    Quiet quitters at work are so frustrating, especially when you need everyone moving in top gear and discover one of the team pedalling backwards knowing you'll carry them. The resentment from the rest of the team can become corrosive.

    Hopefully, your problems with this issue are historical, or else you're next book will be a bloodbath.

  2. I've never wanted to be a "person in charge" of other people. I don't mind being in charge, as long as it's a one-person job. I'd rather herd cats. At least they're lovable some of the time. Put me on a team with others who are self-driven, no problem. Put me at the head of people who don't want to be there? I'd rather recieve 999 cuts and be thrown in a vat of vinegar.

  3. Oh Caro: Well there are 10 people who wouldn't know a good thing if it slapped them in the face, and 3 who know they'll never work in a better place. And hundreds who are thankful for the service and laughs.