The Next Phase in Quiet Quitting

By Pat Calhoun, Chief Executive Officer
December 15, 2022

When I decided to leave ServiceNow back in 2016 to focus on my next startup, I held a very high bar for who I wanted on the journey. For me, creating a startup is not just about having a job – it’s about solving a problem I am passionate about. So much passion that I am willing to drop everything and place a bet that we can build a technology that the world wants to use.

I mention passion, because creating a startup is not for the faint of heart. My passion around this space came from the fact that I started my career on the service desk. I was convinced that the world had to move beyond creating service desks by putting “people in seats” to leveraging technology that would automate the resolution of most employee issues and requests.

A new trend has emerged called “quiet quitting” – where employees put in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm other than what is absolutely required to get the job done. Now, this concept confuses me because I look at work as a personal challenge. Clearly, I am wired differently as an entrepreneur. But as we built this company, we hired people who shared our vision and passion.

So, what leads to “quiet quitting”? While it has been around for a while, it has been amplified by the pandemic. And while there are many reasons for it, I believe a focus needs to be put on leadership. The role of leaders is not just to run a company, but also to ensure that they rally the troops to the “north star” – whatever that happens to be. I truly believe that when employees share their leaders’ passion, then great things happen.

And, of course, there will always be those who do not believe and see their job as a job. It is a leader’s role to identify those individuals and determine the best course of action. For me, what is most important is that these “non-believers” do not negatively impact the rest of the company. For many companies, this is addressed as part of an annual process of identifying low performers.

With the shift to working from home, another new phenomenon has emerged – overemployment. What is overemployment? Someone who has two or more full time “day” jobs. Like I thought when I first heard of this, you might be thinking this is not a common thing. Well, you will be surprised to hear it is becoming increasingly common, and of course, there is even a website that covers this topic and labels itself as:

“Overemployed is a community of professionals looking to work two remote jobs, earn extra income, and achieve financial freedom. Be free from office politics and layoffs. Instead, improve your mental health and negotiate a severance.”

Technically, overemployment is not illegal. People can, and do, take on more than one full time job to help them deal with the impacts of inflation and debt. I am sure there are very valid reasons for some taking on more than one job, although to me this sounds like it could be detrimental to one’s well-being. I would certainly not want that for anyone at Espressive.

But what happens when you mix overemployment with quiet quitting? According to Outsource Accelerator, there is a story of a full-time Facebook employee who was also working for a startup. He reported his combined income was over $420,000/year, and to add insult to injury, was working a combined 22 hours a week. To me, this is where we step into ethical issues. It confounds me that anyone would believe this is fair.

So how do organizations make sure this doesn’t occur? I continue to believe it starts at the top. As leaders, we need to be clear in our expectations of everyone, as well as ensuring everyone at the company has passion for a shared vision. This, of course, must be accompanied with ensuring that each employee feels valued and challenged in their roles.

And when it does occur, take quick action – because it can spread.

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