Why the Quiet Quitting Concept is Ridiculous

Photo by Tim van der Kuip on Unsplash

I’ve probably sat on this topic for too long, but I knew as the Queen of Quit, I would eventually have to discuss the latest business buzz phrase, quiet quitting. Quiet quitting is an apparently new phenomenon where workers are so disengaged from their job that they do the bare minimum job requirements to get by. Because these are the least engaged workers, the assumption is that they are looking for a new job elsewhere while collecting a paycheck from their current employer. I think it is complete bullsh!t that this is a new idea. We all know people who have done this for years.

What probably is new about this trend is that according to this Gallup article, the number of quiet quitters is alarmingly high right now, approximately half of the workforce in the U.S.! Reasons for such intense disengagement could include isolation due to the move to more remote or hybrid work during the recent pandemic, struggles to manage teams remotely, and the increase in active quitters whose resignations have created more work for remaining employees.

Interestingly (to me), the Gallup poll categorized respondents into three categories: engaged (32%), not engaged / quiet quitters (50%), and actively disengaged / loud quitters (18%). So it sounds like 68% of U.S. workers are ready to leave their job – ouch! So are the employees to blame for the current lack of engagement, or are the employers to blame? I would suggest that although a portion of the workforce will always be quietly or loudly quitting for various reasons, current staggering numbers indicate suggest that organizations are doing an overall terrible job of engaging their workers, especially young workers. What do employees want that employers aren’t providing?

  • Pay: pay raises generally aren’t keeping up with inflation, which means your 2-3% annual raise means you are making less by the year (in purchasing power) as you continue to work loyally for the same organization.
  • Purpose: during the pandemic, many people reevaluated their philosophy and realized that their families and personal time were more important to them than their work. Recently, we’ve seen a huge priority shift away from a work-first focus in the U.S.
  • Growth there isn’t much. Companies don’t seem to be investing in training or promoting internal candidates anymore. If someone quits, they replace them (maybe, or they shift the work to those left behind). It’s hard to get excited about a job in which you have little future potential – why invest yourself in the company when it doesn’t invest in you?
  • Recognition: as workplaces are more geographically diverse with remote or hybrid work, it’s harder for managers to realize when a worker has done something praise-worthy, and even harder to reward them in a traditional sense when there are no celebratory team lunches, awards dinners, or other in-person company events.

Another question I’d like to ask is, “Why is engagement so important?” And in the U.S., why do we insist that people must actively enjoy their jobs and live to serve? If someone is doing the bare minimum to fulfill their job duties, that means they are doing their job and therefore earning their paycheck. But that’s not a part of the toxic culture we’ve created, where we expect employees to go above and beyond what’s written in our job description. But there is no additional pay, recognition, or incentive to go the extra mile; that’s just the expectation. It is an altogether cagey premise that your job is XYZ, but your employer really expects you to do XYZ + 123 to consider you an “engaged” employee.

While quiet quitting may sound like a crisis on the employer front, I humbly suggest it’s just another phase of the recent U.S. work revolution. Companies will figure this out and eventually successfully engage their employees, or they will fail altogether. It may require us as a society to revise our definition of engagement along the way.