Quiet Quitting. Why it's not ok.
At the top of my list of things I hate most about the term ‘Quiet Quitting’ – and it’s a long list – is that
we have allowed a euphemism to disguise what this ‘phenomenon’ really is.
Let me propose some alternative descriptions. Lazy. Dishonest. Selfish. And that’s just for starters.
If you are a ‘’Quiet Quitter’ – which I doubt if you are still reading – please stop acting all clever and
superior while hiding behind a bullshit term that conceals what you are really doing: fraudulently
accepting an income from your employer, abusing your teammates who have to cover for your
laziness, and letting down the people who rely upon whatever your team does. Claiming you are
behaving this way because you are so enlightened and in tune with the balance you need in your life,
doesn’t make it right.
Frankly, it’s not even new. The vast majority of people in workplaces work hard, do the right thing by
their colleagues, work with pride and accept there is a fair trade off between taking a wage and
returning value to the employer. There have always been a minority who are lazy and unethical, it’s
just that now those people are calling themselves ‘Quiet Quitters’. Seriously? You expect us to buy
To be 100% clear, we passionately believe that people deserve great workplaces, and that
workplaces deserve great people. Whenever either fails to deliver on that, it isn’t OK. Can you
imagine the outcry if organisations decided not to pay people for one day a week, but dressed it with
a euphemism. How about Free Fridays?
At its most basic, work is an agreement between an employer and an employee. An agreed amount
of money and other conditions in return for an agreed amount and/ or level of performance. If
either party doesn’t want to fulfil that agreement, they should be honest about. When a ‘Quiet
Quitter’ puts their hand out for the money with no intention of reciprocating by bringing their best
self to work, it is dishonest and unethical.
We are idealists and see work as going way beyond that basic transaction in the 2020s. We believe
People Deserve Great Workplaces which means employers need to provide workplace
experiences in which people are valued, do meaningful work, and have the opportunity to
grow and be happy. They need to use contemporary leadership approaches and have
policies and processes to accommodate the complex lives people are balancing
Workplaces Deserve Great People which means people must bring their best selves to work,
be honest and contribute, engage positively and fairly with their colleagues, support the
team to produce outstanding results, and do their best for the people they exist to serve
We are passionate advocates of life balance – and organisations should accommodate people as
much as possible as they strive to achieve it. But be honest rather than talking the self entitled
approach that you can have it both ways. Have the honest conversation – I need more balance in my
life and would like to work three days a week. When I am here, I will give it my best – and I
understand the sacrifices I am making and am OK with that. Of course, good organisations make
sure the sacrifices are as limited as possible and are mainly about money and not about
Here are some take home messages, depending on the part you play in this.
If you are a ‘Quiet Quitter’, how about you just ‘Silently Go Away’, rather than ‘Stealing from
Your Employer’, ‘Take Advantage of Your Colleagues’, or ‘Let Down the People Your Team
If you are a colleague of a ‘Quiet Quitter’, next time they swagger up wearing a look of smug
superiority, tell them exactly what you think of having to cover for their deliberate and wilful
laziness (respectfully of course). Let them know how disappointed you are that their
unethical choices reflect on the team and impact its ability to make a real difference
If you lead a ‘Quiet Quitter’, let me know that it will quickly lead to ‘Awkward Accountability’
and, if they still choose to perform poorly, ‘Unintended Unemployment’. As a leader, if you
don’t act, recognise that they are failing to provide the leadership the rest of the team
deserves. ‘Quiet Quitting’ is cancer in a workplace culture – left unaddressed it sends the
message that mediocrity is OK and punishes the majority of people who want to do great
Finally, if you are an organisation that is seeing an emerging trend of ‘Quiet Quitting’, it may
be time for reflection. When people make this choice, it may be because of their character
but it also may be (as least in part) a response to the workplace culture. When people feel
uninspired, disconnected, undervalued, and that their efforts don’t make a difference, they
stop trying as hard. Having one ‘Quiet Quitter’ may just be bad luck, having multiple should
prompt you to ask ‘what aspects of the workplace culture could be influencing this choice?’.