There’s a new buzzword being slung around the internet recently: Quiet Quitting. While people seem to still be teasing out what this term really means, the generally agreed-upon bones of the phrase are that it indicates the renunciation of “hustle culture” and a change in behavior to no longer go “above and beyond” at work. There also seems to be some general agreement that Quiet Quitting is the new major pandemic-related ripple sweeping through workplace culture, the new wave following the Great Resignation.
One article I read asserted that Quiet Quitting is a healthy, if overdue, re-establishment of boundaries with one’s employer. In another article by NPR, the author claimed that Quiet Quitting is a natural response to burnout and work cultures that benefit employers with the standing expectation of extra work without compensation. Both articles seemed to be supportive of workers being less than fully engaged at work as a way of re-empowering themselves and reclaiming their lives. Between the lines, we receive the message that work is drudgery, and it’s high time we rescue ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong – as a single mom in the workplace, I am truly and fully supportive of work-life balance, healthy boundaries at work, and equitable working arrangements that mutually benefit both employer and employee. But I can’t quite shake the feeling that Quiet Quitting is simply, at least in some ways, a way of re-branding and normalizing “disengagement”.
And disengagement is an enormous business problem. Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace study reports that only 21% of the world’s employees are engaged at work. The annual lost productivity cost associated with staff who aren’t engaged or worse, are actively disengaged, is estimated at $7.8 trillion. That’s a trillion with a T. Yow. And in 2011, researchers learned that, on average, managers utilize only 66 percent of people’s capability (but 66% utilization also means 34% waste). As leaders, we hold a great deal of responsibility for these low numbers. Is this an inevitability in today’s business world, or can we do better?
Liz Wiseman, the author of Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, introduces us to the concept of leaders who are able to consistently reverse these statistics - fully leveraging staff potential, bringing out their absolute best work, and keeping them fully engaged at the same time. These leaders are Multipliers, and they consistently get as much as double or triple productivity out of their employees as other managers. But how? Multipliers view intelligence as continually developing and generally work on the assumption that “people are smart and will figure it out.” Multipliers expect greatness, and they create the psychological safety necessary for people to truly thrive. They see opportunity and potential in people, and purposely take steps to accelerate their growth. People are challenged to come up with solutions, they’re pushed to their limits, and they’re given the freedom to use their ideas under the right conditions to support evolution and growth. This creates a mutual benefit that goes way beyond a paycheck. And people respond to this leadership approach and thrive. People who work for Multipliers describe their work experience as exhausting but also exhilarating and inspiring.
It's important to note that at the opposite end of the continuum are Diminishers and Accidental Diminishers (well-intentioned managers who think they are doing a good job leading), who, through a variety of means, under-utilize their people and create work environments that are high in frustration and energy drain, and low in motivation, creativity, and satisfaction. To me, this sounds like the type of environment which would invite Quiet Quitting.
Some people seem to be natural Multipliers. The rest of us need to evaluate our leadership style and find out where our strengths are, and where we might be holding our teams back despite our own best intentions. The great news here is that any of us can unlearn our Diminishing tendencies and train ourselves to think and operate more like a Multiplier. There are skills and habits which can be practiced so we can enhance our ability to bring out the best in our teams.
The way we choose to lead matters on multiple levels - for the organizations we develop, for the people we lead, and on a personal level. After all, working to bring out the best in others is also a fantastic way to bring out the best in ourselves. But the impact we have on others can have ripple effects in others’ lives that reach far beyond our direct influence.
Nikki is the Director of Continuous Compliance at Simplifyance, responsible for providing comprehensive, ongoing organizational support in all areas related to healthcare quality, licensure and accreditation, safety and risk management, performance improvement, and regulatory compliance. As a seasoned behavioral healthcare leader with over 20 years of behavioral healthcare experience in both inpatient and outpatient settings, Nikki is known for strong systems thinking and innovative problem-solving in complex service delivery environments. She has been recognized by state leaders for excellence in risk management investigation and follow-up. Nikki is a solutions-focused servant leader who is committed to improving the lives of others and enjoys collaborating with those who are similarly driven. She is a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality and is based in Fort Myers, Florida. In her free time, she enjoys yoga and staying active outdoors.