“Quiet Quitting”. It’s the term you can’t get away from. It’s EVERYWHERE.
And I must confess that the term sounds so gimmicky, so hyperbolic, that it took me a few weeks to actually read beyond the headlines and learn what everyone was talking about.
And what did I learn?
Well, here’s the thing: “quiet quitting” isn’t new. And, in my opinion, it isn’t bad.
And, it’s also not, as I had imagined before doing my research, the idea that you’ll just stop showing up to work and see how long it takes to stop receiving a paycheck.
“Quiet quitting” is, in fact, a negative rebranding of something that’s actually essential to our mental health and successful functioning in the world: boundaries.
Calling it “quiet quitting” is a corporate spin to make you feel bad about doing something that’s actually good for you. (And yes, I know. It was those TikTokers that started calling it this is the first place. But I think they were incepted by corporate!)
“Quiet quitting” appears to be, for most people I can find going on record, the idea that you’ll do your job, and do it well or at least sufficiently. But that you’ll confine that job to working hours.
That you won’t be “always on”. That you’ll disconnect from work on evenings. On weekends. On vacation.
In fact, based on this definition, I must have been “quiet quitting” my entire career! (Yet, somehow I was still promoted at every job I ever held.)
While I’d never call it “quiet quitting”, this is actually what I want for anyone who works with me or for me.
And, it’s what I want for you.
It’s a sad state of affairs that so many people feel as though doing their job well is simply not enough.
So, how did we get here?
“Quiet Quitting” is a rejection of a toxic “hustle culture” and those who engage in it are likely to be more fulfilled, more stable employees (and humans) in the long run because they aren’t as likely to burn out.
Quiet Quitting is a backlash. For too long we’ve been focused on productivity at the expense of everything else. At the expense of humanity. (And, I know, I know, I write about productivity ALL THE TIME. But my definition of productivity is very different from the status quo: to me, productivity is simply “doing what you intended to do“.)
Another culprit? The pandemic.
Over the course of the last few years, as we all started working at home, I’ve seen boundaries completely obliterated for the vast majority of my clients. Work now seeps into every area of life. Employees feel like they have to be “always on”. The dings and pings hunt you down, even as you sleep.
And it’s not healthy, nor sustainable.
In fact, studies show that taking breaks from work actually increases productivity and creativity.
This always-working cultural expectation is actually counterproductive.
Let me repeat: quiet quitting isn’t about not doing your job, and it’s not about not doing your job well. It’s about doing your job well AND having a life outside of work.
Yes, there are some people out there saying that “quiet-quitting” is doing the “bare minimum”. And if you’re doing the bare minimum, you may very well be losing status and not on a growth trajectory (and maybe that’s A-OK with you; I’m certainly not judging).
But that’s not what most people are talking about here.
AND, I’m going to argue that if you’ve been regularly working 10, 12, 14 hour days, if you’re constantly tied to Slack and email, if you’re working at all hours of the day and night (and not because you want to, but because you feel you have to), then your definition of “bare minimum” might be my definition of “great job”.
The pendulum has swung too far; so far that we no longer know what middle ground looks like.
So, how do we move forward?
- First, let’s agree not to use the term “quiet quitting” when what we really mean is “reasonable boundaries”.
- If you’re not sure if you’re doing enough, or if you’re doing a good job? Ask for feedback.
- If you’ve got too much on your plate? Make sure its all in one place, bring your priorities list to you manager and ask them if they agree with on what you’ll prioritize and what you’ll back-burner.
- Remind yourself that you can be excellent at your job…during work hours. And that you deserve to have a life outside of work.
And if you’re a manager worried about this “quiet quitting” phenomenon?:
- Take an inward look at your company’s culture. Are you asking too much of employees? Is your leadership? Are your expectations reasonable?
- Discourage email and Slack usage on evenings and weekends. (And if you’re sending emails and Slacks on nights and weekends, then use “schedule-send”!)
- Encourage disconnected vacations.
- Record meetings and make notes accessible so that an employee who needs to attend their child’s baseball game, or their AA meeting, can still access the information they need to do their jobs well. Don’t gate-keep information.
- Ask your employees what they need to be productive and do your very best to fulfill it.
- Consider a 4 day workweek.
And now I’ll end my rant on “quiet quitting”. But don’t even get me started on “quiet quitting’s” cousin: “Quiet Firing”. This one is a gentle rebrand of an insidious practice: bad, lazy, cowardly management with a side of gaslighting