June Newsletter | Rest is Restorative, Healing

Greetings Deaconess Community,

Last month, I had the opportunity to provide input in a recurring column I have at the St. Louis American. The newer phenomenon known as quiet quitting has been on mind my lately and I’d like to share my thoughts with you below.

Originally published: May 7, 2023. See here.

When you love who you are becoming, what you do and where you work can be both weighty and joyful. But for too many people, work is labor that takes a toll on the body, mind, and spirit. I’ve seen and come from generations of Black women who are ALL-IN. The demand imposed upon us is to withhold nothing – do whatever it takes even if it means giving ourselves away to the cause, the job, the church, or the relationship. Younger generations of sisters are calling the question: is the price we pay worth it? The television character, Olivia Pope, resonates deeply with many Black women – being the fixer of messes we didn’t make but are expected (and uniquely equipped) to clean up which is exhausting. Some who have financial, emotional, and spiritual reservoirs are blessed to be able to resign outright. Others are setting boundaries where they are, seeking balance by stepping back.

To the leaders of systemic and generational change, it’s time to pause and pay attention.

“Quiet quitting” is when a person fulfills their primary responsibilities but is less willing to stay late, come in early, or go above and beyond their delegated responsibilities. It flies in the face of the Midwest work ethic that hard work and perseverance pay off in the long run. This phenomenon emerges from a collective recognition that for the underprivileged, hard work results in even harder work with little-to-no payoff. Long-term benefits of hard work are often cut short by disease, distress, shortened years and diminished quality of life. I view quiet quitting as a form of resistance, self-protection, and commitment to personal health and well-being. I appreciate the clap back to our capitalist society that leaves people feeling undervalued, unappreciated, and unsatisfied by a construct that values profit over purpose.

What can we do to live in the fullness of a life that values purpose over profit?

First, recognize quiet quitting cues. This often looks like a lack of excitement and motivation among individuals. The antidote: purpose-driven organizations foster purpose-driven people.

Second, respond to the cues from a values-driven, not fear-driven approach. This comes in the form of the commitment to share power through shared decision-making that includes an abundance of communicating, active listening, acknowledging, responding to address issues (don’t let them fester), and celebrating. A leader must be secure enough to not take alternative points of view personal when they surface. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with my colleague?” replace with the question, “What is it about our structure, culture, practices, processes or management style that produce this unwanted behavior in our team?”

Initiate conversation with someone showing signs of quiet quitting and listen. Resist the temptation to rush into solutions right away. Instead, lead with curiosity over judgment or assumptions. Ask open-ended questions to seek to understand what happened. This will help get to the root cause of why a wound or breakdown exists.

The next step is acknowledgment. Own mistakes as necessary and acknowledge breaches in trust that exist. We are human first, and leaders make mistakes. Ask for forgiveness and co-create short-, middle- and long-term structural solutions. The design for how to mend the problem will present itself during authentic conversation.

Finally, celebrate small wins which build momentum toward big wins. Collectively decide to turn to a new way of being and working in the future that values people over profit.
At Deaconess Foundation, our team is currently reading Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto by Tricia Hersey. The essential ingredient to building a movement and continuing the good work is rest along the way. That’s rest for all, not some. There is purpose even in taking a pause.

The work we are doing to change systems is not the type of work that checks off a box on a daily task list; it’s a marathon. Individuals doing this purpose-driven work daily are deeply invested and invaluable. We cannot achieve the purpose without the people. Certainly, this work can be exhausting; we need all of us to stay fueled for the purpose. Rather than quit quietly, rest for the weighty and joyful journey ahead.

Rest is restorative and healing; it is resistance to the capitalistic culture of profit over people.

In service to the will of the Spirit and the mission,

Rev. Bethany Johnson-Javois
President & CEO
Deaconess Foundation

Read full June eNewsletter here.