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#QuietQuitting: How Renaming Boundaries Against Inequity Became a Hashtag

Co-Authored

Marilyn Nagel | Co-Founder & Chief Advocacy Officer, RISEQUITY

David Posner, Ph.D. | Analytics & Strategy Specialist, RISEQUITY


Where you stand on the new buzzword, "quiet quitting," likely depends on whether, to you, it means "slouching on the job" or "setting healthy boundaries with your employer." But, even with the latter definition, one that is more charitable, mindful, and socially acceptable, quiet quitting may not be a tenable option for frontline workers, who are disproportionately women and from underrepresented communities. Quiet quitting has serious implications when HR and DE&I professionals consider which employees to invest in and nurture, which to let go, and how to build the optimal workforce for your company.


But the study from the Center for Talent Innovation (now Coqual) on bias was particularly sobering from the bottom-line perspective and interesting because it demonstrates how those who perceive bias are three times more alienated at work. And, not only are they more likely to leave, but the downstream implications of that also indicate that they are:

  • 4x less likely to follow through on assignments

  • 2.6x more likely to withhold ideas

The study cited an estimate from Gallup that active employee disengagement costs U.S. companies $450 to $550 billion annually. This data was before the pandemic, before working from home, before the Great Exodus, and before the term quiet quitting was coined!


The new language of quiet quitting does not consider that this has been in play for years and has a higher cost for underrepresented populations. For people of color, women, and other underrepresented communities, whose performance is often under greater scrutiny, pulling back can be used against them and too risky.


For instance, in a recent article in Black Enterprise, Monne Williams, McKinsey partner and co-author of Race in the workplace: The frontline experience, outlined three critical practices that Black American employees can cultivate to overcome systemic disadvantages in job advancement. This approach cannot be accomplished while adhering to the catchy quiet quitting motto, "Do your job. Get paid. Go home"; nor by the advice to stick carefully to tasks within your formal job description.


Worst among employment experiences is the situation of frontline hourly employees. Quiet quitting is inaccessible to hourly workers, who are less privileged and often over-indexed with women and people of color.


Quiet quitting, as a proto-movement or as a slogan, has long been a consideration for more finely tuned Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) professionals. In the DE&I field, retention of marginalized employees is a well-recognized imperative for cultivating workforce diversity.


Quiet quitting, as a proto-movement or as a slogan, has long been a consideration for more finely tuned Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) professionals. In the DE&I field, retention of marginalized employees is a well-recognized imperative for cultivating workforce diversity.


Several recent articles, podcasts, and news programs, on quiet quitting call out an age-old phenomenon as being more powerful and having more juice with younger generations of workers and lots of TikTok heft. But, these fall short in an area where RISEQUITY does not, neglecting inequity and non-inclusion as a significant source of quiet quitting.


Especially now, in the era of "The Great Resignation," we at RISEQUITY believe that distinguishing voluntary from involuntary termination artificially buries the problem of disengagement due to workplace inequities.


The younger-generation workforce says, "if you're not treating me like I deserve, I'll dial back my contributions until you fire me.”


RISEQUITY believes this is a regrettable termination that can result from inequity, directly or indirectly, just as much as an employee saying, "I've got the energy and resources to get a new job elsewhere.”

 

We invite you to share your thoughts on the implicit inequity within "quiet quitting" and share what your company is doing to ensure ALL employees, hourly and exempt, are treated equitably. Please reach out to further dialogue on this or any DE&I topic.




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