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A Closer Look at 'Quiet Quitting' in Radiology


Is quiet quitting just a complacent acceptance of low job satisfaction?

There is no point in trying to precisely define “quiet quitting (QQ).” The term has been around long enough to mean different things to different people. Chances are that readers of this blog wouldn’t agree with one another on it, let alone with me. If you’re not already familiar with QQ, take a few moments to do a web search. Your mind will quickly simulate a Venn diagram that identifies the commonalities between most conceptions of the matter.

I’ve seen more than a couple of folks QQ over the years, many before the term came into being. Therefore, I feel comfortable disputing a common refrain from other writings on the phenomenon. They pretty much all emphasize that QQ is not actually quitting one’s job. However, I maintain that, if you’re in a career you want to maintain, the second Q is very much what you’re doing, just not in a way that will make you happy.

You might have noticed that I switched from “job” to “career” in that statement, and that is not a careless move. For someone in a going nowhere, just need a paycheck for now kind of gig, this might not matter so much. However, if you’re in any occupation for the long haul, one where you hope for promotion, other professional advancement, or just a good reputation, QQing is precisely the thing you don’t want to do. It is better to just change jobs and be done with it if your situation is intolerable and unlikely to improve.

If you want a good chance of being recognized and valued enough to be elevated beyond your current position, make a point of going above and beyond your bare minimum responsibilities. You want to be the one who’s willing to take on extra tasks or spend some extra time on the job. Meanwhile, a QQer does the opposite, essentially drawing boundaries and doing nothing beyond contractual obligation.

Think about it. If you’re a radiology department chair, and you need a new section head for subspecialty X, who is your choice? Is it the rad who shows up a little early, stays a little late, freely helps out peers, referrers, and ancillary staff, and volunteers for special projects, or the rad who rigidly sticks to required hours and constantly broadcasts “Ain’t my job” when asked for a little something extra? You would probably choose the same way if your group had an empty spot and both of those rads applied for it.

This is not to say that all QQers are selfish and miserly with their time and effort. Sometimes the decision to QQ comes about because one has repeatedly gone above and beyond without receiving anything in return, not even visible gratitude. More than a couple of the QQers I mentioned knowing are very reasonable, hardworking people who just got tired of endlessly giving.

A worse scenario is when an employer “rewards” strong work by holding the rad to higher expectations. I have been in that position myself. In my first post-fellowship job, it was noticed that I was one of only two rads who routinely emptied the case-bins in whichever offices we worked. We thus each got assigned to commute between two offices per day while all the other rads got to stay put. I’ll let you guess whether either of us received anything resembling a bonus or raise at the end of the year. (Hint: I didn’t stay in that job.)

The problem with QQing is that most folks only do it after little or no communication with any higher-ups who could have fixed their situations. A QQer might have plenty of internal dialogue on the matter. He or she might even grouse about dissatisfactions with family/friends or even peers but none of those people can do anything beyond commiserate.

All higher-ups can see is that, at some point, the QQer started doing the bare minimum and they probably won’t notice when that point was, let alone why. The QQer never said anything resembling “I’ve been doing a lot of X,” (working extra hours, sitting on committees, reading cases nobody else will touch, etc.) “and I don’t feel like my efforts are leading anywhere, so I’m going to stop doing all of that.”

Perhaps some QQers fantasize that, after they’ve retracted their above and beyond efforts, someone in leadership will realize what’s been lost, and come begging for a chance at redemption in the QQer’s eyes. Sort of like an estranged romantic partner giving a cold shoulder until the counterpart comes crawling back for forgiveness. If this has ever been a successful ploy in the workplace, I have yet to hear of it.

Suppose you’re a rad who QQed, and nobody comes to ask you why you did or even seems to notice. Do you suddenly feel satisfied? Absolutely none of the QQers I’ve known, radiological or otherwise, ever have. Instead, they gradually get more annoyed at having been ignored or downright angry when they see others getting recognition for their above and beyond efforts.

The QQer always seems to wind up in a world of permanent disgruntlement, marking time in a dead-end job that “could’ve/should’ve” been better. What the QQer really quit was any chance of job satisfaction and upward career mobility.

My suggestion: Leave out that first Q. Don’t be quiet and suffer in silence. Either speak up about how you feel your efforts are underappreciated (maybe learn ways you can direct your efforts more effectively), or go ahead and pull the trigger on that second Q. Find another situation that suits you better.

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