Is Leadership to Blame for Quiet Quitting or Is It Just Plain Old Disengagement?



"Quiet quitting" is the new term for disengaged, unproductive employees. Same condition, different name. I knew people who were quiet quitting in the 1980s and it wasn't because of burnout, as some Gen Z people are now claiming (you haven't worked long enough to suffer from burnout). Back then, they lacked the initiative to either (1) do the work or (2) quit and go somewhere else less challenging. There's an unethical element to it all, like collecting unemployment while working for cash under the table (which is unethical and illegal).


I think Alan Weiss said it best: As long as you're quiet quitting, you can quietly leave the building.


Personalities and Real Life Unleashed in the Workplace

Quiet quitting — disengagement and the sins that accompany it — have several causes. People come with a variety of characteristics that vary across the spectrum; some are gregarious, and some are submissive. Others are prone to anxiety or tranquil. Some are optimists and some are pessimists. For every achiever in an organization, there's someone who's slothful in his or her approach to work.


In that mix, we also have people struggling with illness, death in the family, divorce, and financial, emotional, or physical challenges that further impede their approach to work. Oh, and there are some who labor under ineffective leaders or unreasonable workloads.


My mother once counseled me that people do the best they can with the tools they have at their disposal at the time. Bad tools make for bad results, and some never learn the lesson of exchanging such tools for better ones. They are thus destined to remain in a faulty "if-then" loop. There are many such individuals jumping on the quiet-quitting train in every organization.


Jordan Peterson: "Down is a lot easier than up."

As Jordan Peterson in, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, surmises with many such individuals who are stuck in this loop: "It's partly fate. It's partly inability. It's partly... [an] unwillingness to learn? Refusal to learn? Motivated refusal to learn?...to fail, you merely have to cultivate a few bad habits..."


Peterson describes the infection of negativity such people spread in personal and group relationships when too many resources are dedicated to "helping" them. Why do team energy and morale increase when the person who was the constant disruptor-complainer or the ever-present arrogant cynic is no longer around?


There are options...

There are several options available to managers and leaders in dealing with this apparent epidemic of disengagement: (1) Determine whether the source is ineffective leadership and correct it; (2) place individuals on a probationary period (one quarter, for example) to give them the opportunity to bring their work up to acceptable expectations; (3) determine whether an individual is undergoing a life crisis and requires counseling or other assistance, or (4) fire them.

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