I received an interesting inquiry from one of my long-time readers, Peter – and I promised a detailed answer. The question piggybacks on my last newsletter’s theme – knowing when quitting is the best decision.
With Peter’s agreement and without revealing the full content of the email for privacy reasons, it goes as follows.
[…]. This newsletter resonates quite deeply with me as I experienced a few daunting moments where I wondered if I should quit […] Do you think ‘quiet quitting’ is quitting? […].
Challenging question here. Love it! Before answering it, let’s first look more closely at this ‘quiet quitting’.
What is it?
Quiet quitting is a new movement that has recently emerged, first on social platforms, then relayed by larger news media. Its definition varies significantly from one article to another.
One states quiet quitting is “restricting efforts at work and not going above and beyond one’s job duties”, while some label it as “not showing up mentally or emotionally […] doing the bare minimum” not to be fired.
Both definitions are different, but we can see that quiet quitting evolves on the engagement spectrum. And indeed, there are two perspectives to consider – the ones from the employee and the employer.
From an employee’s point of view
I agree entirely with setting healthy boundaries to preserve both our physical and mental health and avoid burning out.
Too often, societal expectations can pressure us to embrace a toxic hustle culture, where one is expected to work around the clock constantly.
Being proactive or a go-getter has nothing to do with depleting ourselves at work. Scientific literature is adamant that this behaviour is profoundly counterproductive, lowering performance drastically in the medium to long term.
So, quit listening to the hustling mob urging you to “work harder” to be successful and embrace “living better”.
However, for most of us, working is inherently part of our lives. We spend roughly 25% of our time on our job (assuming a 40-hour work week). That’s a lot! And it’s even more significant if we only consider the time we are awake.
Let’s make it count and empowering.
We don’t have to make the most of it. We don’t always have to enjoy it. But, we must refuse to suffer from it quietly. Remaining silent, resigned, has nothing to do with living better.
For instance, would you let the driver be unaware his handbrake is half-on while driving because that’s not the passenger’s responsibility? No. You would bring this to his attention, right? After all, you are in the car too. If it breaks, sure you can get out, walk, call a cab or hitchhike, but wouldn’t it be better if the car kept running in the first place?
When quiet quitting is accepting the status quo, even if it is truly uncomfortable, then it is in fact giving away our control and stifling our opportunities to grow.
From offering suggestions to quitting, we have control. We make decisions, learn and progress through their consequences. We should keep this from going quietly.
From an employer’s point of view
‘Quiet quitting’ is just a fancy naming for a behaviour known for decades: engagement.
It now appears more in the headlines as the issue has been exacerbated by the crisis we faced over the last years. But the research institute Gallup, which surveyed workforce engagement for more than 20 years, highlighted it has always been low. Over the last 2 decades, more than 70% of employees – on average – declared not being engaged.
So, is there an answer to quiet quitting? Or should we just quit looking for one? What can we do to lift engagement?
If remuneration is indeed a lever, it has its limitations. Increasing one’s wage will not always translate into higher engagement. We currently have the perfect example with some failed “return-to-the-office” policies where employees decided not to come back when offered a salary bump.
Why should they? What’s the meaning of it?
And this is the other lever companies should focus on! Creating a culture that gives employees a purpose and reasons to care.
So, to answer quiet quitting and increase engagement, we should provide meaning by working on three aspects: collaboration, cohesion and growth.
With collaboration, it is essential to underline how the employees contribute to the success of the company and what their impact is on the world around them. How do they move the needle?
Then comes cohesion. We need to promote a sense of unity, being part of the same team and playing together to achieve the same goals. This allows us to bond with others, create authentic relationships and feel we belong to a group.
Finally, there is growth. We need to offer the opportunity to develop and acquire new skills (soft or hard ones). It’s about getting outside our comfort zone, facing a challenge and stepping up.
In 2008, Skype CEO Josh Silverman decided to develop a new feature: full-screen video (yes, this is a given now, but back then, it was a big deal). To motivate his teams for this challenge, he asked current users to explain how Skype helped them connect to their loved ones. They described their stories, telling how, even thousands of kilometres away, they could share incredible moments, like opening gifts for Christmas together.
Silverman showed his employees what the results of their collaboration were. He showed the impact they had on other people’s lives. And then rallied them around a challenge: the full-video feature. Together they had to tackle it, which obviously created cohesion and opportunities to grow. Mixed these three components perfectly, he drastically boosted Skype employees’ engagement – who then delivered the complex feature on time and on budget.
Now, to directly answer Peter: is ‘quiet quitting’ quitting?
I would say “yes – it is”. From both perspectives, it is quitting the possibility of a “win-win” scenario. It is settling for an “it is what it is” answer, giving up on ourselves and our potential.
In this case, this quitting appears to be a poor decision.
I hope you enjoyed this newsletter. Let me know your thoughts too!
To your success,
PS: If someone has forwarded this to you, you can subscribe here to get the latest one with audio.
- I’m an author, corporate facilitator and executive coach. I help individuals and teams elevate their performance by making better decisions. Reach out if you want to know more.
- With my first book Act Before You overThink to learn how to make better decisions faster and liberate your mind from the constant chatter that hinders your potential. You can buy it here.
- MacDonald A., “Five Ways Managers Can Help Prevent Quiet Quitting”. MITSloan Management Review, 2022
- Hancock B., Schaninger B., “Quiet quitting and performance management”, McKinsey Talks Talent, 2022
- Grant A., “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World”, Penguin Books, 2016