ROCCS Themed Discussion: The Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and Resenteeism

Research group discussion

On Monday 8 May, the ROCCS Cluster held a themed discussion centred around trends in the world of work, namely the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and Resenteeism. We enjoyed this discussion with our group members and would like to share our conversation with you!

But first, let’s talk about clusters! ESHCC has a research institute called ERMeCC, the Erasmus Research Institute for Media, Culture, History and Society. The institute has smaller subgroups called clusters, focusing on a particular theme or area of research. The topics generally span the three departments in our faculty: History, Arts & Culture Studies, and Media & Communication. If you are a PhD candidate in our faculty and not yet involved in cluster, you might be interested to join one. We believe it’s a great way to connect with colleagues and broaden our perspectives.

A while ago, we, Hoan and Tessa, founded the ROCCS cluster after teaching a together in an IBCoM course. We enjoyed our conversations about many of the topics and practical examples from this course and wanted to have a format where we could continue these discussions and even involve others! ROCCS connects researchers of various disciplines who aim to address the dynamic interplay of organizations, media, and publics, in the context of contemporary societal challenges. After our kick-off event in June 2022 with attendees from multiple faculties and universities, our group has continued to grow. We organize regular coffee moments to catch up, to stay up to date in the field and each other's collaborate on new research projects. We also present our work at multiple ERMeCC lunch seminars, organized our first themed session, and we have discussed our ideas for the next big ROCCS event, so stay tuned!

Now, back to our themed discussion! We thought it would be interesting to discuss current trends in the working world since the Covid pandemic and to approach it from the different perspectives of our members. Here are our takeaways:

1. Quiet quitting is not a new phenomenon. Quiet quitting emerged as a "trend” in the workforce, especially as part of the Great Resignation during which many people left their jobs. However, it is not actually that new of a phenomenon. The idea of doing the bare minimum at work closely relates to the idea of “work to rule,” the “9-to-5 mentality,” and unions.

2. Rather, to understand this new (or not so new) work phenomenon, we need to consider the role of technology. Technology reorganized how we do our work and relate to each other in different ways. When considering employer-employee relationships, we noted that there has been an uptick of “bossware” during and after Covid, to monitor people who had to work from home.

3. Quiet quitting is not possible for every worker, so they resort to resenteeism. For example, platform workers are closely monitored and are under algorithmic control. They may therefore not be able to ‘get away’ with doing the bare minimum, so they do not work the minimum but do voice their discontent.

4. ChatGPT may lead to more quiet quitting. Naturally, ChatGPT could not be excluded from the discussion on technology. In many contexts, ChatGPT can be very helpful in doing work more efficiently and thus minimize work effort. However, in some sectors it has also been a factor for demotivation. Will (some) jobs disappear now that ChatGPT has shown great promise in writing texts or even writing code.

A different perspective is required for advertising and marketing professionals. In this field, there is already a tendency towards freelance working. Platforms and ChatGPT can support freelancers in doing their work more efficiently, though worries exist that the volume of work may diminish due to AI tools. Such worries may affect how people experience their job and their attitude to staying/leaving their position.

5. Internal communication could play an important role in responding to trends such as quiet quitting and resenteeism. Using this perspective, organizations could focus on creating understanding of how these trends emerge and determine strategies for improving the connection with workers.

6. We need to consider the role of work culture. Burnout literature points at the importance of investment and rewards work, thus the emotional investment from workers needs to be balanced out. Additionally, these trends are not a generational issue, where younger and older generations are opposed. Each generation has different characteristics, where younger generations have changed expectations with regards to work and workplaces, and older generations deal with lifespan challenges.

7. Approaching trends in work and organizations from an immigration perspective adds valuable insights. Immigrated workers have no chance to quit because of how it is tied to the visa or permits. While this isn’t the case for those who move for work within the EU, there are still cultural elements that can play a role. If immigrant workers experienced challenges such as social insecurity abroad, they might bring this mindset and related worries to (in this case) the Netherlands.

If we were to study this topic, what kind of questions would we ask? To conclude the themed session, we asked ourselves how we would conduct research on quiet quitting and/or resenteeism.

Research can focus on different aspects and interrelation between the micro-, meso-, and macro-level. This will help to gain understanding of how these trends, or phenomena, emerge, gain traction, and persist or dissipate. For example, on a macro-level, research might focus on how national policies related to social security, job protection, holiday and parental leave, can be influential in shaping attitudes towards work. On a meso-level, research could focus on organizations and what risk factors might exist that feed into the phenomena that we see now. On a micro-level, research might consider generational differences, cultural differences, or other similar factors that shape attitudes toward work. To give a more extensive example, a stream of research could focus on the role of work and organizations in the everyday lives of people. Are the ways of working and forms of organizing still fitting for how we shape and are shaped by society? Perhaps novel ways of organizing may offer a suitable place for changing attitudes towards work. For example, the idea of cooperatives has gained (new) life. In part, the attractiveness of cooperatives may stem from the mutual shaping of management, where workers can be more involved in decision making and trust can be fostered. It’s a fine balance, because cooperation takes extra time and effort; sometimes decisions need to be made more efficiently and there can be too many loud or divergent voices to deal with.

Thus, the number of research ideas seems to be boundless, and we look forward to seeing what directions scholarship will take! If you are interested in the ROCCS cluster, or even want to join, please contact Tessa or Hoan.


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