On Quiet Quitting

As John C. Maxwell says, everything rises and falls on leadership.

We are in the middle of an epidemic, as business news reports. In 2022, “Quiet Quitting” became a hot topic as workers on social media discussed the new trend in the workplace. Then, news media picked it up and spread to most of the major news reporting sites as the big trend impacting labor.

Quiet quitting, if you are unfamiliar with the term, refers to a worker choosing to put in less effort today then they did yesterday. This can take many forms, such as working fewer hours, doing the bare minimum, or simply no longer going “the extra mile.”

“Hopefully, it [the Pandemic] will force us to focus on what is trule important to each of us,”

I wrote that in my journal on March 14, 2020, the day after I was sent to work from home in an effort to “flatten the curve” of Covid cases.

I see signs around me that many of us did indeed find or rediscover what is truly important to us. Many people picked up new hobbies. I, like many others, rediscovered Bob Ross and the Joy of Pointing. My wife returned to her passion of reading.

In 2022, we saw 2 trends that continue this theme of pursuing what is important to us: the great resignation and quiet quitting. The great resignation dominated the headlines in the first half of the year and represented a massive shift of people in roles, companies, and industries.

But my main curiosity is the other major career trend of 2022, Quiet Quitting” - the term used to describe individuals who were putting in less effort at works within their some role. What causes quiet quitting? I See 3 Candidates: work sucks, one’s ‘return on investment’ for their extra effort, and key to my original hypothesis, the pursuit of one’s passions outside of work.

Work Sucks

Social media and Subreddit, like r/antiwork are an outlet for those encountering poor leadership. Bosses who demand remote employees have their cameras on all day while they work, others who require the use of a 1⁄2 PTO day if one works from home. Leaders who state that “we’re like a family” but don’t hesitate to part with family during an economic downturn. Companies that revert pay to minimum wage for workers who quit without a two week’s notice. Governments working to strip unions the right to strike. Bosses who report employees to HR because they did not respond to texts while on vacation. A boss who rewarded hard work with an extra 10 minute break - that has to be Coordinated 24 hours in advance, that can’t be added to a regular break and that expires in 30 days. And all of this on the homepage of the subreddit on one day.

As a leader and an agilist, I see a common thread in all of this: the lack of respect for people. We all deserve respect as fellow human beings. Of these who have been disrespected by a leader, quiet quitting can be an emotional response to the situation. We each strive to have some balance in our lives. To exert some sense of control. And when we feel slighted, human nature responds with a ‘balancing of the scales’. “You interrupt my personal time, I’ll slack off at work to make up for the time lost.” “You disrespect me, then I’ll give you the same level of respect in return.”

With those who ‘quietly quit’ because ‘work sucks’ we have a leadership problem and that starts at the top and filters all the way into the front line managers. To combat ‘work sucks’ we need to raise the level of leadership, and that starts with a simple respect for people.

Return on Investment

Every day, people go to work and “go the extra mile”. For some, they are driven by an internal fire. They’re found their calling. For others, they are extrinsically motivated, hoping to get to the next level. But is that next level worth it? For some who choose to go the ‘Quiet Quitting’ route, it may be a very logical decision instead of an emotional one.

Time is a precious resource, one we only have so much of. Is ‘giving 110%’ in hopes of a potential reward a smart investment? For those who put in the effort, it may be a good use of their time. Others may have done the math and decided their time is better spent else where, with family, with a hobby, or with their own passions.


‘Ryan Daniels was an account executive for a major adentising agency. “and by the time he was forty, he had a very high- paying job that demanded seventy-hour weeks with a bonus of unrelenting stress. […] He moved to a much smaller company where he could, in his own words, “coast” and still excel.” Ryan used this freed up time to explore his passions and spend time with his family.’ And Ryan did all of this before the internet.

Ryan’s story comes to us from Bob Bufford’s 1994 book “Halftime”. In it, the author spoke of taking our mid-life and heading into halftime to plan and uncover the one thing we decide to “put in the box” and hang our personal passions on for the 2nd half of our life. It speaks of finding our calling, either in our work, through a career change, charity work, or through pursuits outside of work.

In this last example, he offered the “half speed option”, where one intentionally works less, either by switching to a less demanding and stressful job or by cutting back on one’s efforts at work by volunteering for less, being more efficient with one’s time, or by lowering one’s standards on the work they do, striving for doing acceptable instead of outstanding work.

I share this because while “quiet quitting” is a new term, it is not a new concept. Inherent in all of us is a choice of what is significant for us. Many choose work as this item of significance. But drastic life changes, like a pandemic, causes one to reasses what is important in life. Among the top regrets of the dying, no one said they wish they worked more. In fact, the number three regret is that they wished they worked less!


Quiet quitting is not a new concept, but it may be gaining in popularity. I believe there are many cases of this trend and the pandemic served as a catalyst. American culture is shifting, as it always has. Hard work is not valued as highly as it used to be, from my vantage point. And factors such as poor leadership, low ROI on putting in extra effort, and people choosing to follow their passions, have all led us here.

What can we do about this trend? It starts and ends in enlightened leadership. It starts with leaders who can connect people’s passions to their work and who offer people respect. To punish, bemoan, or micromanage employees because one suspects their people are “quiet quitting’ will only fan the flames.

To quote John C. Maxwell, ‘everything rises and falls on leadership’. If this problem exists in corporate America, then it was caused by the leaders in corporate America. Yet here too is where the problem can be reversed.