Septembers have changed
In my newsletter yesterday, I reflected on just how much times have changed. While some of you will see your respective offices filling up once again as September gets underway and people return from their vacations, that may be a thing of the past for those whose work environments are hybrid or remote.
May you live in interesting times
The early 2020s are certainly off to an interesting start. It seems like no time since I wrote my June ’22 article, Seven steps for career success amid inflation, supply chain issues … and, now, talk of recession.
Since then, and while some job markets are humming along nicely, I know more than a few of your economies and budgets are challenged. In Europe and the UK, people are grappling with concerns over fuel and heating supplies and pricing in the months ahead. Energy “cooperation” was chief among the agenda topics during German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ recent visit to Canada, and his meetings with our prime minister.
Just yesterday, The Economist wrote that Europe was heading for a recession and that the continent’s inflation shock was “coinciding with an economic downturn”. The same publication wrote last month that corporate profits and pricing power were delaying a recession in the US. Despite this, layoffs/redundancies are not limited to European, Irish and UK friends; they’re also underway or anticipated elsewhere around the planet, including a number of North American markets.
Hiring freezes and rescinded employment offers are also a fact of life, and the tech sector is not immune to such challenges.
Locally, one employer gave all its employees a heads up one recent morning that a significant percentage of the workforce would be laid off that day. People were told they’d receive a phone call that morning if they were among the individuals losing their jobs. The spouse of one employee told me about her husband’s momentary horror when his phone rang late that morning with a call from his principal … only to be relieved seconds later when the principal said he was phoning with reassurance that this employee was among those being retained.
Quiet quitting and career plateaus
In the midst of all this, barely a day has gone by in recent weeks without some reference to quiet quitting. It’s been referenced particularly in regard to Generation Z, yet it’s nothing new and some Boomers have been doing it since before Millennials were born.
It’s nothing new; some Boomers were quiet quitting before Millennial and Gen Z colleagues were born … and yes; Gen Xers have also done it
Haven’t we all seen people who don’t outright quit, but choose against going above and beyond? Anyone may feel this way on a given day or for a period of time, perhaps because you’ve reached what I think of as a career plateau. That may reflect a lack of advancement opportunities, or because you feel burned out, undervalued, or are otherwise disengaged.
This may be a reflection not only on the person with a diminished willingness to go the extra mile (or kilometer, as the case may be); I believe it can also be a reflection of poor leadership.
In an August 31, 2022 article published Harvard Business Review, leadership development consultants Joseph Folman and Jack Zenger referred to that readiness to go the extra miles as discretionary effort. They went further than I have in pointing fingers at leadership, with their headline proclaiming quiet quitting is “about bad bosses, not bad employees”. Reviewing data collected since 2020, they found that managers rated as least effective had up to four times as many people who were “quiet quitting” as did those rated as the most effective leaders. It may not come as a surprise that much of this comes down to trust, or a lack thereof.
Many assistants consistently go above and beyond
Many assistants I know do have a tendency to consistently go above and beyond.
I think it helpful to distinguish whether quiet quitting is a case of showing up and coasting, doing as little as possible for a pay deposit … or, as put by @zaidlepplin on TikTok, choosing against “subscribing to the hustle culture”.
While nothing new, is it not likely that a surge in this mindset – if that is the case, and it’s not all hype – is one more byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic? We know people have been reassessing or reaffirming values. Some see this quiet quitting as indicative of a conviction that work should not be all-consuming. It may be a case of stepping away from the habit of always being “on” and accessible, engaging in business emails, calls and more during personal time, and while ill or on vacation.
What is quiet quitting – establishing boundaries, a career misstep, or a signal that it’s time to quit for real?
Is this, to some degree and in some instances, simply another way of setting boundaries or continuing in the quest for life-work balance? Is it a reaction to compensation frustrations, or is it a self-imposed barrier to career progression and success, and a sign it’s a time to quit for real and move on? I think the answer depends on the individual, how long the individual is quiet quitting – perched on that career plateau – and the circumstances.
Have you observed or experienced quiet firing?
Don’t you love buzzwords? Quiet firing is another term for nudging an employee out the door. It may be a matter of fit, or lack thereof, that prompts a principal (boss) to deploy tactics that lead to an employee feeling demoralised. A principal may simply want one person out of a role or their environment, or they may wish to move someone of their own choosing in to certain roles.
There can be a variety of drivers behind such tactics, which may range from exclusion from professional development opportunities – whether that comes down to a lack of funding or other support for training courses or conferences, or participation in certain projects or on certain committees – to compensation restraints or an overwhelming workload.
Repeatedly bypassing or excluding someone may be another means of encouraging a person to change career paths and place of employment. In jurisdictions with labour laws affording significant rights to people whose employment has been terminated, this may be one way of getting rid of an employee without financial implications.
New terms, yet not new practices
While the pandemic fallout may have employees and employers reassessing or reaffirming values, cultural fits, operating budgets and so on more than ever, I’d suggest quiet quitting and quiet firing are concise terms for practices in which some people have engaged long before the 2020s.
Please take a couple of minutes to participate in this quick poll, and add comments you may have. Is quiet quitting happening in your environment, or is it hype or a luxury for people in other labour markets? Have you experienced or observed quiet firing? Thanks for adding your perspectives, and for sharing this post with others.
What do you have to say about quiet quitting and quiet firing?
Please take a couple of minutes to complete the poll below and add any comments you may have, and I’ll publish the results.
Which of the following do you think “quiet quitting” best represents?
My response to this question was ‘none.’ At the top of this poll, Shelagh offered “I think it helpful to distinguish whether quiet quitting is a case of showing up and coasting, doing as little as possible for a pay deposit … or, as put by @zaidlepplin on TikTok, choosing against “subscribing to the hustle culture”.
There should be a direct distinction between Quiet Quitting, Coasting, and Not “subscribing to the hustle culture.” I see these terms as being not at all synonymous.
Quiet Quitting is doing the job and nothing else, period.
People who coast are collecting a paycheck and might not be/probably are not necessarily earning it.
Not subscribing to the hustle culture is the least an employer should expect from its employees.
I am one of those assistants who “consistently go above and beyond.” I have suffered the stressful effects of choosing to work countless hours of overtime at night and on weekends/holidays. It was my choice to work those hours (“discretionary effort”).
I had one manager who advised me to capture my overtime hours on a spreadsheet and use them as comp time. Another manager (in the same company) forbade me to capture my overtime (on a spreadsheet) without his authorization, and regardless of his authorization, I would not be paid or compensated for the extra hours. My stance is that I am capturing my personal time, and no one can forbid me from doing so, whether I am compensated or not. The first manager I referred to was skilled, forthright, and outwardly appreciative of my efforts; I was always willing to go above and beyond for her. The second manager was not skilled in his managerial position and had even less interpersonal skills. I still went above and beyond in the execution of my duties.
I have never employed Quiet Quitting in any job I’ve had.
If management wants to reduce Quiet Quitting, prevent toxic work environments, and encourage discretionary effort by its employees, then it needs to recognize, acknowledge, and yes, reward those efforts in the first place.
Quiet Quitting is synonymous with and a result of a company’s inability to retain good talent.
Thanks, Debra. Agreed; my point is that the terms noted are not synonymous. As mentioned, poor leadership can also be a factor – and your experience highlights this. I’m with you in not having employed quiet quitting, and in being responsive to people who possess the qualities of the first manager you referenced. Have a great long weekend ahead!