I’m not sure why our current culture is so fascinated with coming up with new names for old concepts. The trend is especially popular in business today and two of the most common “new” terms are quiet quitting and ghosting.
Quiet quitting is when an employee emotionally quits their job, but still comes to work. Maybe the employee was all in and highly engaged and something happened that made them frustrated or upset and they decided it’s not worth caring anymore. The employee works much less hard and is less productive but continues to get paid the same amount because there is no conversation with the employer. I’ve personally talked to many quiet quitters. One told me that she used to stay late and take work home with her, but after her boss “threw her under the bus” for a mistake at a meeting, she decided to leave every day at 4PM. Again, she decided to do this without any conversations with her boss. It’s essentially a silent protest.
The other common term today is ghosting. Ghosting happens when a person suddenly stops communicating with another person. Maybe you have a friend at work whom you hang out with in the break room, send texts with, chat on social media, and go out for drinks on some weekends. Suddenly, you don’t see that friend anymore. You try to reach out to them, but they don’t respond.
I’ve spoken to people who are deliberately ghosting someone and it is similar to quiet quitting. Something usually happened, whether it was an awkward conversation or something offensive, and the person has just decided to wage a silent protest by temporarily or permanently ending the relationship.
Both quiet quitting and ghosting are often used to highlight the bad things that the other person did. The quiet quitter is often only quiet with their employer, but has no issue sharing how bad their employer is. In other words, quiet quitting and ghosting have almost become a battle cry. They are both often seen as tools that people can use to take back a little power in a work or personal relationship.
By the way, it’s not just employees that do these silent protests. I’ve often had conversations with managers who talk about a specific problem employee and say, “I’m done with them”. Often, when I ask whether they plan to talk to the employee or fire them, the manager’s plan is to do neither. “I’m just done. I’m not going to invest any more time or energy into that person”. But they still plan to pay them. Managers and executives are some of the worst offenders of silent protesting.
We are here to tell you that there is an older phrase for quiet quitting and ghosting that isn’t looked at so positively and that is “conflict avoidance”.
Quiet quitting and ghosting are both essentially done in order to avoid a potential conflict. The employee doesn’t want to tell the boss that they are upset with the way they are treated. The employer doesn’t want to tell the employee that they aren’t performing well. The friend doesn’t want to tell the other friend that they said something wrong.
I don’t blame us for thinking this way. Conflict is hard! It is risky.
However, avoiding it is fundamentally unhealthy.
Building trusted relationships is a key skill for our lives. The networks of deep relationships we build through our personal and professional lives not only enrich our daily interactions but are key to our success and stability. Trust is not built through an absence of conflict, but rather through working through conflict successfully.
The people whom I am closest with in my life are all people I’ve fought with. I’ve told them things that were hard to hear, and they did the same to me and we emerged from those conversations better for it. When another human can look you in the eye and tell you that your baby is ugly and you realize they are trying to help you, that is a trusted ally.
Healthy teams build trust so they can identify challenges and turn them into opportunities by addressing them. If a coworker messes up, healthy teams practice accountability and embrace the mess up.
The punch line here is don’t fall into the habit of quiet quitting your job or ghosting people. Always do your job extremely well and with determined effort. If your employer doesn’t appreciate it or treats you badly, try to communicate your concerns. If those still aren’t heard, maintain a good attitude and keep working hard, but look for something else.
If your friend or coworker does something to upset you, don’t avoid the conversation altogether. Sit down and share your observations of what happened. Then shut up and let the other person share their own perspectives and intentions. Be curious about what happened and what the other person was thinking. You might just learn that the other person had good intentions and that you might have been wrong about something.
Dealing with conflict is a key characteristic of successful people. Quiet quitting and ghosting are bad habits that will damage relationships and ultimately limit your potential.
Want to learn more?