Recently, there has been a lot of buzz about the concept of “quiet quitting”. You may have seen conversations on LinkedIn, Facebook, TikTok or even some articles online or on news outlets. Many employers are experiencing this concept and there has been a lot of debate about exactly who is to blame and what, if anything, can be done about it.
What is Quiet Quitting?
So, what is it exactly? “Quiet quitting” is a term to describe employees who are not outright quitting their jobs, but who may be essentially “quitting” in other ways. Employees that are no longer willing to put in the extra effort anymore that may once have been expected of them (or of others in the company). These might be individuals who are clocking out right at 5pm, not available to work overtime or on the weekends (particularly if they are in a salaried or exempt position). They may be unwilling to check e-mail on their personal cell phones during off-hours. It has become a hot topic of debate—with employees blaming bad management and management blaming employees for being lazy and not wanting to work.
The Clash of the Generations
The concept of “quiet quitting” has become about employees not being on board with the “hustle”. But, there is something to be said about the toxicity of hustle culture. Employers are labeling employees “lazy” and claiming they “don’t care” when they choose to set boundaries and have work-life balance.
To me, I believe that this is the clash of the Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers with the Millennials and the Gen Z’s. Folks think the younger generation is lazy and doesn’t want to work. However, what we know about the younger generation is that what they’re really saying is, “No, I value my mental health, my personal time, and no job is worth giving up my life for.” They value work-life balance and are no longer willing to just give away their time.
I have trained and coached estate planning attorneys now for the past 18 years and I see this all the time. I have seen many attorneys give up their evenings and weekends and who are putting in 50-60+ hours per week and then are frustrated or upset not being able to find employees who aren’t on board with that. Meanwhile, these attorneys are also one step away from a breakdown of their own and have a revolving door of workers that don’t want to work for them.
More Hours ≠ Hard Worker
I have had attorneys applaud employees that “work hard” because they put in a ton of extra hours in. I have had to correct this thought, because the number of hours one works does not necessarily mean they are productive, efficient, or performing well. It simply means they are willing to put in more hours for work. If an employee is performing his or her job well and meeting their goals and are capable of doing that between regular work hours, just because there is more work to be done (cause there’s always work to be done!), doesn’t mean that employees should be expected to have to put those extra hours in. Often times, employees are working long hours because 1) there are inefficient systems and processes at the workplace and/or 2) there are not enough workers to get all the work done.
If you place a job advertisement that says this position is full-time, 40 hours per week, but what you really mean is it’s “full-time, 40 hours of regular work, plus an additional 20 hours per week”, then that is something that needs to be communicated upfront to a prospective employee. I am also not so sure what employee would want to sign up for such a 60-hour work week, but at least the expectation is properly communicated. However, should one be asked on a regular basis to work outside the standard hours of the job, it should not be a requirement in order to be deemed a “good worker” and to be properly rewarded, acknowledged or valued.
In fact, all too often, when overtime and the “hustle” becomes the norm and not the exception, this is when employers may find employee behavior starting to diminish. Perhaps they begin making more careless mistakes, are late to work more often, are absent more, or perhaps they’re acting out at the office (becoming reactive or having emotional outbursts). These are all symptoms and signs of employee burnout. However, instead of immediately judging employees and labeling them as “lazy” or wanting to get rid of them, this is where employers do need to stop and take a look to see where they may, in fact, be the problem. This brings me to…
Communication, Communication, Communication
The whole concept of “quiet quitting”, in my opinion, is a breakdown in communication. It is a breakdown of communication between the employer and the employee, whether it’s from one or the other, or both. Often times, an employee may have certain expectations or a change in their personal needs and circumstances that may warrant a need to speak with their employer about this and figure out a solution. Sometimes an employer is unhappy with the performance of an employee and instead of speaking with the employee about it, they may just deal with it (for years!) and let the poor performance or the bad behaviors linger and potentially impact the rest of the firm.
In order to have effective communication, both sides need to feel safe and heard. Without this, there is a barrier preventing the necessary communication from happening and then both sides suffer. Clearly communicating needs and expectations is what is needed from both employer and employee. It may not be possible for either side to meet those expectations or needs, and that is okay. Just like in a marriage or relationship, sometimes things don’t work out and there’s someone else out there that is more suited for you. The same goes for the workplace.
If you are the employer, and you feel like you have an employee (or multiple employees) who have quietly quit, then it is time for you to open up a dialogue with your employee(s). Be open to hearing their side and figure out if there is anything that you need to change on your end. And, I would say that if you have repeatedly experienced employees who quietly quit (or blatantly quit), then there is clear evidence to show that something in your practice needs to change. I do not believe it’s entirely on the employer, because I am certainly not saying that you should accept shoddy work or employees with negative behaviors. But, I do think that if an employee has changed or is not performing to your expectations, then it is up to employers to be the ones to initiate that communication.
Sometimes It’s Not Really “Quitting”
One final thought about “quiet quitting”. I bring this from my own personal experience. When I started this job, I was just out of college and I was all about that “hustle”. I worked regularly past 5pm. I put my work e-mail on my personal cell phone and was constantly checking and responding to e-mail. I voluntarily came in on Saturdays for 4 to 6 hours to get more work done. I am also salaried, so I did not get paid a dime for that extra “hustle”, but I did it anyway. And then, I slowly grew to resent my job. More often than I care to admit, I hated waking up on Mondays to go into the office and I physically was sick more often too. I was late. I was absent. I was a part of that culture we seem to allow where you go to that job that you hate, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Who likes to really work?
And then, I had a personal breakthrough. It was through a journey to begin taking better care of myself physically that I began to set some boundaries for myself and my time. Slowly and surely, my work email came off my personal cell phone. I stopped coming in on the weekends. I started to leave at 5pm. I made sure to take my hour lunch break. I began to speak up for what I needed when work had added demands on me, like requesting comp days off after putting in multiple, consecutive 16-hour days. And I have to say that, ever since I have done this, I have absolutely flourished—personally and professionally. I love coming to work now. I love what I do. I am rarely, if ever, out sick. I have more of myself to give during my work hours than I ever did doing that “hustle”.
One could argue that I “quit” the hustle, but I certainly did not “quietly quit” my job. I am confident that if you asked my boss, Phil Kavesh, right now, if he is pleased with my work and my growth over the years, he would adamantly say YES!
This is why I don’t care for the term “quiet quitting”, because there is no quitting being done—at least on my part. I come in on time, I am rarely out, I work my butt off and then I go home and recharge my batteries so I can get up and do it all over again tomorrow. That is self-care to its fullest. I would want my boss and coworkers to do the same so we can all show up and hustle while we’re at the office and be better bosses, workers and coworkers and people at home for our friends and family.
The concept of “quiet quitting” has gotten a bad rap, but it’s not about the quitting part. There are some areas in life where quitting something is actually a great thing, right? I think that it is the “quiet” part that feels passive aggressive or that does not sit well with people. Some of the things we “quit” (or the people we quit on) feel entitled to that difficult conversation to communicate what has changed. This goes back to the need for communication from both sides. Some have argued that it is not the responsibility of the employee to initiate this conversation and that the employer is not entitled to such an explanation of one’s personal boundaries. There may be some truth to that, but I have personally found that the communication of my needs, expectations, and boundaries at my workplace has been extremely beneficial for developing a healthy work environment and a mutually beneficial work relationship.
I would recommend that you take some time to stop and reflect on your own life. Are there areas of your life where perhaps you have quietly quit? Your marriage/relationship? Your children? Your friendships? Your health and own self-care? Perhaps it may be time for a much-needed conversation? Or…perhaps not. 🤫
HOW WE CAN HELP
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristina Schneider is a Practice Success Coach here at The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in 2004 and was hired right out of college to work for the Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, coordinating and facilitating Philip Kavesh’s “Missing Link” Boot Camps while also providing administrative support to Mr. Kavesh as his Executive Assistant for over seven years. Through her direct hands-on experience in Mr. Kavesh’s law firm, Kristina has been able to assist numerous estate planning professionals through The Ultimate Estate Planner and, equally as important, many of their staff members, in the successful implementation of Ultimate Estate Planner’s products and systems. She is currently pursuing her MBA degree from Pepperdine University Grazadio Business School. You can reach Kristina at (424) 247-9495 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.