High achievers are characterized by a fiery attitude and a willingness to get things done. So what happens when high achievers become achievers? Do they just stop doing work? No! They still do their best, but their best becomes just getting things done.
As you probably already know, there are plenty of situations when you are up to your eyeballs in frustration and want to press the hypothetical “redo” button, but alas–it is not within reach.
It is in those tough moments when you want to give up but can’t, that you feel trapped. Enter “Quiet Quitting.”
“Quiet Quitting” is an idea that has been buzzing around the internet. Like viruses gliding harmlessly through our bloodstream, we silently accept life as it comes — until.
Until we reach our breaking point, never quite admitting it or trying to change our circumstances. Instead, we turn down the volume and try to blend in rather than stand out.
What is Quiet Quitting?
Most of us have experienced the feeling of wanting to quit our jobs—or at least fantasized about it, especially when we feel overwhelmed by unrealistic demands or resentful about not receiving recognition for our efforts.
But quitting is a luxury we can’t always afford. So rather than quit your job, what if there was a way you could stay on your own terms? What if you could just do what was asked of you without going above and beyond?
That’s quiet quitting. It’s a term that’s been making waves in the workplace. It’s the new way of saying, “No.”
The term refers to a growing number of employees who are staying at their jobs but are not putting in their best work—or any work at all. They may show up on time and leave on time, but they aren’t making their bosses happy because they’re not actively doing their jobs.
I love Zaid Khan’s definition of the term. According to Zaid, it’s when “You’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.”
Most high achievers don’t think about doing the bare minimum because they are driven. They want to accomplish great things and often, they feel the need to prove their worth.
Those same high achievers are getting burned out from working as hard as they do. Many have left their jobs as seen with the Great Resignation. For those who are left behind, quiet quitting may be just the ticket to collecting a paycheck and avoiding further burnout.
Why Quiet Quitting is Nothing New
Quiet quitting started in Silicon Valley in 2008, when venture capitalist Ben Horowitz coined the term to describe high achievers who would suddenly decide they didn’t want to work anymore—even though they had always worked hard before.
In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain defines a quiet quitter as someone who “quietly pulls back from the office when they realize they are not making an impact on their organization or team.”
The book also goes on to explain that this behavior is not new—it’s simply been called something else for years. For example, in the past it was known as “going underground,” where people would quietly remove themselves from the workplace without anyone noticing.
But today, with the rise of social media and increased transparency in the workplace, it’s more difficult to quietly quit than ever before.
That said, this practice is on the rise because of companies’ increased tendency to focus on short-term results over long-term vision.
How Quiet Quitting is Changing the Workplace
If you’re an employer, you know the quiet quitters. They’re the high achievers who no longer have the energy to put in long hours at work and then stay up even later doing their own thing. They’re the employees who’ve given up on trying to get ahead or stand out in their organization, and they’re just going through the motions.
When your workforce is quietly quitting, engagement goes down. Your employees are more passive. Motivation and ambition are low. Workers are coasting when their job lacks a sense of purpose, skating when they’re too burned out to care any longer or have the energy to produce for endless hours on nights and weekends. They want to be able to clock out and have a life outside of work and this is their attempt at rethinking the “success” paradigm.
This is a problem for companies that want to keep their best talent. Your employees are more passive, less ambitious, and less productive because they no longer see how their jobs fit into a larger goal or mission—they just see it as another place where they have to spend more time than they’d like.
The problem with this phenomenon is that it can take years for a company to realize the problem is happening because the employee isn’t saying anything about it—they just stop coming in or stop performing well enough that their manager notices something is off. This means that companies need to proactively address why employees are feeling disengaged in order to prevent turnover from happening in the first place!
The Upside to Quiet Quitting
If putting in 60+ hours a week was getting you stressed out to the point of burnout, you might have noticed that less is more. In other words, putting in more hours wasn’t leading you to accomplishing all that much more. This finding is supported by the literature as well.
We all have a saturation point and working too hard for too long can fry your brain. This makes it more difficult to focus. You lose energy and become too exhausted to keep going.
For some overachievers, quiet quitting may be a way of bringing some balance into the equation. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re underachieving. It just means you’re not going overboard anymore.
As a result, you’ll feel less stressed out and have the stamina and focus you need to produce good quality work. You can stay more present, think more creatively, and have more clarity about what’s really important rather than having your hands in too many cookie jars.
Why Quiet Quitting Can Be a Dead End
I like to imagine that quiet quitting is something that only really pertains to high achievers because they are the ones who originally went above and beyond. When they fell out of balance, they found “quiet quitting” a better alternative to resigning or taking a sabbatical because they still, on some level, cared about their career. They just needed to slow down.
I’m all for finding balance to avoid burnout. But if you’re a quiet quitter, I urge you to find another way.
When you started this job or your career, you likely had high ambitions about what you wanted to achieve. Maybe you went overboard and that’s why you’re so fed up right now.
Quiet quitting is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. If you really want to do something that counts, you have to manage your burnout. Then find more balanced ways of re-engaging in work that allow you to do your best work without overworking.
Quiet quitting is giving up on yourself in some ways. If you’ve ever set a goal to lose weight, get a degree, start a business, or anything else for that matter, you know that change can be hard. You’ll be up against challenges constantly. You can’t just coast or give up. You’re better than that.
It’s human nature to avoid pain and move toward pleasure. It’s wired into all of us. But if we want to amount to anything in this life, we can’t be passive. We can’t quit on our goals. We just have to find a way to get there sustainably.
Don’t sabotage your career on purpose. Don’t deny the importance of your goals simply because it’s hard. Don’t justify why you’re no longer putting in the effort. Making excuses is simply your way of trying to convince yourself that what you’re doing is reasonable. This only leads to loss of integrity, loss in confidence in being able to achieve future goals, and a loss of trust in yourself to follow through on commitments.
How to Prevent Quiet Quitting
People don’t just quiet quit because they’re unhappy with their jobs—they also quiet quit when they feel powerless, unappreciated or ignored. When people feel like there’s no way to make a difference, it can be difficult to stay focused on the task at hand. They may also be worried about being penalized for speaking up if they disagree with something or someone in management.
Unfortunately, this has a negative impact on more than just the company—it has an impact on everyone involved: employees, employers and society as a whole.
If you’re the employee, an alternative to quiet quitting would be prioritizing what’s most important to you by focusing on your values and what’s most important to your company. To avoid getting overloaded with work demands, get clear on how much is already on your plate before you take anything else new on. If your boss asks you to work on a new project, let them know what you’re working on and ask them to decide if you should switch your focus from one of your current projects to the new proposal.
As a team leader, you can prevent quiet quitting through effective communication setting realistic expectations that allow workers to lead balanced lives, and by encouraging workers to set boundaries by creating a culture that supports work-life balance and respect those boundaries.
If you want to keep your best employees, it’s important to make sure they feel empowered and valued. This can help prevent people from quietly quitting—and it may even encourage them to stay on board longer than they originally planned.
If you feel like your employees are quietly quitting because they don’t feel appreciated or empowered, here are ten ways you can try to address this:
1) Make sure everyone knows what their role is and how it contributes to the overall success of the business. This will help people understand that their contributions matter—and that they’re appreciated.
2) Provide employees with the tools they need to do their jobs well. If they don’t have access to the right technology or other resources, it can make them feel undervalued and unappreciated.
3) Make sure employees feel like they have the freedom to do their jobs without constant micromanagement. This means that you need to trust them and let them do their jobs without interfering too much.
4) Be clear about the company’s goals and priorities. Employees need to know what they’re working toward, so they can make decisions that help them reach those goals.
5) Make sure employees know what they can expect from you as a manager. This may include regular feedback, opportunities for career development, and clear expectations about how you’ll handle performance issues.
6) Provide employees with the tools and resources they need. This includes things like training programs, software and equipment upgrades, as well as communication channels like email and intranet sites.
7) Create a culture in which employees feel like they can be successful. This means providing employees with support and resources as well as making it clear that you’re available if they have questions, concerns or problems.
8) Give employees a sense of ownership. This means letting them take the lead in solving problems, giving them opportunities to make decisions that affect their work and providing ample training.
9) Encourage employees to take responsibility for their actions. This means letting them know that you expect them to do the right thing even when they’re on their own time, not just when they’re at work.
10) Reward your employees for good behavior. You don’t have to give them raises or bonuses in order to do this. You can also reward them by providing positive feedback on their performance, giving them opportunities for advancement and letting them know that you appreciate their hard work.
Quiet quitting is a form of resignation.
It’s not the kind of resignation where you make a big fuss about quitting and then quietly disappear. It’s the kind of resignation where you say, “I quit,” as quietly as possible and then just keep doing your job.
But companies can’t afford quiet quitting—they need their employees to pull their weight!
Both high achievers and the organizations they work for need to find sustainable solutions to work that create a win-win.
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