The ‘New’ Phenomenon
The concept of quiet quitting has gotten a lot of airtime in recent months. In its simplest form, quiet quitting is the practice of doing the bare minimum at work and nothing more.
When I began reading about this ‘new’ phenomenon, it felt eerily familiar to me. Then I remembered the Seinfeld episode that aired over two decades ago in which George Costanza slept under his desk to avoid work. Classic comedy has now become reality (although I don’t know anyone who’s taken it quite as far as George did).
The Two Viewpoints
I’ve heard both sides of the quiet quitting debate.
Side 1 says these people are lazy. They’re taking advantage of their employers. They can’t be relied upon, and they should be fired.
Side 2 says employers are the ones who are taking advantage. They expect 24/7 responses from their employees. They want more than 40 hours per week from everyone, and people deserve a balanced life that isn’t all about work.
And is it possible both sides have valid points?
The Post-Pandemic Mindset Shift
As a leadership coach and consultant, I’ve seen a mindset shift in many of the professionals I have the privilege of working with. It’s a post-pandemic mindset shift.
In the spring of 2020, we had no idea what was ahead of us, and as we dealt with the uncertainty, we developed new practices. We sheltered in place. We spent inordinate amounts of time with family. We became experts with video calls and what it takes to be a teacher. We began living a slower life, one without traffic jams, late afternoon meetings that meant dinner would be late, or extracurricular activities that meant dinner may not even happen. In many respects, as life slowed down, satisfaction with life went up.
What does this have to do with quiet quitting, you may wonder.
People in employee roles don’t want everything to go back to the way it once was. They enjoy the changes they made in their personal lives whether that be more time spent with family, more energy put into personal interests, or more effort to live an overall balanced life.
Many employers, on the other hand, are ready to get things back to ‘normal’ (whatever that is). The thought of some team members simply going through the motions to do the bare minimum doesn’t sit well with them.
The solution for both sides? Curiosity.
I believe a shift from judgment to curiosity is the solution for us all.
For leaders of quiet quitters (or potential quiet quitters), that curiosity starts with questions like these:
Leading this team or business is MY dream. What might make it matter to my team as well?
Whether you own a small business with a handful of employees or you work for a large business with hundreds or thousands, you’re motivated by your dream work. That dream could be the why that prompted you to start your business. It could be the opportunity to do work that lights you up on the daily. That’s amazing– for you. Everyone on your team, though? They don’t always feel that same way. Is it your job to dangle motivational carrots in front of them incessantly? Nope. But it is part of your job as their leader to help them tap into their own why. Once they know it, they’ll feel a difference and you’ll see it.
What actions can I take to encourage outcomes rather than output?
Some companies still insist on butts in seats from 8:00 – 5:00 Monday through Friday. They think output—the work, work, work song and dance—is what produces results. I disagree. I believe it comes from treating people like adults and trusting them. Trust them to hit their deadlines. Trust them to speak up and ask questions when needed. Trust them to bring value to the team and clients they support. Trust that they’re on the team for good reason, and that reason is not because they excel with sitting at a desk 40 hours each week.
What is the underlying message we’re sending about meetings?
Statistics show 71% of workplace meetings are unproductive. Yet, a large percentage of employees are spending much of their time in meeting after meeting after meeting. The underlying message? We want you to accomplish great things, but you’ll have to do so in the small window of remaining time you have after you attend all these meetings. A more effective message? We value you and the effort you put into your top priorities. We’re reducing the number of meetings, the length of meetings, and completely eliminating some of them. We. Value. You. And want you to succeed. When you win, we all win.
The Elimination of Quiet Quitting
Quiet quitting, in my opinion, can also be eliminated. When leaders and team members filter their thoughts through curiosity; when they communicate those thoughts with curious questions rather than judgmental statements and body language; when they believe in the value they each bring to the work at hand, quiet quitting transforms to appreciative inquiry. And no more George Costanzas under desks.