Quiet Quitting May Affect Your Career Trajectory

by Jan 24, 2023Culture, Decision Making, Delegation, HR, Talent

I want to join in on the conversation on the topic of “quiet quitting.” The whole idea is that some people feel taken advantage of by their employers and they’re fighting back by doing their job to the letter: not an inch more.

I get it. For anyone who does feel like they’ve been taken advantage of, fighting back in this way probably feels good. You work 40 hours and go home. But it’s worth noting that this is far from a new trend. It’s existed for as long as people have worked for each other.

I experienced something similar earlier in my career when I worked in a business with a unionized workforce. Any time the union felt aggrieved, they would implement something called “work to rule,” another word for quiet quitting. The union workforce would do exactly as much work as specified in the labor contract and no more. This approach caused significant problems in a company accustomed to a bit more. The individuals engaged in working to rule because their loyalty was to the union, not the company, and they generally did not have aspirations for higher-level positions.

But that example should also serve as a cautionary tale for those embracing quiet quitting these days — especially if they take the time to think about the career they want in the future. In some cases, quiet quitting now might severely limit the kinds of jobs you can land in the future.

Let me share a few reasons why.

Limits Career Progression

Every leader of an organization looks for some combination of hustle, ambition, and desire to identify high-potential employees who can emerge as leaders — maybe even as successors to the C Suite. But if you’re leaning into quiet quitting and making sure you’re out the door or shutting down your computer right at 5:00, you might inadvertently be taking yourself out of opportunities to earn a promotion. If you’re happy in your current position, it might not matter as much. But if you ever harbor any fantasy of taking on new responsibilities and maybe even getting a raise, you might be handicapping yourself.

Limits New Assignments

If you, as a manager, have a quiet quitter working for you, will you ask them to tackle the new and exciting project you’re taking on? No, you won’t. As one old saying goes, if you want to get the job done, give it to the busy person because you know they’ll get it done. If you’re bored with your current job and your solution is to protect your time and quiet quit, you’re probably only ensuring that you’ll never get the chance to do something new and exciting that might fit your career trajectory even better.

Creates Tension With Teammates

There might be cases where an entire team might collectively decide to quiet quit together. But it’s more likely that some ambitious or conscientious people might be inspired to work extra hours and further their careers while the other half opts out. In that situation, there will inevitably be tension between the two groups — especially when people doing the extra work have to cover for their peers. They’re going to resent that they now must work even more to achieve the same team result — which is likely to create scorn and negativity. Again, this might work out just fine for you. But it’s critical to remember that most people land new jobs based on referrals and recommendations. And if you’ve established a reputation as someone not willing to go the extra mile with your peers, recognize that you can’t count on them to help you land jobs in the future.

On the Chopping Block

While the labor market over the past few years has given employees a lot of power over employers — especially with millions of unfilled jobs — that dynamic might change as the economy softens and layoffs increase.

It’s worth noting that when companies get into trouble and are forced to cut staff, where do they start? They start at the bottom. Most companies will do anything to keep their A players and, in most cases, their B players. That puts the C players squarely in the target. And if you have been quiet quitting, doing just enough to keep your job up until now, you might find the tables suddenly flipped on you where your job no longer exists. A few extra hours of work might be cheap insurance against a layoff.

Opening Your Eyes

Look, I understand why some people feel abused by their work environment. And I don’t want to come across as some Boomer criticizing young people. I’ve just been here before, and I’ve seen how coasting along and doing the minimum can disastrously impact your long-term career, depending on where you want to go with it. More than that, I have had to make those layoff decisions, and a quiet quitter would be high on the list to exit the company. So, keep this in mind as you decide if quiet quitting is the best strategy for your career today and into the future.