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Quiet Quitting Is Just Complete And Utter BS

–Why business leaders are all in a tizzy over a TikTok video is concerning!

Part 1 of a Two-Part Series

Originating in a viral TikTok video, the term “quiet quitting” describes a worker who doesn’t go above and beyond their assigned job description. In other words, these are workers that only do the bare minimum to keep their jobs. It is said to be a result of people reassessing their priorities and considering that there’s more to life than work and career.

If you think the notion of quiet quitting is some newly discovered phenomenon brought about by the worldwide pandemic, you likely fall into one of two camps:

  1. You possess little real-world business experience;

Or,

  1. You have the experience to know better, but, you want to appear “hip and cool,” so you’re willing to compromise your integrity by shoehorning the term into your daily parlance and sharing every silly post on the topic on your social media feeds.

Either way, it’s time to wake up!

Quiet Quitting Is Not A New Concept

There’s nothing new in the idea that some percentage of workers are satisfied in performing their jobs to a minimally acceptable level – nothing more, and only less, if they think that they can get away it.

To attribute it to some sort of epiphany brought about by the pandemic is complete and utter BS. 

Let’s face it; worker productivity has always been easily plotted on a Bell Curve.  There are some workers on the front-end of the curve.  They are the true “eager beavers” among us.  They want to make a difference.  They’ll volunteer to be on special projects and are willing to do extra work to make themselves and their organizations better.

In the bloated middle of the curve sits the vast majority of people.  They are willing to do their jobs to the best of their ability and might occasionally work a little extra to get an important job done on-time and on-budget. These staffers are by no means over-achieving, but, their work ethic is not going to allow them to shirk their responsibilities, either.

It is the back-end of the curve where the underachievers can be found.

These folks would rather hide under their virtual desks to avoid being spotted by their supervisors for fear of being asked to do something more than the barely satisfactory output that they already deliver. 

For these employees, their work is just a job, something that you do to make enough money to live on. It’s not a career measured in pay raises, promotions, and increased job responsibilities.

We Need To Stop Making Quiet Quitting Cool

May I suggest that celebrating “quiet quitting” is tantamount to reveling in under-achievement.  Indeed, it is a dangerous and slippery slope.  And, I ask my fellow leadership experts – the ones that should know better – to knock it off pronto!

We have an entire generation of professionals entering the workforce who don’t know any better (remember, the term caught fire from a  TikTok video). If we let them think that under-performance is an acceptable way to go about their work, we just might end up with an entire generation of professionals that under-perform.

Instead, let’s offer some solid advice to these up-and-coming staffers.

Here are three ideas to start with:

  1. Work your butt off! If you do your best the rest will fall into place. You will learn a lot, while establishing a reputation as a professional worthy of investing in and promoting.
  2. Don’t be so quick to seek a fully-remote work setting. If your job housed in Dover, Delaware can be done remotely from your Lake Tahoe studio apartment, it can be done just as well in Pune, India. There are already major consulting companies offering services that intend to help US business leaders to make the transition!
  3. Don’t expect a trophy just because you showed up. I know mom and dad think you’re wonderful. But, they may be the only ones!

Sure, you have to show-up and do your job – those are table stakes.  To really thrive and flourish in your career requires you to, firstly, be willing to do what others are not willing to do and, secondly, have the patience for that extra effort to be rewarded.

It’s not healthy to expect that to happen overnight. It won’t and you may become disenchanted when it doesn’t.

As mentioned, this list is intended to get us started.  I encourage you to add your own best thinking to the list.

To Close

While “quiet quitting” appears to be this month’s clickbait, it’s not a new idea. Nor is it some outgrowth of the pandemic. However, it may be hazardous to continue to celebrate it, as we seem to be doing. It just might lead to continued under-performance here in the US and the moving of jobs to people in other parts of the world that are hungry for success and possess the ambition to do whatever it takes to achieve it.

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James M. Kerr
James M. Kerrhttps://indispensable-consulting.com/
James M. Kerr is a management consultant, leadership coach, keynote speaker, author, and columnist. He has consulted with, and coached leaders at, many well-known organizations including The Home Depot, BIC, Accenture, Mitsumi Sumitomo and General Dynamics, to name a few. Jim is an expert in the development and implementation of multi-faceted change initiatives centered on vision and strategy, culture redesign and organizational effectiveness. Indeed, Jim enjoys forging new ideas and devising practical solutions to clients’ broadly relevant business problems, while shape-shifting them into opportunities for their success. Additionally, he hosts the popular The Indispensable Conversation podcast, which features authentic conversations about real topics that impact leaders of all kinds – all in a one guest, one provocative question, one indispensable conversation format. . His work has earned several industry awards, as well, including the highly renowned Global Gurus Top 30 Organizational Culture Award (2022), LeadersHum Top 10 Leadership Power Ranking List and several Thinkers360 Top 10 Worldwide Thinkers awards in the categories of Leadership, Strategy, Culture and The Future of Work. His latest book, Indispensable: Build and Lead a Company Customers Can’t Live Without, (Humanix Books, 2021) has garnered rave reviews from business leaders and the trade press. Work has begun on his 7th book, which he hopes to complete in 2023.

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6 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Your post is an excellent read. Great to have you on board.
    Quite quitting is certainly also a reflection of the post-pandemic, when we realized that we put our well-being as a priority. This last consideration is also a bit the philosophy of the new generations. And here I say, then, welcome if it is a question of putting the right weight on things, saying no to excessive or extraordinary loads that become ordinary administration, understanding that beyond work there is much more from which to find fulfillment and understand our value. But if by quite quitting we mean “working to the bare minimum”, in this case companies should be wondering why people are so little involved. Could it not be by chance that the model of the centralizing leader, of the lack of trust and delegation and that of companies that only wish to be “market leaders” rather than thinking about how to enhance their people are now on the path of sunset? An old phenomenon, namely the inability of managers to create adequate conditions, so that the workplace is the one where you want to do as much as possible.

  2. Nice article. I have a different experience from my 35 years as a corporate executive and business owner. Yes, there are always going to be people who will do the absolute minimum, but more times than not people that worked with me, wanted to excel. A toxic or unsupportive environment or “culture” of the organization is what turned many people off. The millennials and younger saw first hand that loyalty is not always a two way street when people are treated as assets that can be easily tossed aside. In my experience, organizations with a collaborative environment where people see and understand the value they bring have far fewer issues with quiet quitting.

    • Yes, culture is a big part of engagement. That said, as a culture transformation consultant, I can offer that the Bell Curve still applies. There are some percentage of folks — regardless of what a leader does (or doesn’t) do — that just want to get by.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation, Frank!

  3. You are absolutly right. It isn’t a new concept or a condition grown out of the pandemic. The only thing new about it is the term “quiet quitting”. Those people used to be called “slackers” and sometimes “minimalists”. The 10 or 20 percent of the workforce doing just enough to keep their jobs. They have probably existed since the beginning of employing people. To them, a job is simply a necessary evil to enable them to eat. However, in today’s reality, it isn’t all that costly to lose one’s job. In many cases the welfare programs actually pay someone more to stay home on the government dole than to work. Thus, the risk of doing the minimum is largely reduced. One could argue that the real “quiet quitting” persons are those leaders that don’t continually prune their organizations of the people doing the minimum.

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