Every month, I have a call with my fabulous content marketing team at Rep Cap to talk about my upcoming month’s newsletter. On our latest call, I told them that the one thing I absolutely didn’t want to write about this month was “quiet quitting.”
Why not? I’ve seen so many different definitions of the term swirling around that I’m beginning to wonder whether any of us knows what quiet quitting even is.
My team’s response?
“Why don’t you write about why you don’t want to write about quiet quitting?”
So that’s exactly what I’m doing. Here’s why I’d prefer not to talk about one of the most viral topics in HR circles today.
1. It Doesn’t Tell It Like It Is
I love the alliteration of the term quiet quitting as much as the next word nerd. It’s a compelling term. It’s fun to say. So, I totally get why the phrase has become so popular.
But I think when it comes to actual meaning, the term is misleading.
As I understand it, quiet quitting refers to either “phoning it in” and doing the bare minimum at your job, or pulling back and setting boundaries on overwork or boundaryless work.
No one is actually quitting, quietly or otherwise. And, for the record, “doing the bare minimum” and “setting boundaries” are nowhere near quitting, nor are they necessarily a bad strategy in all situations.
2. Chaos Remains Common
We’re still extracting ourselves from the chaos and uncertainty of working in the midst of two-and-a-half-years of a global pandemic, and that’s no easy task.
While many of us want to believe the chaos of the pandemic is in the past, it’s not. In my view, quiet quitting however you define it is just another symptom of the chaos. We simply don’t have long-term clarity yet, and the act of disengaging from work in some way is an understandable reaction to the past few years.
I have a home office, and I personally struggle with feeling connected even in my own business. I need to schedule time for social activities, and switching between my “mom” and my “professional” roles in the same home context is still a struggle.
But the problems we’re experiencing now aren’t necessarily permanent. We’re still working towards more positive long-term solutions. So, naming this “quiet quitting” trend feels not just inaccurate but also premature.
3. Employees Aren’t to Blame
I have to admit there’s something about the concept of quiet quitting that I inherently like. It’s forcing us to talk about boundaries and what was broken in our work processes and expectations even before COVID.
If an employer gives someone a job description but then expects employees to go above and beyond, then the job description isn’t accurate or fair. The employee can never win if they don’t know what they’re working toward or what success looks like.
I was once spoke to leadership at a firm who told me that, although their official policy was to work on-site three days a week, they told employees that if they really cared about their jobs, they’d come in all five days. That’s an incredibly toxic attitude to have toward employees. In the interest of transparency, some things just have to be built into official policies and documents.
4. Quitting Isn’t Always Bad!
Finally, I don’t like the implied negativity of the term quiet quitting. It implies that quitting is always a bad thing. If an employee is really disengaging, then maybe it’s important for the employer to explore the reasons why. If you are an employer concerned about QQ, start by asking yourself some basic questions:
- Are you taking regular steps to keep employees engaged?
- Are you developing a culture for the hybrid environment and inviting employees to contribute to that culture?
- Are you setting clear boundaries and realistic job descriptions?
- Are you giving feedback and asking people what their career plans are?
- Are you training and developing people at all levels so they feel like they’re growing?
Remember that work is a relationship. If you are an employer and someone on your team is disengaging, it’s worth asking: Is it you, or is it them?
If you’re confident that you are doing everything you can, but some people are still disengaged, then maybe it’s better that they self-select out. Quitting isn’t always bad!
I’ve been in situations with people who weren’t happy in their roles. It just wasn’t the right job for them, and they did disengage. But instead of trying to re-engage people who will never be happy in those roles, that effort might be better spent finding people who will truly enjoy the work and want to be there.
I said I really didn’t want to write about quiet quitting — but I guess I just did. What do you think of the buzz around this topic? I’d love to know!