What is quiet quitting, really?

There was a time in my career when I was showing up to the credit union and doing the bare minimum. I continued to open accounts, help members with loans, and did what was required. I was not showing up early, staying late, volunteering, or going the extra mile. Today, that kind of behavior might be defined as quiet quitting.

While there is no universally held definition of quiet quitting this increasingly common workplace practice might be best described as doing the bare minimum requirements of your job duties in order to stay employed, while not actually being engaged.

When I first saw this loose definition, my mind instantly wandered to that time in my career that I distinctively remember as a period when I was the most disengaged. What is interesting about quiet quitting is that it isn’t actually walking out or protesting: It is simply doing what’s required. This high visibility recent phenomenon, it turns out, is just doing the job you are being paid to do (and nothing more). In so many American workplaces, it has been normalized that performing in any manner less than above and beyond what you are paid to do is underperforming. The only way to meet expectations is to exceed them.

In a world where we have lived through a pandemic, transitioned to remote work, and leaned further into technology to create human contact, people have begun to reassess what is most important to them. Workers are taking back and reprioritizing their lives. This leads to many reasons why someone might be quiet quitting. In my period of disengagement, I was dealing with a serious medical situation in my household that required so much of my attention and energy that there was nothing else left. Work was not my priority, my family was my priority, and giving anything extra at work was not an option.

Today, rising costs (and scarcity) of childcare might make it impossible for working parents to be able to afford to come in early, stay late, volunteer or socialize with colleagues. Higher organizational turnover is leading to more job vacancies and many employees carrying the weight of picking up tasks due to vacant roles or supporting the training of new employees. At the end of the day, employees may be exhausted from this overextension and in need of time away from anything associated with work to recharge their batteries. It is understandable that this environment does not lend itself well to going above and beyond.

This is not to say that quiet quitting should be embraced as a form of self-care. In fact, disengagement can be bad for the employee, their coworkers, and the organization. Even when an individual is only working the hours for which they are paid, they are investing a significant amount of their waking hours in the workplace. That time should be fulfilling and disengagement gets in the way of this: It might create less opportunity to connect meaningfully with coworkers or to be considered for development, career, and networking opportunities that will help employees reach the next level of impact.

What can leaders do to help employees who want to keep their (fulfilling) jobs, but not at the expense of their well-being? It comes down to engagement and expectations. Strategic integration of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices can contribute significantly to employee engagement and communicating expectations.

Inclusive work processes create an environment where truly open and collaborative communication makes employer expectations clear while providing employees the opportunity to share what makes them feel engaged and where they need support. Inclusive workplaces allow employees to feel valued for their contributions and inclusive leaders understand that employees value and engage with work differently due to highly individual circumstances. Leaders creating inclusive workplaces know how to work with each individual to create the environment where they can achieve their greatest success and be respected for the contributions they make. If the Golden Rule tell us to treat others how we want to be treated, the Platinum Rule guides us to treat others how they want to be treated. At Humanidei, the Platinum Rule is core to the work we do with credit unions. We know the work force is changing and attitudes about work are changing as well. Employees are no longer taking a laissez faire attitude toward work-life balance and high-achieving leaders must understand that not everyone wants to work the same way.

As credit unions face continuing high turnover and work to compete in the increasingly competitive war for talent, they must integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion practices into everything they do, including employee engagement. Engaging employees in the way that makes them feel most valued and respected may lead to reframing conversations from what to do about quiet quitting to supporting our employees in being the most whole and fulfilled humans—not just employees—possible.

Oscar Porras

Oscar Porras

Oscar Porras started his career in the credit union industry over 20 years ago. He has primarily worked with community members of modest needs, credit union professionals of diverse backgrounds, ... Web: https://humanidei.com Details