https://www.bonnielowkramen.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/QuietQuitting-SufferingInSilence-Art.png 788 940 Bonnie Low-Kramen /wp-content/uploads/2020/08/bonnie-low-logo.png Bonnie Low-Kramen2022-09-26 07:00:002022-09-14 14:34:05Quiet Quitting = Suffering in Silence. Silence isn’t good. Period. By Bonnie Low-Kramen
Silence hurts people and the companies they populate. Therefore, quiet quitting is not a good thing and never has been.
When I started reading about this new term “quiet quitting,” my first thought was that this was nothing new. Not new to the staffs of the world anyway. I wondered why anyone was surprised, especially in light of the remote and hybrid workplaces, which makes it even easier for staff to be quiet and literally invisible? On top of that we have been reading endlessly about the Great Resignation and the YOLO economy – you only live once – causing staff to jump ship.
Whether you leave a job by choice or by being forced out, it causes stress-filled feelings. Lots of uncomfortable feelings.
Back in 2004, quiet quitting was called “presenteeism.” In 2022, it is also being called “ghost quitting.” All of these words boil down to paid staff doing the bare minimum of work to keep their jobs while, in many cases, they are busy looking for another job.
No matter which name you call it, the behavior is not healthy for individual staff and it is certainly not productive for companies and the managers who lead them.
The big question is, why are they doing that? Why are they quietly quitting?
The answer is as clear as the proverbial bell – if you can motivate that bell to ring. Too often though, staff are too afraid or too angry to speak truth to power about the real reasons they want to quit. My February, 2022 TEDx talk was called The Real Reasons People Quit. In it, I discuss that the real reasons are rarely in letters of resignation or spoken aloud at exit interviews. There is too much fear to do so.
Doing the bare minimum of work involves passive aggressive behaviors which are a form of retaliation and a cry for help. Retaliation against what? A cry for help about what? In a word, it’s about disrespect. When staff feels safe to say the truth, their answers are rooted in feeling disrespected.
The disrespect can be about a myriad of issues – being overlooked for a raise, not being asked to work on a project, rules not being fairly applied, experiencing discrimination, or not being praised in a meeting when others were. The quiet quitters do not feel empowered to assert themselves to their leaders about the root problems, so they justify their mediocre performance with thoughts such as; “Why should I work so hard? They don’t care about me so why should I care about them? I’m going to do just enough and see if anyone is paying attention. No one notices me anyway. Clearly, I don’t matter.”
Most staff who behave and think like this are not happy in the status quo. They feel trapped, helpless, hopeless, and desperate. Common feelings associated with the highly stressful state of mind are anger, sadness, anxiety and depression and these feelings dominate their brains and their time. And so, staff feel that they have no other choice but to stay put.
When these staffers are preoccupied with the feelings surrounding their disrespectful situation, it is impossible to perform excellent work anyway.
To satirize horrendous, clueless, and mean-spirted managers, the mass media offered up the revenge comedy films “9 to 5” in 1980 and “Office Space” in 1999, as two famous examples. “9 to 5” focused on the female office staff who were sexually harassed, bullied, and underpaid. In “Office Space,” the male office staff were given mundane work to do, they were bored, and poorly managed by 8 managers, not 1. The staff in both films felt severely disrespected and sought revenge. In “9 to 5,” the staff kidnapped the executive and kept him captive in his office until he apologized and learned his “lesson.” In “Office Space,” the staff stole $300,000 from the company and then burned down the building.
Despite being extreme satire, both films paint a familiar and relatable picture of the kind of anger that gets provoked when staff feel disrespected.
My advice for anyone tempted to quietly quit is, don’t do it. Doing the bare minimum is not a sustainable or satisfying situation. It’s like sitting in a cold, wet rain puddle for an extended period of time. I call it a “puddle of discomfort” and it’s not worth living like this, especially for the long term.
I coach my students to do the following;
- Be honest about what the problem really is and determine on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most, how stressful is the status quo on the average day? If it is a 6 or above, I recommend seeking the support of a skilled talk therapist and maybe even medication to manage the stress.
- Decide if they are ready to leave the company for real or would they ideally like to work things out and to be proactive about developing that plan, whichever way they choose.
- If they want to stay, I recommend preparing a written business case to clearly present the challenges and proposed solutions, which could include a change in manager or department.
- Work with someone to help them find their voice to speak up to leaders, colleagues, and to HR in a way that inspires others to listen and respond positively.
In the work I do training Executive and Personal Assistants all over the world, I see that we are paying a very high price for the silence, both as individuals and as companies. The silence is destroying companies from the inside out.
The good news about all the press about quiet quitting is that it is shining a light on what is not being said in the workplace. Quite simply, there is not enough talking happening between leaders and the “backbone of the company.” The smartest leaders know that their most important job is to make their staff feel safe to speak their minds truthfully, respectfully, factually, and without backlash.
Our workplace will be a much better place if the staff can speak truth to power and finally say those quiet parts out loud. If and when that happens, quiet quitting will stop being a thing.
I am Bonnie Low-Kramen, TEDx speaker, author of “Be the Ultimate Assistant” and trainer of Executive Assistants all over the world. As part of my work to build ultimate business partnerships, I was published in Harvard Business Review and featured in a Forbes online cover story. In the research for my second book about the workplace to be published in 2023, I have had over 1,500 conversations with assistants, leaders, HR professionals, recruiters, and business school professors in 14 countries and 38 states. I am excited to work with you towards building your ultimate workplace. Click here to set up a time to speak with me about your training needs which can be delivered virtually or in person.