Quiet Quitting as a Form of Silent Protest? It May Lead to Slow Quitting or Slow Firing (Yes, it Can Happen)

Quiet Quitting

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Possibly like you, we are hearing a lot about a new trend at work — quiet quitting. If you are not up to date on this latest viral trend, quiet quitting is not about leaving a job but a process of starting to do the minimum amount of work possible while keeping a job.

In the spirit of full transparency, I’m the founder of Brize, an app designed to help individuals develop the skills that lead to accomplishing career goals, success, and happiness, by helping to lower and ideally eliminate unnecessary work-related stress and anxiety. Given our mission, we have a view that we can all take control of our careers and be in the driver’s seat.

And when we experience disappointment at work, we believe we can leverage that disappointment as a motivator. After acknowledging the disappointment and reflecting on how we contributed to it, we like to encourage individuals to focus their energy on how to avoid that disappointment in the future.

So, when we hear some individuals are going to practice quiet quitting as a form of silent protest, it gives us reason to pause and wonder about the longer-term implications.

One reason given for adopting the practice of quiet quitting at work is in protest. The protest reasons are stated in ways like…. I’m not getting paid more, so why should I do more? Anyway, no one will recognize my lower productivity. And I’m not concerned about getting fired. Or I don’t want to be part of the above and beyond or hustle culture. To I got passed over for a project or promotion I deserved.

Like most human-related topics, this one is complicated and can have long-term negative consequences if we do not carefully consider why we might opt to take this approach to work.

On the topic of hustle culture, eliminating the idea of a hustle culture is good for both workers and employers. Endless research studies prove the benefits of taking time off or recharging on work productivity. And businesses are taking steps to improve in these areas by encouraging employees to take breaks during the day and using their vacation time during the year. And Managers recognize they need to lead by example. They also no longer respond to emails during late night hours or vacations to demonstrate they support completely disconnecting from work to recharge. They are helping their employees put work into perspective.

Businesses do need to continue to innovate and deliver favorable financial results. So, even though companies are improving, they are still finding the right balance.

In this post, we want to focus our attention on the employee and the potential impacts of deciding to practice quiet quitting.

So, back to the frustration of I’m not getting paid more, so why should I do more? Anyway, no one will recognize my lower productivity. And I’m not concerned about getting fired.

First of all, someone always notices low productivity. If you are already performing “just well enough to get by,” your behavior won’t change, nor will your productivity level. But that doesn’t mean no one hasn’t already noticed your approach to work. Your manager or someone else in your organization has most likely recognized your “do the bare minimum work approach.” And although low unemployment has workers feeling that employers believe a body in a seat is better than no body, that belief may change.

Just look at what has happened in the tech industry this year. When these employers made the hard decision, and it is always a hard decision, to let some of their employees go, they most likely started defining the impacted list of employees by evaluating their work quality and output. Their analysis didn’t begin with a view on how many hours employees work. They may have asked who goes above and beyond. And what is meant by this question is who can we depend on, who jumps in when needed and delivers high-quality work? These employers were evaluating who adds more value to the organization than others. And value does not equal time. Like going above and beyond, it means delivering high-quality output.

If you decide to produce less, your manager or other leaders will notice your behavior change. This recognition might lead your manager to assume you are “checked out” and looking for a new job. This belief will cause them to turn to others when new, more interesting projects or opportunities come up out of concern you might leave at a critical point of the project.

You’ll need to consider how you will react to a lack of new, exciting opportunities available.

On the topic of pay increases, employers like employees ask, “what have you done for me lately” when considering employee raises. With a limited budget, those who produce high-quality work may get a more significant increase than those who do the minimum to get by.

But most importantly, compensation comes in many forms; it is not always money. You need to decide if money is your top motivation. If you aspire to do more exciting work, achieve a greater purpose (at work or personally), get a promotion, or potentially lead others, you’ll need to acquire new skills to accomplish these goals. Taking on new responsibilities or tasks leads to the development of these skills.

Here is an example of what I mean. I had settled into a great job. I was tackling high-volume customer acquisition challenges, learning how to effectively transition my company’s advertising efforts to this new thing called digital marketing. At the time, it was a “new thing.” It was very early days with a focus on search engine optimization — or driving organic traffic to your website. Social media was not widely known. As a frame of reference, Mark Zuckerberg was 20 years old and had just officially launched Facebook in his dorm room.

I was plugging along, again, really very happy in my job. I was working for a $200M+ revenue company, gaining increasing responsibilities, leading bigger teams, and financially, I was making the highest salary and bonus in my career. All was very good.

Then one day, a former boss called me. He was the founder of CareerBuilder and had started a new company. He had solidified his idea well enough to hire five software developers to begin building it, and he was ready to hire a product manager and marketer to define his go-to-market strategies. He offered me the job. Here are the factors I needed to weigh when deciding to change jobs or not.

Financially, I would need to take an almost 50% pay cut. You heard right — nearly 50%.

Leading others. I would initially return to being an individual contributor. I needed to weigh how future employers might view this decision, possibly as a step back. That also meant some of my daily work would involve what some might describe as “entry-level” tasks. Very few, certainly initially, if any, of my responsibilities would be glamourous. And I would have no one to help me.

But believe it or not, these were not my most significant considerations. What weighed the most on my decision was the answer to the question —- what will I gain by making this move and taking on this experience? My former and potentially boss again had raised venture capital funding for his new company. That meant he had a board he would need to update monthly. I would be part of that monthly update, presenting results and getting strategic feedback on how to best move this new company forward. Some might say, “I would have a seat at the table.” I would learn how to build a marketing function and team from scratch. I had inherited teams before and was accustomed to defining new positions and defending budget requests for them. Still, I had not experienced such a young company growth, which is very different. I knew the workstyle of the individual I’d be working for, and I knew he would give me the space to explore opportunities and own my responsibilities. I would know my purpose and goals, and he would allow me to determine how to achieve them. He was a known entity if you will. He was also leveraging new technology to build this company, so, although I am far from a technologist, I would get exposure to how digital products can transform an industry by leveraging emerging technologies, something I’ve always loved doing. I believed in his mission. And I would have the chance to help build a company beside a serial entrepreneur in the trenches with him every day. The new skills and experience I would gain from this job were priceless. It felt as the time this experience could lead to almost endless, unimaginable possibilities in the future, including gaining the courage and confidence to start my own business.

I took the job.

Some people might have characterized this new company’s work environment as a “hustle culture.” I didn’t feel that way, even when I needed to convince my husband and two sisters that stuffing envelopes in our family room on a Saturday night would be fun. I had developed a  direct mail campaign that needed to get in the mail the following Monday. And believe it or not, we did have fun. We laughed and told stories and got caught up on what was going on in each other’s lives, so it didn’t feel like work. And I knew that spending this extra time working would pay off. And it did.

Another great, unexpected lesson from this experience was learning to better to balance work with my personal responsibilities. I met that deadline without a budget to automate stuffing 500 invitations and get them in the mail on a Monday morning. And then, I spent time during the traditional 9 to 5 work hours later that week going to the grocery store, dropping off and pick-up the dry cleaning, and cleaning the house. I had met my boss’s expectations on the campaign, so I knew I could take care of some personal things without worrying about him questioning where I was during that time.

So, as you might imagine, I reframed what it means to go above and beyond. I focused on the goal and how I needed to go about accomplishing it with a high-quality work output. So, again, going above and beyond does not mean doing more things or working longer. When we look deeper, as we did above, this phrase is about delivering value to our organization.

Adding value is about understanding expectations so we can do the right things at work, not just doing things.

I recently talked with Leadership Coach Pamela Coleman-Davis on this topic. We defined the Value (Success) Formula for work on a recent series of Bright & Wize episodes and the skills needed to deliver value and achieve success. If you’d like to learn more, navigate to the Bright & Wize page to listen or view the series on our YouTube channel.