Four menacing myths and misperceptions about quiet quitting

COVID-19 and the subsequent healthcare workforce crisis has created a whole new vocabulary of catch phrases and acronyms to describe the new realities of work, including the “great resignation,” WFH and hybrid office. The latest: quiet quitting.

The term quiet quitting gives companies, consultants, and columnists another buzz-term to apply to the current workforce turmoil. But like any catchword, it means different things to different people. The causes and consequences of quiet quitting also vary widely, depending on who you ask.

Along with wide-ranging opinions, myths and misperceptions have cropped up since a quiet-quitting video started trending on TikTok a few weeks ago. Here are a few of the most common – and most dangerous – for organizations to believe.

Myth #1: Quiet quitting is a new phenomenon brought on by the pandemic

Actually, not even the term quiet quitting is new. Economist Mark Boldger first used the phrase in 2009 at a Texas A&M symposium to describe diminishing ambitions in Venezuela. Today, frustrated workers have co-opted the phrase as a clever way to describe the feeling, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

In fact, employees adopting this strategy may in fact be solid performers who have made the decision that going above-and-beyond just doesn’t make sense for them anymore. That can be for personal, life-balancing reasons or because their company doesn’t recognize or appreciate it when they do.

Myth #2: Employees willfully, maliciously plot their plan to quietly quit

Employees seldom decide to quietly quit overnight. Usually, backing off an above-and-beyond pace is a gradual reduction over time rather than an abrupt demarcation of new boundaries.

Remember, quiet quitters by definition simply do what is required and no more. They’re not slackers who consistently underperform and ignore standards.

Myth #3: Only bad employees quietly quit

Quiet quitting on the surface sounds like something only unconscientious people would do. In fact, this path can be a rational, expected response to burnout, which we know is rampant in many organizations. Some of a company’s best, hardest working employees may be especially susceptible to burnout.

Maybe organizations indirectly, unwittingly encourage employees to adopt moderated work effort and schedules. Many employee engagement surveys specifically ask the question, “Do you feel that you have a good work/life balance?” For employees who introspectively answer “no,” quiet quitting is certainly one way to achieve that.

Myth #4: There’s not much an organization can do about quiet quitters

Though employees may decide to dial-down effort for multiple reasons, studies shows that most of their feelings about their jobs are shaped by actions the company takes every day to support and engage them. Gallup research reveals that 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement is explained by one thing: the person the employee reports to.

For organizations that want to discourage quiet quitting, nurturing and recognizing employee contributions has to be a top priority. Employees want their work environment to be fair and for people to be held equitably accountable. They need to have some say in how their day-to-day work gets done within their team. And they need to feel supported not just by their manager but also by their teammates.

Not surprisingly, these are the very factors that Dr. Christina Maslach, professor emerita at UC Berkeley and author of The Truth about Burnout, identified as leadership practices that help reduce burnout over 25 years ago. The social environment in which people work strongly influences how they feel about their job. It also explains why employees in some organizations consistently feel good about going above-and-beyond in serving patients/customers.

Contact Us for a free consultation to discuss preventing burnout in your healthcare organization.