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How To Know If Your Co-Workers Are Ghost Quitting

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at January 1, 1970

Steadily and stealthily over the past several months, many of your colleagues have been “ghost quitting,” which means they aren’t leaving their jobs, but they’re mentally checking out.

Some of these workplace specters are unhappy and would love for nothing more than to quit outright, but they may be afraid of the attendant risks. In today’s environment, it may be safer to stay put, wait and see how things go, and quietly bide your time until things turn around.

These coasters are easy to spot:

  • They do the bare minimum amount of work to get by.
  • They’ll finish their assignments, but the end product is mediocre, at best.
  • They’re in the office by the crack of 9:35 a.m., hoping no one notices.
  • When spotted sliding in, they offer a vague, nonchalant excuse for being late.
  • Two-hour lunch breaks are standard and they’re in the elevator heading out for the day before 5 p.m.
  • Their overall performance is just adequate enough to not be fired.

This routine may be easier to pull off remotely on Zoom calls and Slack, where ghost quitters can come across like everyone else. But off camera, they can do a little work and a lot of personal stuff.

Now, talks surrounding self-care, mental health and burnout have become more common. More employers and employees understand that workers should take time off to regain their mental health. That’s different from what I’m talking about here.

A survey of nearly 60,000 employees conducted by Gallup found that workers now were the most disengaged from their jobs than in over a decade. More than one-third of employees (34%) were engaged and around 16% self-reported that they were actually actively disengaged from their workplace and responsibilities.

It’s Too Risky To Switch Jobs

As the economy deteriorates and job cuts, hiring freezes and rescinded job offers are announced by major corporations on a daily basis, it doesn’t feel safe to quit your job without another one already lined up. Before inflation started raging and there were talks of a looming recession, it was relatively easy to search and find a new job. Now, the same cannot be said.

In 2021, coming out of the bleakest point of the pandemic, there was a pent-up demand for talent. There was so much need that people would switch jobs, and if it didn’t work out, they’d move again. It’s too dangerous to do this now. If you leave for another opportunity, you may be the last one hired and first one to be fired when the company needs to cut costs.

The Ghosting-Coasting Trend Has Been Around For A While

Ghost quitting isn’t new. As companies struggled to find workers, they lowered their hiring standards. Managers were desperate to fill open roles. This resulted in new hires working for a few days and realizing that the business was woefully understaffed and had to do significantly more work and put in more hours. Many felt they’d been had and decided not to return to work without any notice.

During the Great Resignation, roughly 40% of the jobs people quit were in the hospitality, travel, manufacturing and healthcare sectors. These folks contend with long, constantly changing hours, rude customers, low wages and high stress.

The Beige Book is a collection of economic indicators from the Federal Reserve Bank to gain a sense of the economy. Covering the new developments, NPR reported, “Restaurateurs noted concerns over ghosting coasting—ghosting as in when my friends don’t text me back—ghosting—and coasting, like when you’re riding a bicycle and you stop pedaling, and you just kind of fly down the hill.”

According to NPR, businesses are paying upfront bonuses and taking a chance hiring people without previous restaurant experience to entice workers. The restaurant industry has a high-turnover problem, as the job is very demanding. After a while, the new employee realizes that the role is not the right fit. They then coast through the onboarding and training process, and ultimately ghost the employer and don’t show up the next day.

Why Are They Coasting?

Workers say that they’re walking away from their jobs for valid reasons. For example, service and customer-facing workers are subjected to rude and insulting patrons. They’re put into an unwinnable position of needing to enforce rules, while only earning low pay, having had poor training and a bad boss.

Instead of coasting, it makes sense to be proactive. Speak with your manager. Let the supervisor know how you’re feeling. Share with them that you are feeling demoralized, but would like to find a way to improve the situation. Discuss options to make your job better. In collaboration with your employer, you can job-craft a solution to add new interesting assignments and cast off the responsibilities that you don’t like.

The Antiwork Subreddit

Unemployment for all” is the frustrated rallying cry of the r/antiwork subreddit on the Reddit social media platform. The ethos of the 2.1 million members, referred to as “idlers,” is summed up in their mission statement: “A subreddit for those who want to end work, are curious about ending work, want to get the most out of a work-free life, want more information on anti-work ideas and want personal help with their own jobs [and] work-related struggles.”

Idlers complain that they are frustrated by their jobs and bad, overbearing bosses. Other members say they aren’t inclined to search for a new job and just want to quit and stay home. The postings on the site reflect their anger and resentment. They contend that companies take advantage of them, push for longer hours than they were initially told, pay them inadequately and demean them.

Why Young People Are Disenchanted And Discouraged

Young adults in the U.S are dealing with unprecedented challenges. They are carrying a significant burden of college debt. For many, their educational investment didn’t work out as promised. They are left with massive debt obligations and cannot find jobs that pay well enough to repay the loans and afford to live a life as well as their parents.

Many Gen-Zers and Millennials feel trapped in dead-end jobs and are disillusioned about the future. They were sold the American Dream,. Now, they’re faced with runaway inflation, a recession, job cuts and geopolitical turmoil. With higher interest rates, purchasing a home is out of reach for many families starting out. The younger cohort could be the first generations in modern American history that will be worse off than their parents.

Lying Flat In China

Ghost coasting is occurring in China too. As China was ramping up to take on America’s economy, tech titans in the country were celebrated. Billionaire Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, called for a tireless work ethic, on behalf of his employees, to eclipse the Americans. His work culture is known as “996.” Ma wanted everyone to work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.

Like the idlers on Reddit, the younger generation of Chinese workers have started to push back against Ma’s rise-and-grind culture. The South China Morning Post reported about the trend of young Chinese workers easing off from work. The Gen-Z workers are known to “slack off by refusing to work overtime, delivering medium-quality work, going to the toilet frequently and staying there for a long time, playing with their mobile phones or reading novels at work.”

Instead of 966, they’re “lying flat.” This term means doing the bare minimum. Lying down is a protest against their workplace. It’s a way to express that they don’t believe they’re getting a fair chance for a good life. Sadly, lying flat, ghost quitting and anti-work trends show the discouragement and disconnection of young adults from the workplace and economy.


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