Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,
What an unbelievably busy, complex beginning of the semester. Regarding the Holmes Hall incident on Tuesday night, multiple law enforcement agencies have determined that the campus is safe and secure. As you know classes, research, and all other campus activities resumed on Wednesday, and continue. There is an ongoing investigation into the incident.
'Quiet quitting' is such a new term that Google searches for this began only in August. The idea though is not so new, and the term seems to mean 'doing the minimum to keep your job'. 'Driven by many of the same underlying factors as actual resignations, quiet quitting refers to opting out of tasks beyond one’s assigned duties and/or becoming less psychologically invested in work.' (Harvard Business Review)
Quiet quitting seems distinguished from 'burnout' as being more active – where burnout is a response to overwork, quiet quitting can be a protective action to prevent burnout. Both seem about taking control of your time on the job. I've written many times that our work in the College of Science is wonderfully, unequivocally important. I am deeply grateful for your contributions. But that does not mean your work is stress free, and you may sometimes feel overwhelmed with demands and expectations.
Let's call it, then. If you work in a job with defined hours ('non-exempt'), you're required to work only the specified hours. Any extra work requires discussion with your manager and compensation. However, many of you have 'exempt' positions, where the work extends until the job is done. That is more complicated – when is the job done? You certainly are not on call 24/7. You certainly should set hours where you are not going to respond to emails. A bounce back with emergency contacts for your students or others can be auto-activated every evening.
I’d encourage each member of the College to think about how to make your job more reasonable: still with high quality work that meets goals, but with time spent on work empowered, in control of each person’s effort. We know that teaching has become difficult during the (unfinished) COVID trauma, with students coming to us who could not be prepared as previously. Our terrific Ramp Up Courses (Chemistry, Calculus and Physics) will help. Should we rebuild other courses, rethink key material, focus on teaching students how to learn, so reducing the burden on you for extensive assistance?
A growing set of opinions offer how to stop quiet quitting. One suggests substituting 'meaningful' out of work activities. But perhaps the point is finding time for you: for a nap, to admire your herb garden, or to take a walk in the lovely early fall New England air. Let me know what you think, in person or by email. Let’s discuss and act. So that your work in the College of Science at Northeastern University is both important and manageable.
Hazel Sive PhD
Dean, College of Science