Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting is not really about quitting. It’s a philosophy about not going above and beyond. And, with a historically tight labor market leading to increased job security in many industries, many employees are now feeling empowered to reevaluate the way they work.

A 20-something engineer named Zaid Khan aired a 17-second video on TikTok, during which he says, “I recently learned about this term called quiet quitting, where you’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is it’s not — and your worth as a person is not defined by your labor."

This trend has recently emerged in the news with a shift in perspective: as the economic outlook worsens and outright quitting becomes less feasible for many, this quiet alternative is likely to become increasingly common. A recent Gallup survey found that quiet quitters comprise at least half of the US workforce!

Recently, Elon Musk gave Twitter workers a choice between working until the job was done (e.g. lots of overtime) and quitting. Many Twitter employees chose quitting. Our younger son, an engineer, made the same choice several years ago at a local company.

What would happen if we examined our expectations of workers? Let’s look at the math. If a person works 9 hours a day instead of 8, where does the additional work hour come from? The rest of a person’s workday has several major blocks, such as commuting; sleeping; “personal stuff” such as shopping, doctor’s visits, etc.; and family time. The only two categories that are somewhat flexible are sleeping and family time, so that’s where the one hour per day gets taken from. And sleep reduction is, at best, a short-term strategy. That leaves family/personal time as the block from which the overtime gets drawn. And for many (most?) employees, family/personal time is a precious commodity.

So instead of designing our organizations to expect and assume unpaid overtime, what would happen if we design them to have everyone be as effective as possible during their 8-hour workday? How about that for a radical idea? It’s possible, you know. We can use Lean thinking to eliminate wasted time and effort. Additionally, studies have shown that over the long run people get as much done in an 8-hour workday as they do in a 9-hour workday, because they don’t work quite as intensely during a 9-hour workday (pacing themselves so that they can be at work for the full 9 hours).

What do you think? Would this work in your organization?

Gary Langenwalter

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