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Is “Quiet Quitting” Actually Courageously De-Centering Work in Your Life?

quiet quitting is just de-centering work in our lives


Sarah Noll Wilson 0:02
Hi everyone, Sarah Noll Wilson here joining me for this experiment this morning. I’m in like full radio, like an answer mode is my colleague, Dr. Teresa Peterson, we, one of the things we’ve been talking about is, we are constantly in conversation about all things related to work, all things related to leadership, just living in managing human verse companies, all of that. And while we work to do our best to share some of those insights in our newsletter, what we thought is we’re going to experiment with at least once a month just recording one of these conversations and to inspire and expand and to get you involved in these as well. So today, we wanted to explore the concept that is sort of like the hot buzz term was going around, just quiet, quitting, quiet, quiet quitting. And so say it in a whisper quiet at


For people who, who maybe are unfamiliar with this term, or who maybe have been hearing about it, but you’re unsure. You know, it was really in the last couple of weeks that this term sort of took off on social media became a really big hashtag on Tik Tok and people making videos about it. But the kind of the current definition, if you will, and we’ll discuss this is that, you know, people are quietly quitting, by doing sort of the minimum or to doing their job really is like, what are you expecting me to do, I’m not taking on other assignments, I’m not going to, you know, sign up for more work, I’m not going to work longer hours, I’m just going to do the work that I’m paid to do. And then I’m going to leave. And you know, this has come from people wanting to avoid burnout, and a variety of things. But we’ll get into all of that. So. So, Teresa, what do you think about this idea of quiet quitting?

Teresa Peterson 2:04
Well, when I first saw the term, it made me think of, like retired on active duty, you know, someone who’s not contributing. So when I first saw quiet quitting, I made the assumption that it was going to be the same idea as someone who I’m thinking of someone I worked with once, who literally just had feet up on the desk. I mean, it was like, no, no even pretense of working anymore. But then when I dug deeper, and I saw that it was really, and you and I talked about this a little bit, but really more about establishing a boundary, or deciding how much space you will give to work. I wasn’t sure that the word the phrase, quiet quitting was appropriate. Yeah, I know, I’m, I’m struggling with that phrase. Because I, I feel like it.

Sarah Noll Wilson 2:55
Again, it almost feels like it could be vindictive, or passive aggressive, or, you know, sabotaging, right? Like, yeah, team members are saying, Well, I’m just gonna quietly quit. And it’s like, but that’s not actually it. What, what fundamentally is happening and what what we’ve been seeing, and not just through the past, I mean, certainly, that got accelerated through the pandemic. is, you know, how I think of it is the decentralization of work from our lives and a decentralization of work from our identity. And, and, you know, and to your point, people are saying, Do I want to keep giving literally all of my time and energy to work? Yeah, I’m going to meet expectations, I’m not going to exceed, I’m not going to be subpar. I’m not like that, you know, like, I think that’s a good visual feet up on the desk, I’m going to meet expectations. And you know, and as a as a, as a kid who always wanted the A, and as the, like, young professional, who always you know, if there was a rating scale I wanted, I wanted the one if the one was the highest or a five was, I mean, everywhere you work, it’s different. But I always wanted to exceed expectations. And I remember in my first my first job that I was at for eight and a half years, I had a manager like my last year, so who’s just like, Sarah sometimes meets expectations is good enough. Like sometimes the job isn’t worth what it takes to do to exceed and, you know, I mean, I learned that the hard way because I was working 6070 hours. i Right? Within six months of leaving, that’s when I developed panic attacks and panic disorder, probably largely connected to the amount of stress so I mean, when I Yeah, I’m with you. And you know, and you had brought up this point when we’re just talking a little bit before we hopped on of this, the problem with sort of the binary language here.

Teresa Peterson 4:58
Something that came up for right away, when I read how they were defining this term, was this binary nature that people are either giving way more of their time and attention and life to work than they should be. Or they’ve quit that there was no middle ground that it didn’t know were in there. Was there a, how do we get this back to what’s appropriate? What meets expectations? Instead of focused on meeting expectations means 70 hours a week and multiple stretch goals and multiple, you know, how do we get it back to an acceptable appropriate amount of your life and time that you would devote to work? So I didn’t like kind of this, these bookends it felt it was very all or nothing. Yeah, yeah.

Sarah Noll Wilson 5:47
Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting to hear you say like, how do we get it back? And it was like, is it get it back? Or is it moving? Oh,

Teresa Peterson 5:53
yeah. You know, right. I don’t know the last time. I mean, when did it last exist? I don’t know. I grew up in a union house. So I think, then I think I saw more clearly, like, I’m at my 40 hours. So if you want more for me, you’re going to have like, I could say, No, but you’re, you’re going to compensate me. And so we’re probably both going to think differently about what else you’re asking me to do on top of what I got done. So I have a different frame of reference, I think for so I’m envisioning that when I say get it back to

Sarah Noll Wilson 6:28
Yeah, no, no, that I mean, that resonates for me, because I definitely grew up in a Yeah, Union House as well. And it, you know, it makes me think of how different that experience was watching my dad, who was a, you know, sand and oil truck driver. Yeah, when he worked overtime, he got paid. And it was called out on a holiday. He got double time. And you know, and I think about, you know, I think about my first salary position. You know, I think was, I don’t know, 28,000 1000. Right, like, not, not much. And, I mean, enough enough for for us at the time, but like, but, you know, it wasn’t unusual to be working 1015 plus hours. And at one point, I remember thinking, I’m like, barely making minimum wage when you add in, like, how many hours I’m working, and then you know, and the idea of, oh, once you go, salary, then you get all these benefits, and you can have flexible time. And that didn’t, in my experience, that didn’t translate to many of the positions, right, like it did when I say senior leaders and things like that. It you know, I think one of the things that as I’ve been chewing on this is, this isn’t, you know, this this this evolution or revolution or disruption we’re in, of people rethinking work isn’t new. It’s just that I think we’ve been given an opportunity to experience some some right, let’s like, let’s call that I mean, not every job has flexibility. Not every job has this privilege. Some jobs are required to, to be done on a certain location at a certain time, all of that, right. You don’t get to decide when emergency surgery happens. You have to Yeah, I

Teresa Peterson 8:30
was gonna say I’m not really into home surgery. Yeah, I feel like I will go to the hospital. Thanks, everyone who shows up?

Sarah Noll Wilson 8:36
Yeah. But but you know, before the pandemic, one of the big things that was being talked about in the workspace is four day workweeks and playing with like, you know, working less and working out truly only working 40 hours or working 32 to 35. And so, so this, this questioning of the hustle has been sort of bubbling under the surface where I think a lot of people certainly everyone’s at different journeys with it. But when the pandemic hit, and it just everything got unplugged, and people figured out how to work a different way they got exposed to new ways of just like possibilities. Yeah, at a time, when also, personally, we’re experiencing loss and stress and all of that, that there’s a real you know, week, gosh, we’ve talked about this a lot of people talk about It’s the great resignation, and really, it’s like this great realization of what’s important to me. And, you know, and something, something that I’ve been chewing on as I think about for my myself and my own journey is having gone through the experience of so many years working, honestly, like an unnecessary amount of flowers for the job.

Teresa Peterson 9:53
Sure. Yeah,

Sarah Noll Wilson 9:54
we weren’t. We weren’t during doing emergency surgery. We were selling Insurance. There’s nothing, you know, like, financial products like there wasn’t any this. Not that there’s not that I don’t know. But and one of the things that, as I started to imagine building my own company was just like, how do we do it differently? And I don’t realize that the time that, you know, I thought of it as like building a human first company. And now I’m sort of looking at it through the lens of well, how do we even more so like, decentralized work from our life? Like how do we, how do we create a culture and systems and processes and practices that give everyone freedom and not just flexibility to give people ownership of their time and autonomy and not just autonomy over when and where they work, but how they spend their time and how they spend their energy? And, and, and so that’s something that I might really chewing on is this idea of decentralizing and like what you mean for me? What does that look like? And what’s the OS there? And what do I need to let go of?

Teresa Peterson 11:06
Well, and when I think about that idea of decentralizing work from identity, you know, what I’m picturing a mind map, you know, where instead of work in the center, and then the person kind of the offshoot of work. And then offshoot of the person is other things they might enjoy? Should they have time, right? It feels like it puts you back in the center of the bubble, and work being one of the things you do. Because the realization I’ve had through all of this, and I think what a lot of people felt firsthand when they had more flexibility was, everybody wins. When humans live a balanced life, they show up ready to give, they show up ready to meet expectations. They show up at home, they can volunteer in their communities, they can live a healthier lifestyle, whatever that means for them personally, but, you know, take time to enjoy physical activities or cooking together whatever would define healthy to somebody, but that everybody wins. When employees have when I again, I’m referring back to employees, the company wins when employees are like that. But the benefit of society is I mean, I don’t I don’t know a number. I can’t quantify it. But I think what what would be a reference is country’s equally advanced countries who work much less have higher qualities of life higher reports of happiness. And health index. Yes. So I mean, it’s, it’s clearly more than just a hunch. Yeah.

Sarah Noll Wilson 12:45
Well, it’s, I love that visual that you laid out from a standpoint of when you think about how much of your life is spent working? Yeah, depending on your situation, you know, again, I go back to when I, you know, was working easily 10 to 12 hour days, five days a week, and then almost always working on the weekends. I’m out. No, I mean, are there weeks now owning a business? Certainly. But it’s also a it’s different, right? Because it’s work I’m really passionate about, I still have total autonomy of how I do it. Yeah, I still have to put guardrails on it for myself, to make sure that I’m, I’m not being stretched to the limit or feet, or you all are feeling like you have to, you know, be at that pace as well. But yeah, I mean, it’s the whole, you know, you go, you know, the expectation is, go to school, get married, get a job. And like, and, and, you know, that’s, I mean, sometimes I say this, jokingly, but sort of not at like, what, what would be possible, if, you know, the week was more split, even even if it was, you know, like, four, four day work weeks, or three and a half day to split it in? Yeah. Yeah. You know, what would be possible? And I and I think it’s really difficult because we’ve never been given the opportunity to fully experiment because it’s, it would be so disruptive, but I don’t know, we’ve just been given this time to really try different things because, and one thing I want to say to all of this, and this is my kind of train of thought is a lot of the articles that I’ve been reading about the whole, quiet quitting, have to do with mitigating burnout. And it’s bigger than that. I mean, you know, burnout is a consequence of working so much so it’s like that’s to me, that’s like, I mean, the lowest level it’s it’s done I mean, like, it’s, it’s being able to live a, you know, to your point like a full a full life to be able to build the relationships with the people that I want to build relationships with to be able to spend the time how I want to spend the time instead of. Yeah, instead of being locked in to such a chunk of time, sorry, my brain is my COVID brain is coming into play, I can tell it lost my train of thought there.

Teresa Peterson 15:27
Something that came up for me as you were talking to is I suspect there’s a huge difference between the employer labeling at quiet quitting and what the employee feels is happening, right. And so I can’t help but think that, that the, the space between those ideas is going to cause more issues, more disruption, when you feel like I’m actually trying to live a healthy, balanced life. Yeah, where I can still come here and give you my best, but it’s my best within these healthy parameters. Yeah. And you think I’ve quit? oofta that feels it feels like another recipe for even more disruption potential. Yeah,

Sarah Noll Wilson 16:16
yeah. No, and I think that’s a watch out. It’s kind of the, you know, we hear people say things like, well, they should just be happy to have a job, they should be grateful that we’re paying them. And, and let’s be real, like things like that, or said or thought a lot. We we are in rooms where those are said we hear this fairly regularly. And and yeah, I mean, I think that that that’s a tension point, or could be like, oh, people don’t don’t want to work. And it’s like, well, people people want to work. Maybe some don’t, you know, it’s also our system. Yeah. To be fair enough. Yes. Be really fair. Most

Teresa Peterson 16:55
people enjoy or need to work too.

Sarah Noll Wilson 17:00
Right. Yeah. Because because of our system. And yeah, and I mean, it. There there is there is real loss, right? For I think, people who kind of had to work their way up, right, like I had to sacrifice, therefore, you need to sacrifice I had to give up time with my family. Therefore, you need to give up time with your family I’ve earned, you know, because let’s be very honest, that the autonomy that people are experiencing right now, those are those who have access to more flexibility in their work, like working from home and being able to like go for a walk or maybe leave early an afternoon or take care of their kids or go to their school. Those those those privileges, if you will, the senior leaders always had those. Right, and always leave early on a Friday to go work at the cabin, they could they have the Flex, nobody was questioning it. And you know, and I was thinking about, you know, there’s been a number of years over 10 years ago, now, Daniel Pink wrote the book drive with the truth behind what really exists. And basically what he synthesized from lots of other people’s research is people want purpose, mastery, autonomy and purpose. You know, yeah. And, and those all feel very accurate and true. The thing that gives me pause now, is that when we talk about autonomy, it isn’t just autonomy and like, what you do and how you do it, like when and where you work, but its autonomy and how you live your life. It’s a tough, like, being able to choose, right, how do I show up in a way that will best serve me that I can, that I can do my best work? And I think that’s like, that’s really sticking with me right now is we were in a time where people are reclaiming autonomy, or they’re having the space to actually be autonomous for some right in a way that maybe they weren’t before. And, you know, and what’s possible with that, the other thing is, we know, we know that, on average, we’re really productive only about four and a half hours out of the day. Right? Like, I mean, all the research shows that our productivity is quite, quite limited. And it is 40 hours.

Teresa Peterson 19:19
No, no. I think that’s such a beautiful point. And I think the thing I love the most about it, is that the companies are the individuals who tell you they are the most data driven. conveniently ignore the fact that humans cannot attend to detailed tasks or creative tasks for that amount of time. So that’s my favorite human contradiction in that. Yeah,

Sarah Noll Wilson 19:47
yeah. Right. I mean, it’s just isn’t Yeah, it’s just not with me like they’re just things we know. And, you know, and one thing that I you know, that people talk about It is and there’s a real there are some real side effects or consequences with this shift to remote and hybrid and we can do a whole nother conversation just on on that and how those are playing out. But you know is the loneliness, right the share the lack of interaction. And, you know when, when work is the main bubble? It and I want to speak more like from a Western American culture of like rugged individualism, you know, if we think about decentralizing work from our lives, and again, not that doesn’t mean, we are showing up, we aren’t contributing, we’re just re imagining and resetting, then then then we get to focus on like, Well, who do I want to be in community with? Who do I and so there’s an element of almost having to read. Because for so many, and yeah, I put myself in this bucket, you know, is the people you spend the time with is work. So that’s where you have relationships with, like, the people, I really want to have the relationships with, who I want to, and, you know, I think about, I think about our evolution, and over the last, especially over the last year and a half, two years, how much my relationships with my family has shifted, because I’ve just had more time to connect with them. I’ve had more time to spend with my parents, I’ve been able to go and work remotely from Dubuque, and, you know, and, and exist with them for a week at a time or, you know, my, my mom isn’t calling and apologizing for interrupting my work day anymore. Like, that’s who I want. So I understand the the short term side effect or consequence of some of this, like when we think about shifting work from being the main priority of our life, if there’s some like, figuring it out of what, what do I want to invest that energy and where Who do I want to commit to what’s the, what do I want to be involved in. And so it’s not like this just lever like, Oh, I’m not at work as much, or I’m working less hours or whatever, therefore, I’m with my family, it’s like, no, that’s a whole new habit that we need to build. Because so much of our culture is work first, in some cases, sort of work only. I

Teresa Peterson 22:35
know, that’s a lot to chew on. And what it was making me think of was, I think when work becomes the centralized and it becomes one of our bubbles, then we have a different expectation of relationships at work. I mean, if I’m going to be there, 60 plus hours a week, eating multiple meals, sharing a space, I really need to like those people, and we probably need to enjoy each other’s company beyond just how the work gets done. And when my life can be broader, when I have time for the friends I have, some of them may be from work, but they don’t have to be at work now. Because I can connect with anyone who I want to write. And so I think it gives a different focus to work relationships that, you know, trust getting to the task, or ideation or what, you know, we could go on and on but, but what a beautiful, almost like, stress relief of expectations of work relationships, you know, like, I have several male friends who have not since the pandemic have they referred to their work wife. I mean, maybe you don’t need a work mom or a work wife, if you can live a more balanced life where you see a point,

Sarah Noll Wilson 24:00
your actual life, your actual spouse or actual husband.

Teresa Peterson 24:06
Yeah. And again, I I have people I have worked with and do work with who I genuinely love dearly and so that’s not diminishing that. But it’s there’s a lightning, a not lightning, but lightning that can occur when you you’re not putting all your eggs in that basket. You know, you’re you’re living a full life.

Sarah Noll Wilson 24:29
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s, that’s that’s, that’s a that’s an interesting I’m just thinking about because it’s been so long since I’ve been in corporate, you know, but I was like, yeah, no, totally had the work spouse of like, yep, here’s the person I spend all the time with. I

Teresa Peterson 24:49
literally packed lunch for him when I packed my own lunch 30% of the time, because I knew we had this was working in high school and Have you started early, and it was like on a Friday would game night. And so I would know I would be gone from like 630 in the morning till 11 At night when the varsity game ended. And so like I said, No one asked me to pack as well, yeah, but I was just like, we’ve got a long day, like, work. Because when you’re like, and I suspect this could be true for a different mindset, when you know, you’re going to be together for that amount of time. That isn’t bad. But like, I went into the day knowing we were going to be together 15 plus hours. So like, we had to take care of each other differently to survive than how we might if we had a more regular work schedule where we could go home and eat with our families. And so, you know, it’s not apples to apples, but yeah, in fact, I completely forgot about. And I mean, I really liked the guy still, so it’s not. Yeah, it food is my love language. Yeah, we’re clear. So. But yeah, I mean, that was for sure.

Sarah Noll Wilson 26:08
Yeah. And that’s not to say that it isn’t important to have safety, psychological safety, right, and inclusion, and all those just like fundamental, yeah, human needs

Teresa Peterson 26:19
still 100% care of, but yeah, none of that goes away. Yeah, yeah.

Sarah Noll Wilson 26:25
You know, and, I mean, I would think I always thought about this, again, when I was in the mode of working 6070 hours, which wasn’t Yeah, out of the ordinary of the the absolute limited amount of time, you know, when you think about our typical kind of structure we have now today through Friday, say eight to five, right? I mean, and this is part of why remote work has become so valuable for so many, you know, you don’t have the commute, you don’t have the additional, you know, travel time, you don’t have the you know, but even then, even then, so your your days are. So five, you unwind, you get dinner made. And at best, you maybe have three to four hours with your family, and then on the weekend, you’re trying to recover like Saturday’s your recovery day. And then for some people, they get the Sunday scaries. And so there’s like there’s really no time, right? To be and to exist. And it’s interesting, because when I think about times when I’ve worked remotely, for example, like when I’m here when I’m working from home, you know, I have a meeting until you know, I have meetings till five, it doesn’t feel like that big of a deal. But when I’m working from Dubuque and it’s like, oh, man, I need to tell to that’s like, that’s so much of the day. That’s so much of the day that I just lost. And, and that’s interesting for me to reflect on to have like, because I will feel that like, No, I don’t want to work past noon when I’m working in Dubuque. So I can spend because getting only a few hours at night. It’s just not enough and we become so it’s so normalized and used to it, again, that we don’t even question it. And, and to be clear, I there, obviously, I own a company and we support organizations. And, and it’s not to say that, you know, I mean, what I love to reimagine a whole different society that maybe not built on capitalist foundation. You maybe Yeah, but that’s not the system we’re playing in. So how do we, how do we work within the container we have to make it just work better for more people? Yeah. Final thoughts. Theresa, as we wind up, I want to be thoughtful of our time. Final thoughts or questions that people could be reflecting on or just anything?

Teresa Peterson 29:01
I, I would love to hear from anyone watching what their experience is? Are they hearing this term? Quiet quitting in their workplace? Is it something you know, how are you discussing it in real life with your people? You know, what are you calling it? I think that’s what I’m curious about.

Sarah Noll Wilson 29:18
Yeah. Yeah. And as you think about so drop us a line, you can send us an email. Yeah, you know, Hello, Sarah wilson.com or, or even just as you think about for yourself, you know, creating some of those boundaries and yeah, you know, what, yeah, I mean, there’s so many layers that we can go on to because the the meeting expectations doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Right. We know that there are some populations that always have to go above and beyond they always have to prove themselves they always have to, right like there’s there’s privilege even in meeting expectations. You know, but when you think about for your your herself in your own life what what would that better boundary like? Or if you think of traces bubbles like what would you want your your series of bubbles to look like and what maybe some small things you could do today to start to create that so that you know you can be more more whole and rested person to live a more meaningful life and do work that feels really, really good for you. That’s it. That concludes our little experiment. But let us know what you think. Let us know what you think about us doing these conversations. You know, again, this is an experiment. We’re going to explore this at least once a month. We may weave these into our ongoing podcast if there’s topics you want us that you’re curious about or questions you want us to explore. send it our way. And we thank you all for listening.


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Sarah Noll Wilson is on a mission to help leaders build and rebuild teams. She aims to empower leaders to understand and honor the beautiful complexity of the humans they serve. Through her work as an Executive Coach, an in-demand Keynote Speaker, Researcher, Contributor to Harvard Business Review, and Bestselling Author of “Don’t Feed the Elephants”, Sarah helps leaders close the gap between what they intend to do and the actual impact they make. She hosts the podcast “Conversations on Conversations”, is certified in Co-Active Coaching and Conversational Intelligence, and is a frequent guest lecturer at universities. In addition to her work with organizations, Sarah is a passionate advocate for mental health.

Comments (1)

I love this conversation, Sarah and Teresa! No need to be a super-hero! Banish over-achiever from my vocabulary! I wish I’d known this when I was working full-time in the corporate world! I so appreciate the perspective you guys bring here – and in all your work – and the openness and opportunity that you invite us into. Thank you.

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