HALIFAX, MASSACHUSETTS—Trainer and barn manager Kathy Tupper says she could barely contain her laughter when she read a recent CNN article entitled, “Quiet Quitting Is the Latest Workplace Trend.”
“Let’s put it this way, I was glad I’d picked up my Depends that week,” says Tupper, 64, who’s been staffing barn help for her small hunter/jumper and equitation facility near Boston for more than three decades.
“You mean to tell me that corporate America looked up one day and realized that the vast majority of its employees were doing the minimum required by their jobs, while putting in no more time, effort, and enthusiasm than they had to?
“I’d love for one of those big-time tech hiring managers who’s crying about Gen Z staffers and their ho-hum stand-up meeting presentations to come down to the barn one weekday and see what I deal with,” says Tupper, who agreed to speak with Horse Network on the condition that the interview could be conducted as she worked through her morning chores.
“My help called in today,” she says, chipping ice out of a dozen or so frozen water buckets she’d stacked around the tack room to thaw. “Today, it was a car problem. Tomorrow, it will be a headache. Thursday, she might show up, but I expect to have to do all the haying, bedding, and feed bag-lifting on account of the potential for headache re-aggravation.
“She might agree to make evening grain,” Tupper continued, “but it’s likely to take the better part of the afternoon. The only day I’m guaranteed a full staff showing up is Fridays every other week, but only because it’s pay day.”
Tupper, working her way through her 16th stall of the morning, says she’s never had a name for what experts are now calling America’s ‘new, quiet quitting phenomenon,’ but only because she considerers it neither “new” nor “a phenomenon.”
“If I ever came in and saw an employee taking the initiative to use their downtime—god forbid there’s downtime—to scrub water buckets, or pick manure in the paddock, or clean brushes before I asked them to 10 times, I think I’d about stroke out,” says Tupper. “It’s just not a thing that happens.
“On those very rare occasions when we somehow find ourselves ahead of the game, with time for extra projects, suddenly, everything takes triple the minutes while the clocks runs. Tacking up a single lesson horse for a kid takes a half-hour. Winding up the hose suddenly becomes a Zen-like quest for perfection.
“Once, on one of those days, I had a guy go out to the top paddock to get a horse. He never did come back,” says Tupper, thoughtfully, looking up from the winter horse blanket she was changing. “I’m not sure if he ended up going home early or fell through the LOST hatch and joined the Dharma Initiative in an alternate reality. Either way, I was down a guy and bringing the horse in myself.”
When asked if she was shocked by the statistic that quiet quitters currently make up at least 50 percent of the U.S. workforce, Tupper paused from her arena-edging to guffaw. “I’d say 95 percent jives more with my experience,” she says.
“I learned long ago, if I wanted something that’s going to show up and work hard every day without complaint while happily going above and beyond, I’d get myself another draft horse for the lesson program.”