“Work your wage” and “don’t give into them!” have become halcyon calls of workers in this new economy. While “quiet quitting” has been the trend in American workplaces for a year now, the Chinese first led the way with the “lying flat” movement that protested the punishing Chinese work culture. Whether workers are lying flat or quiet quitting, the reality is that people have had it with low staffing, high expectations, and low wages.
When Jack Welch coined the term, “shareholder capitalism” his focus was on breaking the back of what he saw as a corporate culture that was too accommodating to workers and the needs of the organization and not enough on creating return for shareholders. When he became CEO of General Electric in 1981, he started his tenure with mass layoffs. GE was one of the biggest employers in the country. That began a trend of layoffs and offshoring that turned a company that was legendary for being a source of good and jobs and turned it into a shell of its mid-20th century self.
When I was in Pittsfield, MA, I got to see the old GE plant up close and personal. I have a buddy that lives just over the road from it, the old plant. It hangs on in the town like a specter. Its metallic hulk stands there like the ghost of economics past. It provided many good jobs for an area that is now economically depressed and struggling. What if Jack Welch had made a different decision?
The reality is that what is good for shareholders is not always what is good for workers, but what is good for workers can still be good for shareholders. Happy, healthy, and well-paid workers stay longer, reduce training costs, and are more productive. If there is one thing that the quiet quitting/lay flat movement shows is that companies have forgotten all about people, the heart of any business.
CEOs pay a lot of lip service to this idea. Interviews will show CEOs saying phrases like, “Our greatest strength is our people!” But the reality is that they certainly don’t run their businesses in that manner or with people in mind. Layoffs happen with little regard to the people of the business. It’s all about the bottom line. However, without people, there is no business at all and the quiet quitting movement is a way for people to remind…