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‘Quiet quitting’ is a nefarious phrase describing normal boundaries

Quiet quitting is a phrase spreading like wildfire and it is already contentious and misunderstood. Let’s discuss.

Woman confused at computer representing small business owner's being hacked at Meta.

Over the past few weeks, the term ‘quiet quitting’ kept popping up in my various social media feeds, and then it started showing up on various news sites. I was intrigued by the mischievous-sounding alliteration and what it could mean, so I decided to start researching.

Once I dug into what quiet quitting actually was, I discovered the action was not quitting at all. In fact, after digging, I believe it is actually something more people should be doing. 

Job expectations should be clearly defined. NPR cites a worker arguing that ‘quiet quitting’ is “offensive, because it suggests that people that do their work have somehow quit their job.”

Hustle culture, getting ahead culture, and ‘other duties as assigned’ job descriptions contribute to an idea that everyone has to do more;  however, how many of those doing more are compensated for the extra work? While companies benefit from this approach, how many workers do? 

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Many years ago, I worked a sales-type job and was introduced to the WIFM (what’s in it for me?) concept. Workers receive compensation for doing a job generally defined by sets of tasks and expected outcomes. What do they get for exceeding the job requirements or doing more work? In many instances, they get more work and maybe some recognition. If exceeding expectations does not correlate directly with higher compensation or a desired promotion, what is in it for the worker? 

The more I thought about this, the more frustrated I became.

Quiet quitting started to sound like a reasonable boundary. Even when people work in jobs and for organizations they are passionate about, they should not be expected to overachieve. In a Harvard Business Review article discussing the balance between organizational performance and maximizing people performance, they found that trust, purpose, and promotion were the key components of employee and organizational performance.

Those who overachieve are compensated. 

When listening to and reading some of the responses to quiet quitting, it became apparent that many organizations rely on overperformers. The job description and requirements do not align with what the organization really needs from its individual performers. Several online commentators refer to this as lazy.

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However, I think quite the opposite. This is appropriate. Workers invest time and energy to meet a set of stated performance objectives.

The worker should determine if overperforming will provide a desirable return on that investment. If organizations want a level of performance, then it must be stated rather than inferred. Quiet quitting is not quitting, it is boundary setting.

Quality employers will be competitive by truly promoting a healthy work-life balance and companies that ignore this shift will no longer attract top talent.

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Kaelin Peterson has a B.A. in Political Science, an MBA, and is currently pursuing an EdD in Performance Improvement Leadership. She currently works as faculty for a non-traditional university focusing on traditionally underserved student populations while also volunteering with a focus on leadership development, values-based leadership, and change management. When not working or doing school work, Kaelin enjoys discovering new foods, quiet spaces, and spending time with her husband and dog.

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