Posted September 17, 2022 by Mark Perna
Quiet quitting is not just how employees take back their lives. It’s how companies thrive for the long term. Mark’s article, “Every Person On My Team Is A Quiet Quitter. Here’s Why We’re Thriving,” published at Forbes.com on September 6, 2022.
Long before it was a buzzword, my team was quiet-quitting.
As many have already said, “quiet quitting” is a big misnomer. It refers not to people who unobtrusively hand in their resignation, but who competently do the work they’re paid for and then step away to give time and energy to the rest of their life: family, hobbies and other pursuits that make their lives meaningful.
Now, “quiet firing” has entered the conversation: setting employees up to fail by not giving them constructive feedback, advancement opportunities, stretch assignments, significant raises or a voice in the direction of the company.
I’d suggest that quiet quitting is not the result of quiet firing. Quitting altogether is the result of quiet firing. Quiet quitting is what employees are free to do when a company proactively supports them in setting boundaries, beating burnout and safeguarding their mental health.
Framed this way, quiet quitting is an extremely positive thing. It’s really just another way to talk about healthy work-life balance. And I’m perplexed as to why many business leaders are viewing quiet quitting as something negative that they need to argue against.
Don’t they want their people to lead full, healthy, enjoyable lives? Don’t they realize that happy employees are the ones who contribute most to the organization’s success? Don’t they care that an unspoken demand for more work than they’re paying for is, quite simply, unethical?
Yes, I’m a fan of going above and beyond. I advise young people to “show up five minutes early, leave five minutes late and care while you’re there.” This isn’t a strict rule of adding exactly ten minutes to your workday, but rather, being excited to make a difference at work, bringing your A-game and following through so that at the end of each day, you’ve hit your goals. None of this means working for free.
Quiet quitting is not just how employees take back their lives. It’s how companies thrive for the long term.
Here are three way that I, as a business owner, encourage my people to quietly quit every single day.
1. Don’t ask permission for time away. I tell them all the time: family first. If you need to take time off in the middle of the day to play chauffeur to your kids or take your ailing parent to a doctor’s appointment, not only can you do it—but you don’t even have to ask for permission. Just do it. Take care of family first.
In fact, you don’t even have to ask permission for when you can take your vacation time. Just schedule it and then communicate to the team when you will be out.
How about sick time or mental health days? What if, as recently happened, someone on our team gets a life-changing diagnosis like cancer? It goes without saying that they can take all the time they need to take care of themselves and get better. “I have a chemo appointment, can I take that day off?” would be an absurd request in our culture.
2. Use email effectively. A lot of people hate email because sending one is basically getting in line for the other person’s attention. But that’s one of the beauties of email: you get in line. You don’t get to demand someone’s time and undivided attention instantly as you would in a meeting or phone call.
Yes, we do lots of meetings and phone calls when we need to. Those are effective ways to communicate and collaborate. But we’re careful not to schedule a meeting or pick up the phone when an email will suffice. Email gives us all a trail to refer back to and ensures that everyone who needs the information, has it.
I will happily get in line via email for my employees’ time and attention because I know that they’re working on important things and they will respond to my message in the right priority for their day. No stress, no worries and no unnecessary interruptions.
Not to mention that it works both ways: when my team sends me an email, they’re also getting in line for my attention. I give that attention just as soon as I can, based on my own workload and travel schedule that day.
3. If you need more resources, just ask. If someone on my team finds themselves overwhelmed with the amount of work on their plate, there’s a solution for that. It’s called bringing in more resources to support that person—not expecting them to pick up all that slack.
Maybe we need to tap into a freelance solution, maybe some of the work can be delegated to someone on the team who has more time. Maybe we need to consider if this particular project is even essential to our business. There are lots of options, but overworking my employees is never one of them. If they can’t handle their increasing load, they know what to do. We talk frankly about it and come up with a plan together.
The bottom line is that the people that I hire are adults. And that’s how I treat them.
I’ve written before about the top five professional skills I look for when hiring someone into the business. Hiring for the right behaviors, not just the right skills, is critical if you want to build a culture of quiet quitting.
I’m also very careful not to rush the hiring process. Our company is fortunate that in our area of expertise, we’re often able to “test drive” employees by working with them on a freelance basis first. This works to the benefit of both parties, as we get a feel for each other and consider what a long-term partnership might look like. We both know when the moment is right to make it official and bring them on as a full-fledged member of the team.
Finally, I carve out the time to build a human connection with each person. I know their family members’ names and I ask about them. I know if they have a big event coming up. If one of my employees bakes a fun cake for her kid’s birthday, if someone runs a marathon or volunteers in their community or shares pictures from their vacation, I’m cheering them on. I care about them as people, not as work-producing automatons.
One reason we quiet-quit so successfully is because we all view ourselves as owners of the company and its vision. When there is a compelling purpose in place, empowering employees—which is really just getting out of their way—always leads to greater results than if a single owner drives the performance.
This is not a call for anarchy or weak leadership. I believe leaders should be decisive, brave and able to take smart risks. But wise leadership is never dictatorship. An autocratic, I’m-the-boss, you’re-the-subordinate style has never gone down well (and stands even less chance of success with the up-and-coming Generation Z).
Yes, it’s up to me as the official owner of the company to lay a vision before the team, but this vision is never presented as a fait accompli that they need to get on board with or else. It is an ongoing and collaborative purpose that we create together. This is what makes our work worth doing: we all own it.
All of this works for our organization because at the end of the day, I trust my team to get the work done. No one here is going to leave a coworker or client hanging; that’s just not our standard. Trust is the secret ingredient that makes not just remote work but every kind of work, actually work.
Contrary to what most people might assume, my team of quiet quitters works nights, weekends and even holidays at times. This is not because I make them or they feel like such devotion is the only way to score a promotion. No, it’s because they want to. No one has to; all that’s expected is that the work gets done. How, where and when is all at their discretion. They have the flexibility to set their own schedule so they have the time they need for everything else in their lives.
When you hire the right people, treat them like the intelligent, autonomous adults they are and support their healthy work-life balance, you can create a culture of quiet quitting—where no one wants to quit.