Words matter. So let’s stop calling it “quiet quitting,” which points a finger at the person who is doing what they should be: setting boundaries.
I’ve long advised leaders on being thoughtful about those who “quit but stay.” By that I mean those who completely disengage from their jobs because they’re unhappy, and proceed to underperform knowing that for one reason or another (tight hiring market, specialized skills, etc.), they’re unlikely to be called on their underperformance.
But the recent media attention on “quiet quitting” is different. This is about people rejecting hustle culture, setting boundaries, and recognizing that life is about more than work.
It’s not about underperforming unless we consider underperformers to be those who aren’t doing more than what’s expected of them.
It’s NOT disengagement. You can have a highly engaged and performing employee who also sets healthy boundaries.
In fact, I’d argue that they’re even higher performing and more engaged than someone who is burning out from overwork.
So why are we giving them such a negative label? Words matter, and “quiet quitting” is intended to sound negative. It’s finger-pointing and blaming.
Is our culture of work so sick that we will slap such a gross moniker on people who are just setting healthy boundaries and leaning in to self-care?
Coming up with catchy buzz phrases isn’t in my skillset. What ideas do you have for something positive and equally catchy to explain this phenomenon?
PS: This shouldn’t have to be a phenomenon–healthy boundaries and self-care are COMMON SENSE.
Further reading from NPR.com