As ‘quiet quitting’ ripples through the workplace, managers are scrambling to respond

August 26, 2022, 10:50 AM UTC
A young Asian woman working late and using laptop at workplace.
"This whole phenomenon is really about a cultural transformation that's happening in the work environment," Simone Ahuja, a corporate strategy consultant says.
Vladimir Vladimirov— Getty Images

Good morning,

You may have heard of the Gen Z-inspired term “quiet quitting” since it’s gone viral in a TikTok video. But an expert tells me the implications of this approach to work go deeper than the surface—it brings attention to the need for training and support of managers.

Fortune reported that TikTok user @zkchillin defines quiet quitting in his video as: “You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life,” he said. “The reality is, it’s not.” So, you’re doing the minimum to avoid burnout.

To discuss the topic, I had a conversation with Simone Ahuja, an author, keynote speaker, and strategy consultant for Fortune 500 companies including UnitedHealth Group, Target, and Stanley Black & Decker. Ahuja says she has seen Gen Zers who are burning themselves out. However, for the most part, since they haven’t had a lot of work experience compared to Gen Xers, for example, Gen Zers might not feel a deep connection to workplaces, and feel less allegiant, she says. That’s what makes communication critically important, Ahuja says.

“I work in the world of innovation and intrapreneurship,” she explains. “And when we talk about what’s actually going to have an impact, we frame it in the context of co-design. I think this idea of co-design and communication has to be a foundation for whether you’re a manager, leader, or CFO. If you’re not taking into account the voice of the employee, you’re really just operating in a vacuum of assumptions.”

She continues, “If we kind of go to the 30,000-foot level, this whole phenomenon is really about a cultural transformation that’s happening in the work environment. A culture where it’s top-down, and command and control, isn’t working for almost any organization. We see that organizations are really looking more at sense and respond.”

Innovative executives are starting to realize that front-line managers play a major role in this culture change and investing in training, according to Ahuja. “I think it’s a big, new trend that’s emerging,” she says. And training is not just watching a video. “It’s one-on-one coaching, and having conversations about what it means to build a relationship and getting really granular about it,” she says. 

Gallup’s recent research explores why manager experience matters and how it affects every employee. “When companies understand what causes managers stress — and what motivates them — they can transform every employee’s experience at their company,” according to the report.

“When people become managers, it’s usually not because they’re great with people; they’re great at their job,” Ahuja told me. “So, if I’m great at financial modeling, that doesn’t necessarily help me [relate to people].”

Does finance tend to be a field where people excel at numbers, move up quickly and find themselves managing teams, but then need instruction on how to relate to teams and develop relationships? “Yes,” Jaimee Eddington, a partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ Dallas office and regional leader of the Americas, told me. “In more technical disciplines, in general, we tend to find people that are ‘great at the numbers,’ ‘do good analysis’ or otherwise ‘action/impact oriented,’ but don’t in fact relate well to others or are even cognizant of how they show up.”

She continued, “We often see upon referencing people with their boss or team that they have excelled for all of the reasons I’ve just described but aren’t seen as ‘future leaders’ or ‘operational enough’ to succeed at the most senior levels of their profession or capable of ascending to more senior ranks like a CEO or president role.”

So, people management training appears to be needed. Ahuja says the companies she’s working with are starting to include metrics to measure the effectiveness of management training.

She also says there’s a lot we can learn from Gen Z’s approach to work. “There’s an opportunity to reframe quiet quitting as something like bold boundaries,” she says. “Some Gen Zers (who work independently) will say in their email signatures, ‘I check my emails once a day or twice a day, expect a response within 48 hours.’ These were the first sort of signals of boundaries that I noticed.”

But even employees at “organizations in historically traditional, more risk-averse industries” are beginning to implement those types of email signatures as well, Ahuja says. An example? Ahuja says Gina Montefusco of UnitedHealth Group’s talent office’s email signature (along with several others in the organization) reads: “My workday may look different than your workday. Please do not feel obligated to respond outside of your regular working hours.”

Try to unplug and enjoy your weekend. See you on Monday.

Sheryl Estrada

Upcoming event: If you are a CFO in the Chicago area, join us at Sepia on September 22 for our CFO Collaborative in-depth dinner conversation. The topic of discussion: The Finance Talent Model of the Future. I will be joined by Fortune CEO Alan Murray, Fortune Finance Editor Lee Clifford, and Clem Johnson, President, Crist|Kolder Associates. Click here for more information and to apply. Please note that attendance is complimentary and subject to approval.

Big deal

There's a difference between what chief compliance and ethics officers (CCOs) and employees perceive as best practices for reporting workplace misconduct, Gartner found. Eighty-one percent of compliance leaders surveyed think employees believe reporting is the right thing to do, but only about half (54%) of them actually do. Just a third of employees believe reporting will result in a better work environment or improve their team’s morale or performance. "In a hybrid world, workplace misconduct reporting rates have fallen by 5%, which means compliance is learning about 30% fewer workplace misconduct instances," according to the report. Gartner advises companies to build a value proposition based on benefit, trust and safety.

Courtesy of Gartner

Going deeper

Here are a few good weekend reads:

"Where will housing prices end 2022? New data predicts a 4% drop in 5 months—and homes with these two characteristics will be hardest hit" by Shawn Tully

"Apple, Honda, and Mazda reportedly consider diversifying manufacturing away from China after supply-chain chaos" by Nicholas Gordon

"'Every day you wake up and you’re punched in the stomach’: Mark Zuckerberg tells Joe Rogan he hates how the day starts as Meta" CEO by Alena Botros

Your unhelpful coworkers may not be selfish—just sleep-deprived, scientists say by Chloe Taylor


Some notable moves:

Clayton K.Y. Chun was promoted to EVP and CFO at Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. (NYSE: ALEX), effective December 1. Chun is the chief accounting officer of Alexander & Baldwin and has been with the Company since 2015. Before joining A&B, Chun was a senior manager in the audit practice of Deloitte in Los Angeles where he worked for 15 years.

Jeffrey A. Davis was named CFO at Dollar Tree, Inc. (Nasdaq: DLTR). Davis has served in financial leadership roles, including treasurer of Walmart Stores, Inc., SVP of finance and strategy and CFO for Walmart’s U.S. Segment, CFO of J. C. Penney Company, Inc. and CFO of Darden Restaurants, Inc. He most recently served as CFO of Qurate Retail Group, Inc., a retailer and media conglomerate comprised of seven retail brands including QVC, HSN and Zulily.

Dixit Joshi was named CFO at Credit Suisse Group, effective October 1. Joshi will replace David Mathers who decided to step down. For the past five years, Joshi served as group treasurer at Deutsche Bank. He previously served as Deutsche Bank’s head of the Fixed-Income Institutional Client Group, Listed Derivatives and Markets Clearing as well as head of Global Prime Finance and head of APAC Equities in Hong Kong. Before joining Deutsche Bank in 2011, Joshi held senior roles at Barclays Capital.

Mario Morris was named SVP of administration and CFO at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), effective Sept. 12. Morris is currently the executive deputy athletics director at Notre Dame. Before joining Notre Dame, Morris was previously CFO and held a variety of financial management roles at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Meghan Ryan was named CFO at Treasury Prime, a Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) company. Prior to Treasury Prime, Ryan was the CFO of Affirm’s Canadian business. Before Affirm, Ryan spent six years at Goldman Sachs. She started her career in public accounting as part of Deloitte’s Financial Advisory practice.

Alka Tandan was promoted to CFO at Gainsight, a technology company that offers software for optimizing the customer experience. Tandan has been with Gainsight for over three years and brings over 20 years of corporate finance and operations experience. She began her career in investment banking where she helped take Salesforce and Google public as well as holding various strategic and operational roles at MetricStream, Actian Corporation, and SAP. 


“We are trying to get back to 2% inflation as quickly as we can, without doing damage to the economy. So, July looked like there was some easing in those price pressures, but certainly not enough that you would say, we're in the right direction. So, I think we have more data to see. And I think we have more work to do, to begin to see that trend move down."

—Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Esther George told Yahoo Finance in an interview at the Jackson Hole economic symposium this week, which is hosted by the Kansas City Fed.

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