Okay… I have a sense that I may get some push back on this but I feel compelled to give it a go. For me, the phrase “Quiet Quitting” is a bogus term that is emotionally charged and very misleading. People may be working less, but are they producing less? OR are they simply re-establishing boundaries that had become non-existent for many pre-pandemic?
In my experience working with a variety of leaders across industries, talent is not abandoning responsibilities, rather, they are trying to claim or re-claim a blend of work and life outside of work that is more effective. As a recovering performance addict, I understand the need to engage in this re-clarification. First and foremost, the low level of anxiety related to the pandemic as well as the existential heaviness that exists in the world right now leaves people feeling tired, overwhelmed, confused and in some cases paralyzed. Leadership that witnesses these feelings and helps create cultures that are inspiring and re-energizing is needed.
According to Wikipedia, “Quiet quitting is an application of work-to-rule, in which employees work within defined work hours and engage in activities within those hours. Despite the name, the philosophy of quiet quitting is not necessarily connected to quitting a job or a work slowdown, but rather doing what the job requires.”
Notice how the phrase and the definition don’t sync? One implies a willingness to do what they were hired to do and the other implies a refusal to work.
Through the pandemic’s Great Reevaluation, people have evolved their thinking relative to what matters, where they want to put their energy and how much they can give to each aspect of their lives. There is a better understanding of what the work-life formula could be to achieve more fulfillment in all areas of life. So, the essence of quiet quitting (despite a misleading phraseology) is good IF and only if there are constructive, necessary conversations between the leader and the employee who is re-thinking what they need at this point in their lives – professionally and personally. Conversation is the missing link.
Whether personal or professional, reestablishing boundaries without a conversation with those affected by the change causes others impacted by the change to become confused, upset, unsettled and wondering how work will get done. Without conversation, there is only room for assumption. Often assumptions that put everyone in a place of misunderstanding.
An example: Imagine a home where the father has always done the entire family’s laundry. He starts to feel burned out and resentful of the task, so suddenly (and without notice), is only doing his own laundry. The rest of the family is left wondering what is going on: Did they upset him? Did he forget? Do they need to conserve water? Without context the family will create stories in their minds surrounding the change, and the dad will likely feel shame and guilt about his actions. A meaningful conversation would put everyone on the same page, fostering empowerment and understanding about how everyone can move forward with the newly-set boundary. Perhaps there is even growth for those who start doing their own laundry. Setting boundaries does not mean abdicating responsibility or accountability. It only looks and feels that way without context and conversation.
The same goes for work. Most leaders want to know when there are unmanageable expectations being set. Life changes and will continue to change. Leaders aren’t mind readers who automatically know the intricacies of your life. You are allowed to redefine your work-life when it no longer serves you and ultimately doesn’t serve those around you as you are not at your best. Having honest conversation will allow you to be more productive during work hours, create a larger sense of purpose and produce a happier life. It will also quell the fears and curiosities of those around you.
So go ahead and consider how you want to clarify your boundaries, aka quiet quitting. But when you do, make sure to have the necessary conversation with everyone impacted and call it what it truly is:
Reestablishing boundaries to achieve a healthier perspective and better ability to contribute in meaningful ways without burnout.