Letter to Leaders & Swenson Insights

Quiet Quitting - The Hype and the Truth

Have you heard the latest 'thing' in the workforce?


Last month, a TikTok user talked about Quiet Quitting, “where you’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond.”

As they say, the video went viral. Then the Wall Street Journal picked it up, associating Quiet Quitting with Gen Zs. In quick succession, the media gave it a new moniker – doing the bare minimum at work has gone global, they said.


Now the pundits have weighed in. Arianna Huffington wrote, “Quiet quitting isn’t just about quitting on a job, it’s a step toward quitting on life.”


It’s inevitable that this will be the Great New Thing in leadership training and discussed ad nauseam from classrooms to workshops.


But let me take a moment to set the record straight about the “Quiet Quitting” hype. Because it really is hype. And then we’ll talk about ways to manage through this because complaining about things doesn’t solve those things.

  • This isn’t a new thing: Employees who just “go through the motions” has been going on for decades.

  • This isn’t limited to Gen Z. I know people of all ages who show up to work just to collect benefits and a paycheck.

  • Of course, lots of people got burned out during the pandemic - you can't blame them.

  • Remote and hybrid work has exacerbated the situation – it’s much harder for managers to track performance, morale, effort, and energy when the employee isn’t around all the time.

Since the 1980’s Gallup has measured employee engagement. It’s easy to see the three levels of engagement:

  • Those who are engaged and give extra effort;

  • Those who hate their job and are actively disengaged; and

  • Those who don’t fit either category but are merely showing up.

And the thing is – everyone knows who those employees are! (and likely, so do you).


So how do we deal with this?


First – which of your employees is a problem? It’s gotten much harder to know in this hybrid/remote world. You need to understand what they are (or are not) doing. (Employees – if you want to prove that you’re not a Quiet Quitter – make sure to let your boss know what you’re doing!)


After that, it’s Leadership 101. Set your expectations and hold people accountable for not meeting those expectations.

But you want to set realistic expectations.


I don’t need an entire team of superstars; it’s unrealistic to think every employee loves their work, has a clear sense of purpose, and puts in the extra time needed to succeed.


Instead, how about these three groups of employees?

  • Superstars

  • The 90 Percenters

  • The problems

90 percenters give 90% and that’s good enough for me. Not everyone can be (or wants to be) a superstar. I also need people who show up, have a positive attitude, and make the trains run on time. If those are Quiet Quitters, I’ll take them.


What I don’t need are people with bad attitudes, who aren’t getting the job done and aren’t willing to change. And 90% effort is the minimum expectation.


Reward your superstars. Provide your 90 percenters with feedback and appreciation.


And you know what to do with the problems. If they can’t or won’t meet your expectations, they need to go. Now.


It’s not about “Quiet Quitting.” It’s about leadership, expectations, and accountability.


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