Quiet quitting has become a thing. A big, buzzy thing. Everyone has their own take on it, but we can probably agree on its essence: staying at your job, showing up (in-person or remotely or however you work) but performing it at a minimal level, going through the motions in a way that perhaps won’t get you fired but probably won’t get you promoted and definitely will not be fulfilling. I think all this talk about quiet quitting reflects how unhappy a lot of people are with their work or their career choices. And that makes me sad.
I get it that at certain stages of one’s career journey—usually at the beginning—all you really need is that paycheck. But as you get more experience and start to figure out what you really like/want/can do, I like to think that work—the right work—can give you back as much as you give to it. And if that doesn’t happen, maybe phoning it in is not the best solution. It may temporarily reduce your stress level if you have a boss that makes unreasonable demands. It might give you more time for the other parts of your life. But is it really a long-term answer? Isn’t looking for fulfilling work a better route?
I know the do-what-you-love adage just isn’t possible for everyone. But maybe doing what you like or doing what you don’t hate would be better than quiet quitting which can’t make anyone with professional dreams and goals feel good about being part of a team or proud of themselves. The eternal optimist in me thinks there are always options beyond just getting through each day, feeling bored and stuck, and watching the clock.
Business leaders bear some responsibility for the quiet quitting tsunami. Workers don’t need to be coddled, but they want to be valued, and they will no longer put up with being taken advantage of. At my company, Base Beauty Creative Agency, my COO Aleni Mackarey PhD, MS and I have built programs into our culture to ensure that our team members are supported, heard, fueled by their colleagues, and appreciated by their supervisors. Weak links doing the bare minimum just don’t work for us, so we make sure to strengthen (or, at times, replace) them.
The pandemic got us all thinking about our relationship to our work. We spent our days in front of our computers, in pajamas from the waist down, missing colleagues, helping our kids navigate remote learning and all their social challenges. I think the alliterative QQ grew out of this re-evaluation, many of us starkly facing what we liked and didn’t like about our work when removed from the routine of it.
So I suggest we call this something else, something a little more positive like an awakening or a growth spurt. Let the re-evaluating continue into this new year so we can loudly and enthusiastically pursue work that makes us feel that we’re contributing to something without letting that something overwhelm us.
What does quiet quitting mean to you? What would you call this workplace reckoning and what are you planning to do about it?