Loudly Valuing My Time: An Alternative View to Quiet Quitting
By Nautrie Jones
If we are having the conversation about quiet quitting without asking ourselves what message this concept should communicate to companies, senior leaders, and people managers – we may be missing the point of the conversation. The most frequent belief that I hear about the topic is that a person who is “quiet quitting” is “coasting” or that they are choosing not to do the job that they have been hired for. Perhaps we can agree that the term is probably just not the right one to describe what the term really means, but in the spirit of transparency, I have to share up front that as a talent equity consulting professional, I may have a slightly different take on this topic.
When I talk with clients’ staff members in focus groups, review survey data, and read about the latest topics trending on TikTok and Twitter, I often encounter a few different sentiments:
- “There are more things in life that bring me joy, pleasure, and/or purpose than work.”
- “I am working so much more than 40 hours a week and doing more than most of the people in my department, but I do not receive extra compensation for my extra work”
- “I cannot sacrifice my mental or physical health for my work.”
- “I am no longer willing to go above and beyond in this area of my life. Enough is enough.”
And the list goes on.
I can absolutely relate to these sentiments. I have worked in roles where I have gone above and beyond, and it was exhausting. I was not my best self. I was not finding joy in areas outside of work, and I was, quite frankly, burnt out. Not to mention, I was not being compensated for the extra work I was doing.
Today, I am choosing to closely evaluate how I spend my time working while increasing my capacity to spend time doing things outside of work for myself that bring me joy and enrich my life. Given the discussion around this topic, would I be considered a quiet quitter for setting boundaries and intentionally spending my time doing things that bring me joy while also doing the job I was hired for?
What Quiet Quitting is Not
Though the term “quiet quitting” ultimately has an inflammatory connotation, I DON’T hear employees saying:
“I do not want to do quality work.”
“I do not enjoy my role.”
While this does not apply to everyone, I am sure the people who feel this way felt it before we uttered the term Quiet Quitting.
As a talent consultant, I choose to listen intentionally to what people are saying. When I do that, what I hear trends more closely to desiring longer-term fulfillment and satisfaction both inside and outside of the workplace, NOT laziness or unwillingness to do the job they are being paid for.
A Larger Trend
It is also worth noting that while this is a hot topic in the news, a few other terms have been floating around that I think are related to quiet quitting:
While each of these topics has their own meaning and concepts connected to them, I think they speak to a larger trend that ultimately relates to how managers support their direct reports. I recently read an article from Gallup stating that “Managers account for an astounding 70% of the variance in team engagement, and their efforts substantially impact the bottom line of entire organizations.“ This number tells us clearly that the work that managers do to recruit, engage and retain talent is complex and requires a tremendous amount of skill and effort.
In the current market, many organizations cannot afford to lose valuable talent, and it won’t do anyone much good to complain or present hot takes and rebuttals refuting the realities of what staff members experience. It is my belief that the concept, of quiet quitting, presents an opportunity to find new ways to more deeply understand the needs of the workforce and be open to interrogating our expectations of our staff.
Using Edgility’s Pillars of Equity to increase employee engagement
At Edgility, we counsel all of our clients to operate under our three pillars of equity:
- Clarity & Transparency
- Fairness & Consistency
- Inclusion & Belonging
Here are some ways to incorporate these three pillars into your talent practices, not to prevent “quiet quitting”, which I believe is not inherently a negative concept, but to increase employee engagement and elicit loyalty and the best work your employees are able to provide.
Clarity & Transparency: Ensure role clarity for all staff members
I always chuckle a little bit when I hear the phrase, “We are building the plane as we are flying.”
I completely understand the thought behind that. We want to acknowledge that there is likely ambiguity within organizational priorities, goals, and even expectations.
I get it.
It is understandable that there will be periods of uncertainty at any company or organization. At the same time, all staff members deserve to have clear goals and expectations. By receiving this, even in periods where there is a great deal of ambiguity, a staff member will understand how to spend their time and have a clear picture of the bar for success in their role.
By now you are probably thinking, ok, Nautrie. How does this connect to quiet quitting? When staff members are clear on their role and understand the bar, it enables them to evaluate their capacity (or desire) to take on additional responsibilities or create space within their lives to seek out experiences that allow them to live fully. Some staff members may want to stretch and do more at work, but others will decide to continue to meet the established bar within their role and not go above and beyond. My take is that both are ok because, in both instances, the work is getting done.
Additionally, organizational leaders should have open and honest conversations with their people managers about providing psychological safety in the workplace to empower and encourage staff members to set healthy boundaries without fear of retaliation.
Inclusion & Belonging: Listen to your staff and take action based on their feedback
Many organizations often ask their staff to complete surveys to gauge staff sentiment, identify workplace trends, etc. Then what? Does your organization review the data to figure out what your staff members care about and make a thoughtful action plan based on the results? If so, that’s great! If not, that needs to change. Understanding the factors that staff care about most along with what may contribute to possible retention concerns is probably one of the most important things any organization can do. At Edgility, our Talent Equity Assessment survey not only assesses staff sentiment, but it also provides a comprehensive report with data showing which populations of your staff are experiencing negative or uneven consequences from your talent policies and offers actionable suggestions to help fix any issues it uncovers.
When your staff understand that you care about their experiences and take the time to talk openly about trends and actions, they will feel valued and cared for. When this happens, it engenders trust and loyalty and in many cases reduces the likelihood they will look for other opportunities.
Fairness & Consistency: Provide ongoing training and support to managers
SPOILER ALERT: This is my soap box topic.
Have you ever heard some variation of this phrase, “People don’t leave jobs. They leave managers.”?
I believe this is true. Managers have a responsibility to ensure that their staff members have a clear bar for performance and overall expectations in their roles. Additionally, and this is often forgotten, managers have to make space to really know their staff. They have to understand what their staff members care about and identify ways to motivate and influence them as they do their work. When I think about the anatomy of a really great manager, I think about both people who understand the work to be done and those who have a knack for seeing people for who they are and what strengths and talents that they bring to the work.
Can we all agree that managing people is hard work?
Shout out to all of the great managers out there!
Here’s the deal. We know that managing people can be immensely rewarding, but it is also a skill that must be nurtured and grown along the way. One way to do this is to ensure that managers have a community of support and receive ongoing training to ensure that they are positioned to manage their staff effectively and fairly. Personally, I am a huge fan of coaching – especially for new and middle-level managers who have to figure out how to lead teams and get work done. True coaching is a valuable investment that often pays for itself many times over. This is not to say that managers are responsible for Quiet Quitting, but managers DO play a major role in providing clarity and support to their staff members while also building strong workplace relationships with direct reports. To do that, they need a community of support to help them along the way.
I told you at the beginning of this blog that I had a different take on Quiet Quitting.
You can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Personally, I see quiet quitting as a call to action for those of us who are in roles that support people, make decisions, and/or steward culture within our workplaces. It is an opportunity to evaluate our culture and expectations and ask ourselves if what we are hearing from our staff matches our values as an organization.
I am curious.
When you stop to listen and think about quiet quitting, what do you hear?