“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena . . .”
- Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship in a Republic”
I get why people are quiet quitting. We’re all exhausted. Trust in corporate leadership has been in decline for years. And there’s a lot that’s dysfunctional about work in the United States, especially for people who have been historically excluded from positions of power.
Quiet quitting is understandable, but it’s ineffective. The remedy isn’t for employees to quiet quit and for managers to surveil. It’s for both parties to step up their leadership.
As managers we need to get over being defensive and engage. We need to ask questions and genuinely listen. One of the biggest sources I’ve found for quiet quitting is misunderstandings, especially around expectations. If an employee is upset because they thought they were going to be promoted after 6 months, they probably don’t know how the promotion process works. If they’re frustrated that they’re working long hours, they may not understand what tasks are a priority, or what their position actually entails. A mismatch of expectations can cause people to feel taken advantage of and justified in checking out. As managers, we need to make our expectations crystal clear during and after the hiring process.
We also need to trust our employees and treat them like humans. It doesn’t matter when and how long they were in the bathroom. What matters is if they’re using their time, skills, and resources to add value to the company. We need to provide flexible schedules, especially for people who are caretakers. Offer mental health services to alleviate the toll of the last couple of years. Conduct stay interviews. And help overwhelmed employees prioritize their workloads.
In return, employees need to take back their power and embrace their leadership. If you’re miserable at your job, leave. At another time in history that might not have been possible, but in August 2022 the unemployment rate was 3.5%.
If you don’t like something about your job, or your company, say something. Do something. If you’re angry because you’re working too much, or aren’t being promoted, talk with your manager. If you’re having trouble with your manager, talk with their manager. A real hero of mine is Greta Thunberg. Look what happened when she took action at 15 years old. Would she quiet quit? I don’t think so. Doing nothing is not the answer.
Creating a workplace that meets the company’s needs and the employee’s needs requires collaboration. Neither can exist without the other. We need to be honest about our expectations, trust each other, and lead together.