What is Quiet Quitting

Full Transcript Below

[ANNOUNCER]: Breaking down everyday workplace issues and diagnosing the hidden sickness not just the obvious symptom, our hosts James and Coby. 

[COBY]: Did we lose a patient?

[JAMES]: No that’s just my lunch.

[COBY]: Hey thanks for joining us. I’m Coby, he’s James. So let’s get started with a question. What is quiet quitting and why is it important to talk about?

[JAMES]: Well I have some thoughts on quiet quitting and it’s not a new, this is not a new phenomenon really. If you’re not familiar with the term quiet quitting it really refers to um what is in essence a work to rule it’s a rejection it’s classified as a rejection of hustle culture. The term was really popularized and recently due to TikTok videos that went viral and have really become prominent among Gen Z and the whole idea of quiet quitting is that for so long we as employees have been expected to give and give and give we’re expected to give more time than we’re paid for more energy it’s the if you do it’s the idea that if you do not, you know, go the extra mile for your employer then you won’t get those bonuses. You won’t get the like the idea that we’ve normalized having to give our employers more than what we are receiving.

Quiet quitting is saying you know what I’ve been paid to do a job this is my job description I’m going to do this job. Right, it’s a tool that’s been used for years by unions and contract negotiations under a different language of Work to Rule. Right?

I’ll share a quick story that like both my parents are teachers or were teachers they’re both retired now but I can remember talking with um my mother because in the in Nova Scotia in the mid-90s there was a number of teacher strikes doesn’t matter the reasons and rationale. As a music teacher she was always giving more than what she was technically required to do right because it’s her passion teaching kids music you know doing the doing her choirs and Christmas concerts and you know all of these events and you know going early for band staying late for choir these things were normalized for her. But when the union was renegotiating contracts and trying to show just how much their members were doing for free, they asked people to just work to rule which is you go to work at whatever time school starts eight o’clock and you leave whenever schools ends right it the extracurriculars that teachers give the students for free needed to be removed to show the employer how much they were doing for free.

This is the same philosophy of work to rule of um quiet quitting right? It’s a rejection of the hustle culture this unspoken expectation in the workplace that if you want to be successful if you want to get the promotion or to get a raise you have to work more hours you have to volunteer for stuff you have to constantly give and give and give in the hopes that your employer will drop you a breadcrumb.

[COBY]: I really think that you’re really hitting the point when you say that that this isn’t a new thing because if you see articles about quiet quitting or you hear businesses business owners talk about it, they’re saying this is a Gen z being you know being them being weird being Gen Z. And this is just a new thing, another thing that it’s going to blow over, But you’re 100% right. You know, you know work to rule existed in the 90s it was just way before the 90s but this idea of it’s a it’s a passive protest. Yes it’s a I’m going to come in and just do the job to the letter and nothing more and what’s really and that’s and that’s my form of protest I’m still going to fulfill my obligations but I’m not going to do anything more. And what’s interesting especially in like this in school context or even in other contexts of businesses, you realize how ineffective a businesses or organizations run when people just do the things that they’re paid to do. That is a real and that is a real big AHA moment. I think that we should all kind of take a moment to really think about.

[JAMES]: It is and it’s I actually love, I like this phenomenon i think this is healthy for us as a society because if your business, if the only way that your business is going to maintain any type of profitability is by treating people as a commodity and squeezing every last drop of profitability out of them and then tossing them aside you have a failed business model. Now you have a profitable business model, let’s be clear. There are many large very profitable companies that operate in this way but if you look at the rise in unionization and in strikes over the last couple years.

There’s not this rejection of the hustle culture this rejection of the this unspoken rule that you have to constantly give and give and give and give doesn’t hold up when companies post record profits while paying you absolute garbage. Right when there’s that well it comes down to a lot of what we talk about in our trainings and in our coaching around the Workplace Culture Hierarchy is about the idea that the expectations of the workplace need to be Competitive, Sufficient, and Equitable. And this to me, quiet quitting really really hits the nail of things are not equitable. I am giving more and more and you are taking more and more that’s not there is not that sense that there’s an equitable exchange of goods and services right?

[COBY]: And I think that that it is that unspoken expectation like the like if we were thinking about it, wages haven’t really gone up you know much especially when you consider inflation right now but wages have really kind of plateaued a lot of ways job descriptions in a lot of positions haven’t been updated but it’s almost like but year over year the unspoken expectation to go above and beyond, to you know, that you know, that it used to be, success was if you did your job as as written in your job description that was you were a good employee, right, but the expectations have increased while the job descriptions have remained pretty stagnant. And now it’s like well good employees don’t just do their job they do more than their job, they do stuff without clocking in they stay late when they’re not asked, they find other reasons to put in more time and it’s almost like pushing yourself to the breaking point is the minimum expectation on a lot of people, in a lot of businesses.

[JAMES]: You’re absolutely right and it this is a societal problem like I know for myself growing up like i my parents were adamant that all of us kids work as teenagers from whether it’s mowing lawns before you you know at 14 ,15 getting a paper route, you know which I hate it getting up early in the morning um but anyways that’s besides the point like they instilled in me a work ethic, their work ethic which is a good thing having a like being able to understand the value of work is very important but part of that work ethic that was instilled in me was also this same idea this that to be successful I had to do more, right? Whether it was, you know picking up shifts when I was working, you know, retail and were working at McDonald’s as a teenager, you know volunteering to go above and beyond, staying late to get things done, you know it didn’t matter the environment.

That was the expectation that was kind of ingrained in me by my parents which in many respects is a very good thing. Where the where the breakdown happens is that the other half of that expectation is that there’s this promise that is alluded to that when you go above and beyond you will be rewarded when you go the extra mile and you show value you will get the promotion you will get the raise. You will like you will be rewarded for your hard work what that promise has been broken and it has been repeatedly broken year after year after year after year not in 2020, 2021, 2022 but for the last 20 years it has, this promise has been deteriorating as companies move to a more, a less human centric model. To a more workers are a commodity let’s squeeze every ounce of productivity we can so that our shareholders are happy. Right, when you as an employee know that you can be fired at any time in order to for the stock price to get a .01% bump so that the shareholders can make a little bit of extra money. Why would you continue to give more to a company that treats you that way?

[COBY]: And that really does I think speaks to the heart of where the real problem is that this shift in expectation to being less human-centric to being above and beyond is now is really the minimum. In you know that pushing yourself to kind of the breaking point is kind of is part of the course of employment now. This is kind of been building for a long time. and what we often talk about in a lot of our training is we talk about, really we kind of say, this is actually the building to the Great Resignation. That when and we use what we call the boiling frog analogy, where we kind of say that, oh sorry just what that is, is I’m sure a lot of you have heard of it, it’s the idea that if you put a frog in boiling water the frog won’t survive. It’ll try and escape and it will not be able to handle those conditions. But if you take a frog and you put it in temperate water and you slowly turn the heat up the frog will adapt to its surroundings and be able to survive.

And the idea that we as workers for generations have been the frogs in these in the water that started off temperate but slowly with these higher expectations with these, you know with being treated as a commodity the waters started to increase in temperature over the years and before we realized it in 2020 we’ve been sitting in boiling water. And the thing is is that when the pandemic hit we were all pulled out of water at the same time and we were allowed to cool down while we were home, you know working from home or whatever, but then things started to go back to normal somewhat and the employers and the business were like okay everybody back in the pot. But they didn’t turn the temperature down it was still the hot water and we are rejecting that those boiling conditions that we were slowly acclimatized to.

[JAMES]: Yeah that’s I love that analogy because, I think it so it very clearly illustrates what is happening and I just want to reiterate the last point that you made that as soon as it was okay for people to go back to work, companies didn’t change the factors of the workplace. They didn’t look to what the how the expectations of the workforce have changed they just said all right everybody back to the way it was we want to get back to normal. Well normal was busted. Normal didn’t work for people normal only worked for a very very select few usually those are the top who’s that absolutely those at the top, right? Back to normal for many people meant back to poverty wages back to high levels of stress and anxiety, back to toxic work environments, back to feeling like you’re just a cog in the wheel, like you’re a commodity, you’re right. And why like let’s think about that for a minute why would I want to put myself in that situation?

[COBY]: Well this is what we were have been talking about kind of since the Great Resignation started to build some momentum, as the term du jour, right? The idea that you know people people were rejecting the boiling water conditions that they were expected to go back to. So they were looking for new jobs and they were stepping back. But really what the Great Resignation was, it was a rejection of the status quo of these conditions that you just described. And what we’ve been trying to say for the past year and a half or so is: pay attention to this.

This is not a flash in the pan this is not going to go away , we can’t un-ring this bell. People now realize how hot the water has been and if we don’t fix this problem why this overt obvious resignation. you know turnover. measurable vacancies, that we can easily see and measure. It’s going to evolve into something a little bit harder to notice, and harder to manage, and harder to fix. And we kind of dubbed it as it’s going to go from the Great Resignation to the Great Disengagement. People are going to go back to work and they’re going to say “I have to have a job, I have to feed my family, but I’m just going to intentionally be disengaged and do the bare minimum, just to get by and that’s how I’m going to almost make up for this horrible treatments that I have, I’ll just do what the the bare minimum is, I’m not pushing myself anymore”.

[JAMES]: Absolutely it’s a, it is an evolution of the great resignation and I liked how you phrased that because in many respects the Great Resignation was people trying to find a better environment, right? People not wanting to go back into the boiling water and hoping that the grass is greener on the other side.

And sometimes it is, sometimes it legitimately is. I’ve read countless stories of people who were stuck at a certain wage for years and then you know as soon as they job hop and the new company doing the same job they’re making  25%-35% percent more an hour or a year. Sometimes the grass legitimately is greener. But sometimes it’s not too. And at a certain point people have to realize, like we were saying, people will stop quitting and leaving. They will stop quitting and walking out the door because they need, we need, money to survive our entire society operates that way.

When they stop quitting and leaving if you haven’t done anything to fix the factors of your workplace, they’re going to start quitting and staying. And that is what quiet quitting is. It is people who have quit the job but they stick around to collect a paycheck, right? And that is a much more difficult problem to diagnose than people leaving. Because when you.. you can you can see turnover rates you can measure how many people have left the workplace these are very tangible measurements. and you can find all kinds of statistics that will actually help you put a dollar figure on that. You can measure how much that is costing your company. It’s very very difficult to properly and verify quiet quitting or disengagement, which is largely very similar. I won’t say they’re the exact same.

[COBY]: Well I would go as far to say that disengagement is when you have a low sense of enthusiasm and motivation to do your job. And I would actually say that quiet quitting is a form of disengagement. It’s an intentional form of disengagement.

[JAMES]: it’s actively disengaged. Yeah it’s choosing to be disengaged. It’s not due to burnout or stress or all the other factors.

[COBY] Complacency or whatever.

[JAMES]: It’s a conscious choice to be disengaged. And I mean that’s an incredibly expensive problem to fix and it’s a huge problem already if you look at like, Gallup does fantastic research worldwide that talks about engagement levels. I’m gonna get the statistic wrong right off the top of my head but it’s something along the lines of 19% to 21% of the global workforce is engaged at work. Only 19% to 21%. It’s something in that range is actively engaged at work. And that is a terrifying statistic because you want people in your workplace who want to be there, you want people in your workplace who are contributing their skills, who are helping to make your business better, who are going, I mean I hate to use this term, but who are going above and beyond. But not because it’s a hope and a prayer that you’ll eventually do something nice for them as the employer. But it’s because, it’s out of recognition that they’re valued, that their contributions are valued that they’re respected, that they are inspired at work, that all of these things take place.

[COBY]: I think it’s also important to just kind of also state that we’re kind of like villainizing the like evil corporate ivy, or you know like glass tower, corner office, in a sense but but largely a lot of this expectation placed on people is usually done at the supervisor or manager level. Why are you, you know, can you do this without clocking in? Can you stay a little bit late? And it’s usually not an intentional situation from these people trying to squeeze everything out of it, part of it this is just the norm.

This is what they have thought as a normal workplace and that’s why it’s evolved. Which is why it’s such a systemic issue that’s really kind of hard to, you know, that’s going to take a big conscious effort to change. But I think what’s important and what the real thing, the real answer is to some of this is that you have to change. This isn’t going to blow over. If you didn’t learn your lesson with the Great Resignation, then you need to learn your lesson with quiet quitting because it’s just going to keep evolving and end up being, coming so embedded into the workplace that it may require, like it may bring the companies down. And only the companies that figure this out are going to be the ones that are going to be able to have the talent pools and have the customer engagement and have the productivity levels to survive hard times.

And this is why kind of answering the question that we talked we asked the beginning, what is it and why it’s important, it is this passive protest of work to rule and it’s important to talk about because it’s not new, it’s not going anywhere, and it’s a natural evolution of what we’ve experienced for generations, and it’s something that we need to take seriously, and it needs to be intentional. Because businesses are not necessarily trying to, you know, be villains here. It’s just the systemic issues the complacent cultures that have just kind of evolved over the same amount of time. But what you have to do is you have to stand up and take notice.

[JAMES]: We have to stand up and take notice and we have to address the factors of our workplaces. If you want to address quiet quitting if you think that this is a problem in your workplace the way that you combat that is by addressing the factors of your workplace and we’ve got lots of material that talks about that um you know check out our YouTube channel and our Knowledge Suite. You can do a search for 7×3, it’ll give you a really good understanding of the expectations and the factors. However I want to clarify or jump on a couple points that you made. You’re right, that I was, in my rants, villainizing a little more than is strictly necessary. But I’m not I don’t want to villainize businesses, per se. I want to villainize our societal culture around work. I believe that we have an unhealthy relationship with work in our society. Or an unhealthy expectation. And it goes back to what I was talking about earlier of the broken promises. I don’t blame businesses for making business decisions, I blame our society that encourages and rewards selfishness. A prime example is Loblaws. Not villainizing the company, but with Loblaws in 2022 and the first half of 2022 they posted a 30.1% increase in profits. Which is massive.

That money goes to the shareholders because that’s the way that our society rewards businesses that are people who take on the risk to start a business, right? Like there’s a substantial amount of risk involved in starting the business. We know this as business owners as starting our own business and there needs to be recognition and valuation of that. Valuing people who will take that risk and create value to employ others and create value and blah blah and on and on. However throughout the pandemic we spent most of 2020 saying that our frontline workers are heroes. That our society would collapse without front-line workers, without front-line retail workers, front-line healthcare workers, front line truckers. Our society can’t operate without these people we proved that, right? When the world went into lockdown many people still had to go to work during a global pandemic because otherwise our society would cease to function in the way that it does currently.

There was we put a lot of lip service to this and some companies, Loblaws included, added a premium and very publicly added a premium that they paid to their workforce as a thank you for keeping us going.  As soon as our attention was diverted away from the pandemic, that benefit was removed. And not only was that benefit removed but in removing that benefit in the midst of massive inflation and moving towards a recession and stagnating wages, they’ve posted a 30% increase in their profits, right?

This is what I want to villainize. It’s not the company that’s at fault, it’s the way that our society rewards these behaviors and we we celebrate these things in many respects. We celebrate that shareholder profits are the most important thing, right? We have reinforced this we have chosen this as a society. I have by the way that I vote chosen these things. That’s what I believe is wrong that’s what I hope these… We will see more of these workplace trends, quiet quitting is not going away and it’s not going to be the last iteration of this either. Until we as a society begin to re-examine our relationship with work and the way that we reward greed. These things aren’t going to go away.

We can, your business, if you’re experiencing these things our entire business philosophy is that you can have a very profitable business and treat people with respect at the same time. That is completely 100% a doable, achievable goal. That in my mind is where I would love to see our efforts as a society move towards. The acceptance that profit is good, like businesses, we are in business to make a profit. That’s not a bad thing. Profit is not a dirty word, it’s not. I am fine with that, if I wasn’t fine with that I probably wouldn’t have started my own business to make profit, right? But we also have to accept that there is a responsibility attached with this. That we have a responsibility to everybody to make sure that we are treating people with respect, that they are that they are valued for who they are, and that they are valued for how they contribute.

[COBY]: I think that it important to realize that largely at the end of the day, you know kind of the big takeaway is that that treating workers like commodities and squeezing every little bit out with them just to raise  your profits is not the only way to operate business. You can have successful sustainable, you know, businesses with good market share, high competitiveness, and still treat employees like people. Still have a strong workplace culture have a more human-centric way to work and it’s absolutely doable. It’s just not the norm and we have to be looking at better ways…

[JAMES] We have to normalize it.

[COBY] Absolutely.

[JAMES] I mean, I highlighted Loblaws because of that very specific situation of giving the bonus, taking that bonus away, and record setting profits. But let’s contrast that with… well I mean if you’re talking retail Costco is the natural company to contrast with. Because Costco pays people exceptionally well, from a competitive standpoint within the industry, within the regions that they’re in, they pay above market wages, they treat… there is a clear career path for people. Their company culture and the way people are treated is far more respectful of the individual or more humanistic. If we want to use that term. And they are a very profitable company that treats people well, that pays people well, and that is in largely the same industry and situation as their competitors, are they the most profitable company? No, but they are very profitable. They provide good service and they treat people well. We can  find examples in any in every industry of companies that are doing it well and are maintaining profitability, we just don’t celebrate that enough. We need to normalize the human element. [COBY] Absolutely. All right so I want to just kind of wrap this up and kind of summarize some of the key points that we talked about. Largely that quiet quitting is something that is the evolution from the Great Resignation, where the Great Resignation was about people quitting their jobs and leaving, quiet quitting is about people quitting their jobs and staying with their employer. It’s a passive protest using work to rule in response to the unbroken, or the broken unspoken agreement that if you push yourself and go above and beyond you will be rewarded with  the career path that you’re looking for and honestly that we have been boiling in our jobs for decades and now are realizing the water is too hot and these are the reactions to that collective realization.

[JAMES]: Absolutely. It’s an individual response to a collective realization.

[COBY]: Right. All right so that about does it for us. For a full archive of our podcasts and access to the video version hosted on our YouTube channel visit our website at roman3.ca/podcast. Thanks for joining us.

[JAMES]: Thanks everybody.

[ANNOUNCER]: For more information on topics like these don’t forget to visit us at roman3.ca. Side effects of this podcast may include improved retention, high productivity, increased market share, employees breaking out in spontaneous dance, dry mouth, aversion to the sound of James’s voice, desire to find a better podcast…

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