The Risk ‘Quiet Quitting’ Poses to the Individual, Not Just the Business

This article was originally published by Fast Company here.

One of my favorite things to ask an audience of students and young professionals about is commitment.

What does commitment mean?

Why does someone commit to something?

Do you prefer to be on a team of people who are committed to the team?

Nearly everyone can explain commitment. In their answers, I hear words like “dedication,” “effort,” “tirelessness,” “passion,” “hard work,” “determination.”

Being committed to something means you will exert great energy and time to accomplish it. We commit to things because they are important to us, because they fill some great need or help us do something we feel strongly about. And yes, we want people on our teams who are just as committed as we are, because we want them to expend great energy and time to help us accomplish something that we strongly desire.

I start with those questions so I can ask this one: “Do you want to do things that you are committed to?”

There is typically a pause as people process the question before heads start nodding. Then, the group quickly begins to murmur in agreement. “Yes, of course we do.”

“Hold on,” I say. “Remember commitment implies lots of time and effort—doing whatever it takes. That sounds like a lot of hard work. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather do something easy?”

Another pause, before the comments start flying. “No, I want to do something I’m passionate about, something important.”

Great answer.

Recently, someone asked me about “quiet quitting.” I hadn’t yet heard the phrase but quickly recognized the concept as nothing new. Everyone who has ever worked in a business can tell you about the people who do the absolute minimum to keep their job. There have been many labels for these people across the years, such as the “disengaged” or those who “quit and stay.” But ever since George Costanza created a nap pod beneath his desk on Seinfeld, everyone has been aware of the phenomenon.

However, as I began to investigate this newest label, I saw something much more dangerous than someone who is simply doing the minimum to get by in a job they don’t like. It seems that some who are promoting the concept are advocating for not simply doing the minimum in a job, but in life. One proponent described it as “quitting the idea of going above and beyond.”

There are numerous and established practices for dealing with low performers in their jobs. There is no new risk here for businesses. But there is tremendous risk to an individual who is lulled into the false notion that they will be happier if they stop trying.

Just like the students I speak with, all of us at some point in our lives are drawn to the idea of a life spent in pursuit of something great—of being totally absorbed as we passionately chase our dreams and of being a part of something bigger than we are. We intrinsically know that fulfilment in life lies in harnessing our passions and our strengths to do something we love and that will, hopefully, have a positive impact on those around us. Some of us even dare to dream of leaving a legacy, a manifestation of our impact that outlasts our lifetimes.

The challenge that most of us face isn’t that we have lost the desire to commit wholly to something. It’s that we have never personally discovered what is worthy of that commitment.

It is never too late to discover your purpose. And it is certainly never too late to begin making choices that help you accomplish that purpose. When we start living a life that is filled with meaningful activities—or even better, an understanding of the meaning of our activities—we will have an endless supply of energy to continually go above and beyond.

And that is something worth committing to.

If you’re experiencing the phenomenon currently known as quiet quitting, I’d encourage you to think about how you can create a personal mission to give focus and intention to your life. It’s one of the most powerful ways you can take charge of your life, your work, your relationships, and your legacy.


1. Determine what you are passionate about. What are parts of life that get you excited? What do you really value? What really upsets you? Figure out the things in life that you will pursue out of passion and require no external motivators.

2. Determine what you are good at. What comes naturally to you? What are your areas of strength? You are more likely to stick with something that requires you to use your natural gifts.

3. Determine what you want your legacy to be. What do you want people to think of you? How do you want to be remembered? How do you want to be described? Our life is finite and its impact is ultimately determined by how our actions impact others.

Take the key words and phrases from the answers to these questions and then craft a statement that is memorable and meaningful to you. That’s your personal mission. Once you have it, you’ll measure anything in your life against it to determine if it’s something worth doing.

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