Quiet Quitting: An Epidemic, a BuzzWord, or a Cop-Out?

awareness buy-in employee engagement employee engagement strategies employee experience employee retention employee satisfaction engagement influence leadership leadership culture management motivation recruitment and retention strategies supervision what is quiet quitting Sep 27, 2022
What is Quiet Quitting

I’ve been seeing the term Quiet Quitting more and more over the last few months. To be very clear, I’ve never been one to jump on many bandwagons. This catchphrase was definitely one that got me to scowl more than a few times! And in complete transparency, I just haven’t been willing to dig into the idea until finally reaching my boiling point with it just recently!

So what in the world is Quiet Quitting? An article I found on Forbes.com called Why Half The Workforce Is Quiet Quitting, And What To Do About It shared this definition: 

Quiet quitting is actually a new term for an old concept: it describes employees who exist in that state between “actively engaged” and “actively disengaged.” Employees who are “actively disengaged” are dissatisfied with their workplace.

One comment leading up to that bothered me more than a little bit… The author stated that, “Unlike actual quitting, a manager wouldn’t necessarily know if an employee has “quietly quit,” which perhaps explains why the trend is so unnerving.” They nailed it when referring to it as a “phenomenon that has recently taken the workforce (and the internet) by storm” because it’s certainly receiving an ample share of airtime. But as stated in the definition I just shared, it really is just a new name for an old concept - a concept that’s gotten almost no attention whatsoever in all the years I’ve studied employee engagement!

Since I’ve never been all that good at keeping secrets (just ask Cindy how I proposed if you want an example), I’m letting the cat out of the bag right now! I’m absolutely 100% convinced that any individual or organization (notice I didn’t say leader) using Quiet Quitting as an excuse for poor productivity is just choosing the flavor of the month to be their current cop-out!

Now that I’ve pissed off a few readers, let me qualify that harsh statement - because I truly care about you and your results! Otherwise I wouldn’t put the time and energy that I do into putting resources like this together…

For the last 25 years, I’ve studied employee engagement as much as anyone I know; not just from an academic standpoint, but through practical application because every role I’ve held in that time has hinged on getting measurable results through teams of people with ZERO direct authority. In all that time, I’ve never seen a study that the part of the workforce we’re now hearing referred to as the quiet quitters at less than 50%. In our Recruitment, Retention, & Culture course, which we recently updated to include three more lessons, I cover several sources showing the actively engaged employees ranging from 20% to 30% of any given organization and the actively disengagement being within that same range. The one constant I’ve seen in every study I’ve ever read was that the group in the middle, the ones we’re now supposed to be frantically concerned about, always represents about half of any company.

Hear me when I say this: I’ve ALWAYS believed that group deserved very focused attention! That said, I’ve rarely seen them get it unless it was when they were being scolded in a group meeting for something the actively disengaged folks did but the manager wasn’t willing to address directly…

With all this in mind, this isn’t a new workforce epidemic but it should still garner more attention than most new buzzwords. As we move forward, we’ll take a fairly deep dive into why we should be paying attention to this (finally) and we’ll look at why it matters so much to every organization. But before that, we’ll look at why it bothered me so much when that article stated that “a manager wouldn’t necessarily know…”