It was 11 am. I walked to the shopfloor on the 4th of September, 1980 and found Bharat and others quietly sitting at the workplaces. While I did not want to discuss it publicly, I pulled Bharat aside and asked him the reason for the unusual quietness. He laughed and told me they were following a union call of work to rule or a ‘go slow’- a protest to press for a few changes in the wage settlement. The employee unions routinely used the ‘work to rule’ or ‘slow down’ tactics to press their demands and get the management’s attention on some issues. To reach one hundred per cent efficiency, he needed to assemble 24 relays, but he would produce only 12. He would work the bare minimum, guaranteeing his basic wage. He would not work overtime or extra work, which would get him additional cash.
My uncle, who worked in a bank, implemented the principle in letter and spirit, though it was not a union call. He would start precisely at 10:30 am and stop by 5 pm. His colleagues told me he was legendary in his work routine and would not complete the digit he was scribbling in the register when the clock struck 5. He would never go above and beyond and set his boundaries of work. He stood as a role model for an ideal bank worker and completed thirty-five years of service in the same bank.
I pleased my managers with additional work at the cost of my family and friends during my career. I did not have a single holiday weekend in five years in an organisation, while my manager took off to different destinations with the flip of a switch every year. Despite all my hard work, my friends got better ratings and rewards during annual appraisals, and I stood behind sulking. My family was upset that I had not taken them out for a decent holiday. Though the concept of work-life balance came up for discussion, it was more ‘work’ and less ‘life’ in my case.
While COVID created havoc in my life, my work life got relief. I had flexible hours working, and I accomplished many side hustles. My family was happy that I was around, though we could not go out on any vacation. There is no union call here; I decide to work to rule by myself. I would log in at the expected hour and log out after seven hours — with no official calls or meetings after the work day.
I am happy to note that several of my working colleagues have decided to pursue the new concept of working. While my manager noticed the change in my work pattern, he was happy that I delivered all his expectations. The new working norm taught me that taking up work beyond the scope of my job is not worthwhile as my manager has not rewarded me though I have been slogging for several years. I have decided to stick to my new routine.
Welcome to the world of ‘quiet quitting’! — the latest workplace buzzword.