I’m not sure it’s hit Webster’s yet, although at the rate things are going I’m sure it will. So in the meantime, here’s my definition:
Quiet quitting: A practice of doing what’s required at work, but not more, and ensuring that work effort is contained within what the employee believes are acceptable time and effort boundaries.
In practical terms it means not staying late or taking on projects over and above what’s agreed as part of one’s responsibility. It’s been identified as a reaction to “hustle culture” and is believed to be on the rise as the mental health impacts of burnout are becoming more pervasive.
It’s not a new idea, this “quiet quitting.” But it’s a problematic phrase for many reasons – it implies slacker behaviour or a decision to perform poorly, neither of which are necessarily the case. It also implies that the employee is taking steps to solve for workplace issues that are bigger than how one person feels. And I believe it puts companies on the defensive, which is not likely the most constructive position if the current state of today’s workplaces are really going to change.
So let’s get rid of the phrase – and the relatively passive approach it implies – shall we?
I vote instead for “Loud Thriving.”
When opting for the “quiet quit,” the employee is taking on the entire burden of mitigating whatever it is that feels untenable or unreasonable or unsatisfying about their work circumstances. Given my view that work is a relationship, this approach doesn’t seem fair or reasonable or in any way supportive of collaborating on and ideally reaching a sustainable outcome that might potentially work for everyone.
On the other hand, if we collectively embraced “loud thriving” we’d be cultivating broad scale awareness of how the role of work needs to change in our lives, and how workplaces need to adapt to the real needs of today’s employees. We’d be supporting well-being, both physical and mental, which can only be good for productivity and company culture. And I know for certain, after decades worth of conversations about it, that no one is truly successful unless they are both happy and healthy.
I believe that most leaders – and by extension, most organizations – would really rather have employees who are engaged and uplifted by their work and where they do it than employees who are either disengaged or increasingly feeling like their work is a necessary evil. Certainly we hear that in our CEO coaching engagements – executive level leaders are struggling with how to respond to the changed needs of their people while ensuring the business performance continues as it needs to, but they for the most part really do want to do right by their people. Companies might not have quite caught up yet to what it’s going to take to drive engagement in this new world of work, but I believe that for the most part their intentions are in the right place.
Similarly, I believe that most employees do truly want to feel fulfilled by their work, and are willing to work hard at it, and that few truly want to damage or behave detrimentally to the company that employs them. Yet it seems that more and more employees are feeling like they have no choice but to suffer in silence, counting the minutes until they can shift into their “real” lives.
To me, “loud thriving” feels more proactive, more transparent, and frankly more fun.
Let’s start celebrating people who publicly love their work AND their life. Let’s reward the people who say “I’ll get to that after my child’s sports event” or “Let’s meet on that after I get back from the gym.” Let’s create the space for talking about real deadlines rather than false urgency, real capacity rather than grind and hustle, and evaluating performance on both the quality of the work and the happiness of the individual doing it. Thriving out loud could become a movement!
At the core of all of this is trust and relationship. If employers trust that their people are genuinely trying to do their best, and employees trust that companies aren’t intentionally trying to damage them – well, that two way contract would be a nice place to start at the very least.
I challenge everyone to take a look around and give a (real or virtual) high five to someone you see thriving out loud, publicly, unashamedly. Let’s make loud thriving the rule, rather than the exception.