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‘Quiet Quitting’: A new label, not a new phenomenon

August 30, 2022
By Todd Humber


Photo: Adobe Stock

I’m trying really hard to get worked up over the quiet quitting phenomenon. It’s not working.

I can’t channel the rage of Kevin O’Leary, the billionaire Canadian entrepreneur.

“This is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” O’Leary said in a CNBC interview. “If you’re a quiet quitter, you’re a loser.”

Quiet quitting is simply a new label, not a new phenomenon. For years, I’ve firmly believed in the 10-10-80 rule.

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The 10-10-80 rule

Ten per cent of your employees are completely slacking off and would probably be fired if their managers knew how little work they were actually doing.

Ten per cent of your employees are high performers, willing to constantly go above and beyond to get the job done and tackle new assignments with glee.

The vast majority, 80 per cent, of your team is just there to do the job. They’re not incompetent, they’re simply completing the tasks you’re paying them to do and heading home when the clock strikes five. These are the “quiet quitters” of the viral TikTok world.

The first time I heard the phrase was from TikTok user Zaid K. He said quiet quitting is “where you’re not outright quitting your job, but 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.”

Simply put, your worth as a person is not defined by your labour, he said.

Another TikToker, Clayton Harris, put it this way: “I don’t stress and internally rip myself to shreds.”

The opportunity

While it’s tempting to greet the latest trend with a yawn, it does give organizations an opportunity to emphasize the right benefits in a market that currently favours employees. (Actually, the job market always favours talent, even or perhaps especially in a recession. Good people are always in demand.)

While some, a la O’Leary, would suggest that quiet quitters go somewhere else, I disagree. As much as you’d like, you can never build a team of 100 per cent high performers. It’s simply not possible to fill your ranks with these people.

You need the 80 per cent, and these quiet quitters aren’t phoning it in — they’re merely doing the job you’re paying them to do and going home to their regular lives. What you can do is nurture this talent pool to ensure they don’t disengage further and fall into that other 10 per cent: The ones who have given up.

For HR, the reaction to quiet quitting is simple: Don’t hit the panic button.

Rather, continue to emphasize all the great benefits of your organization, playing to your strengths. Talk through the culture, the perks, the opportunities for growth and development.

Understand that you can’t turn everyone on the team into a high performer: There is always a bit of nature and nurture in that group you can’t completely control.

Accept that it’s OK for a competent employee to do what was asked, fold that laptop screen down at 5 p.m. and wander away to their families and friends.

They’ll be back tomorrow, putting in the same honest day’s work and helping your organization meet its goals.


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