On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Matthew from Peoplelogic about how people have been quiet quitting for years, so why are we talking about it now?
Some Conversation Highlights:
Listening time: 29 minutes
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This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup (00:34):
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today, we have Matthew on from Peoplelogic. Our topic today is we’ve been quiet quitting for years. Why are we only talking about it now? So, this is going to be fun. I purposely haven’t really tackled quiet quitting a lot, just because we’ll get into that later on, but just I haven’t. So, this is going to be fun. Matthew, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and Peoplelogic?
Matt Schmidt (01:06):
Sure. Thanks, William, and thanks for having us here. I’m Matt Schmidt, and I’m the CEO and founder of Peoplelogic. Peoplelogic is all about helping companies operationalize their employee engagement and doing that without the need for surveys.
William Tincup (01:25):
Perfect. So, quiet quitting, sometimes the media just needs something. Every three or four months, every six months, they just need something to then say, “This is what’s going on,” to try and make sense of the world. So, when you first heard quiet quitting, and then maybe even as you explored it and tried to understand it, what did you think about quiet quitting? You can be honest. It’s okay.
Matt Schmidt (01:57):
The one thing about the pandemic having happened and the rapid … We’re seeing rapid evolution of the workplace over the past couple of years, is the proliferation of words, the great resignation, the great-
William Tincup (02:19):
Matt Schmidt (02:20):
Reshuffling, the great re-skilling, the latest one here, quiet quitting, right? I think when quiet quitting was first pushed out there as the word, it was really very focused on trying to essentially make the employees feel bad. Actually, if you read into it, I think one, it’s a terrible name, right? Because, these people aren’t actually quitting. They’re still working. That’s not the thing that’s happening. So, I think it just makes everybody look bad, managers that are getting all uptight about it, the employees that are being accused of it. At the end of the day, it’s another name for, either in some cases, a change in their engagement levels. In other cases, it’s just the way that they’re working in the industry and the way that’s expected to be within a company. So, I think in this case, it was the media just going … Somebody found a catchy term to be able to talk about it.
William Tincup (03:41):
Do you think in any way, and this is dark, but do you think in any way that quiet quitting is a Trojan horse to get employees to come back to the office?
Matt Schmidt (03:53):
Certainly, companies will try to use it that way. I think from a really skeptical perspective, yes, I could see that. I’m not sure who paid the government to do their last survey, saying that people who are working remotely are visiting friends more, sleeping more, and going on more vacations, but I think-
William Tincup (04:27):
They’re just living better lives.
Matt Schmidt (04:31):
They’re actually working to live, versus living to work, and finding a better blend than we’ve had over the past 50 years, right? Because, there’s been plenty of studies about people being more engaged and productive when they’re remote or at least hybrid and flexible. I think at the end of the day, that’s all people really want, is the ability to have some flexibility and to choose. So, yes, I think probably it’s a bit of a Trojan horse and another reason for companies to justify what is often a lot of bad behavior.
William Tincup (05:12):
Yeah, I don’t believe that you’re working. You need to be in the office so that I can see you work, so that I can believe that you’re actually working. When I first saw the word quiet quitting and started reading more about it, I really came to a conclusion that, okay, we’re talking about discretionary effort. So, if people are prioritizing life in whatever way that is, they’re not giving the company as much of their discretionary effort. Then, I thought, well, then if true, then hasn’t this always been the case? You get that email at 4:45 on a Friday afternoon, and it’s a two hour bit. Do you do it on Friday? Do you do it over the weekend? Or, do you do it on Monday? Okay, is quiet quitting basically getting that email and saying, “Yeah, Monday, got it. Check.”
Matt Schmidt (06:15):
Yeah, I think this is controversially or not, I think they’re always measuring whether or not people are working outside of their hours that are expected. I’ve always been a believer, well, the salaried employee works. They’re paid primarily for the time. They’re paid primarily to do a job. Then, that job is defined by the results that they achieve. Do they achieve the results that were set out for them as just the results? Or, did they really knock it out of the park in terms of what they were doing? That’s the measure. We try to be focused on that.
Whether it’s somebody who is working 80 hours a week, but doesn’t necessarily get as much done as somebody who’s working 35 hours, that’s an efficiency problem. I think really, we’re seeing that this is today’s, with this new use of this term, I don’t think … Yes, it’s the same thing. The high performers probably are still going to be saying, “Well, you know what? I’ll just pick this up over the weekend, because I already have plenty to do next week.” And, others are going to keep making that choice of, well, you know what? I already was planning on … I’ll just pick it up next week as the extra hours and be able to get it done. So, I don’t necessarily think that there’s a whole lot of change that’s occurred here as part of this.
William Tincup (08:07):
Yeah, and also it’s interesting, because in some ways, we’re punishing people for working smarter.
Matt Schmidt (08:18):
By giving them a bad name, because they’re working smarter, not harder, which startups have long wanted you to work smarter, not harder. How many times have we all told our teams, “Smarter, not harder. I don’t pay you for the hours. I pay you for getting the goal.” Now, by putting a sticky name on this thing, we’re chastising people for working effectively and monitoring their mental health.
William Tincup (08:55):
Do you think on any level, or did you get a sense, especially at the beginning, that it’s basically a way of disparaging either Millennials or Gen Z? Because, I’m just solidly Gen X. I grew up with all the slackers and all of that stuff. Some of that’s true, but some of that is in every generation. What’s the big deal?
Matt Schmidt (09:24):
Yeah, I think yes, partly because I guess I get defined as an elder Millennial, that person who spent half their childhood with no technology, and then the second half being entirely distracted. So, this is for better or worse. I think I read an article the other day that said that Millennials and Gen Z are going to make up 75% of the workforce in the next 10 years, maybe more, or maybe sooner. Like it or not, these two generations are going to be the ones in charge. I think we’re seeing that the people, especially at larger companies, who are in positions of management are now needing to adapt to two generations that look to be managed differently, look to work differently, have been through an incredible number of crises in their life that are not once in a generation. They’ve had five once in a generation crises in their adult life, right? Those are leading people to just live a different life and to view work differently.
William Tincup (11:09):
Which we should reward them for, not punish them for. It’s funny. I talk about Gen Z a lot. I’m jealous of Gen Z.
Matt Schmidt (11:21):
I don’t know that I’d go that far, William, but-
William Tincup (11:25):
Just, Will, on the recruiting side.
Matt Schmidt (11:28):
Okay, that’s fair.
William Tincup (11:29):
Because, they’re just unwilling to do certain things. They want to talk about pay in the first interview. They want to talk about your diversity initiatives, social injustice. The job is ninth on the list. They want to talk about all this other stuff. As an employer when you’re trying to recruit folks, if you don’t have great answers for those, you don’t even get around to the job, which again, from my generation, I think is fascinating. Because, I probably would’ve never asked that stuff or much less even gotten to it two or three years into tenure.
Matt Schmidt (12:09):
It’s a great point. Actually, when you think about it, really you’re talking about a whole class of employees that puts the corporate culture first. We’re presuming that, and in a lot of ways, you’re looking at the skills that are required to do most jobs, even if we think about high tech jobs in the tech industry are commoditized. Whether you’re a backend engineer or you’re a salesperson, any number of people could be trained to do those things. There’s people out in the workforce to do those things. Whether or not a person’s beliefs line up with a company’s culture is harder to find. Now, we have an entire class of people who want equal pay, who want to have transparency around that, who want to make sure that the company believes in the same things that they believe in. They’re willing to take the belief that there are hundreds, if not thousands of companies that they can potentially go work for and are willing to just try to get to those, versus taking something that doesn’t align with their personal beliefs.
William Tincup (13:36):
Yeah, again, I’m fascinated by it, because it wouldn’t have been on my radar. It’s not only there on their radar. It’s, again, that alignment or even a semblance of alignment. Whether or not it actually is aligned or not is probably arguable. But, the idea that it’s aligned, it’s a non-starter if it’s not. And, they’re just willing to just not apply or not even look at that company, which I find fascinating, because I’m thinking back to after I got out of business school. I applied to a lot of jobs. I no more looked at their careers page, or I don’t know, even their culture statement. I didn’t look at any of that stuff.
I looked at the job. Can I do the job? Yeah, I can do that job. Then, I applied. Anyhow, another thing I wanted to unpack with you when I first read about quiet quitting is I thought to myself, okay, before you overreact, William, is this something that’s coming out of the pandemic? Is this something that we haven’t seen each other? We haven’t been around each other, and we’ve been on Zoom calls nonstop for three years. We’re all fatigued. This has nothing to do with work. It’s just humans. We’re just tired. When you first looked at quiet quitting, did your mind drift over to the pandemic? You and I have talked about Zoom exhaustion before. Did any of it feel like that’s what we’re talking about?
Matt Schmidt (15:19):
Frankly, when I read quiet quitting, I thought it was actually people quitting. My first step was, oh, well, these people actually quiet their job.
William Tincup (15:28):
You read the second word. You’re like, “Oh, wow.”
Matt Schmidt (15:31):
They just walked out, or they didn’t give you any heads up.
William Tincup (15:34):
I had a guy. I’ve got to tell you this story. I had a guy. This is years ago. He literally put his keys on his desk, left a Post-it note, and that was it.
Matt Schmidt (15:51):
That’s the stuff movies are made of, William.
William Tincup (15:53):
There was no two weeks. There was no, hey, we can resolve this. We came in, and there was his keys and a Post-it note, and that was it. It was like, “Peace out.” When I heard quiet quitting, of course I remembered that bit in my own life. I’m like, “Oh, well, maybe they’re just quietly … They’re not making a big thing about it when they’re quitting.”
Matt Schmidt (16:16):
Right, they’re not throwing their hands up. They’re just done. Because, we’ve all been surprised when somebody great on your team walks out. Everybody gets surprised. Then, they get surprised by the two or three other people that were actually good friends or connected to that person that you didn’t realize when they walked out, too. So, that was what I thought was my first instinct. Well, hey, this is a whole thing we’re trying to understand our people better for so that we can make sure that we get out ahead of the things that make them do that.
But, as you talk about Zoom fatigue, even as we sat down to start recording this episode, I was like, “Man, I have already been on Zoom for six hours today. Do I really want to do this again?” Even me as a founder and a CEO, oh, yeah, do I really want to do more than the absolute required today? And, I am incented for that to be successful. Yeah, I think at some level, while remote work and flexibility are super important to the modern workplace and the way we’re going to … Those changes aren’t going back in the box. At the same time, it does require a little bit of extra effort to acknowledge that staring at the screen that way all that time and having to be dealing with the different social cues of being two dimensional versus three are definitely playing into, at some point, you just shut off for the day.
William Tincup (18:13):
Oh, yeah, no, whether or not you’re done with the day or not, that’s a separate issue. You’re done. You’re just out. Again, I think some people flourish in this environment. I don’t know if it comes down to personality, extroverts and introverts, things like that. But, some people flourish in this environment, and some people, they didn’t through the pandemic, and they don’t now, even though the expectation has changed.
Matt Schmidt (18:43):
Again, that comes to the company culture in a lot of ways, at least as it relates to companies and workers. I think that it’s important. I think that the right mix is one that is flexible. Purely all the time remote is hard for most people who have to interact with other people, because personally, I feel that 99% of knowledge workers, this class of workers that are knowledge workers can do their jobs from anywhere. The vast majority, it doesn’t matter where they are. Right now, we have lots of real estate where we bring people, but the role of the office in the future is more about that healthy collaboration, that creativity, and not a desk and a warm chair for people to sit in to click around in their spreadsheet.
William Tincup (19:50):
So, pre-pandemic, I used Zoom. So, there’s a bunch of different conference technologies, and I used Zoom, but I never turned on the video feature. I didn’t even know that there was a video feature. I just didn’t. All of a sudden, our company, we started using Zoom like a lot of companies. I started using Zoom for a lot of things. I was already a professional user, but I just didn’t use the video. So, when we turned on video, wait a minute, now I’ve got to think about, have I changed my T-shirt? Have I actually changed clothes today? All this stuff that before, I would’ve never even thought about, my background of where I’m at or any of that stuff. Before, it was just a call. Instead of using my cell phone, I have a headset on. It’s better sound quality. So, it’s interesting to think about all the dynamics of the pandemic and how you’re always on. That always on, we think of it as a cool thing. Hey, this is how we’re getting to know each other. That’s exhausting.
Matt Schmidt (21:06):
Or, when your colleagues think that you work in a sauna, because that’s what the phone booth looks like. Or, the white paint and the fluorescent lights in the call room make you look like you’ve been dead for three days, and you’re just still dialing in. These are the things that you have to actually worry about now.
William Tincup (21:35):
I think the people in high school that went through drama and acting, I think they’re flourishing right now. They are flourishing, because they’ve been thinking about the lighting and sound and all these things, looking into the camera. I tend to drift when I’m on a Zoom call. I don’t even stare at the camera.
Matt Schmidt (21:53):
Oh, yeah. No, people probably think I’m super rude, because I do not maintain eye contact.
William Tincup (22:05):
Not at all, but so true is when I’m in person. So, it’s odd that I don’t do this in person. When I meet people in person, I drift. I’m talking to them, but I’m looking elsewhere, looking down, or whatever. But, during Zoom, I find myself at the same time. But, then I look up, and the person’s looking right at me. I’m like, “Oh, okay, sorry about that.”
Two things, one I wanted to ask you is stemming from something you said earlier around culture, corporate culture. I think pre-pandemic, if someone were to ask me on the street, “Hey, what’s corporate culture?” I would’ve probably said what happens at the office. That’s corporate culture, the lunches, the massages, everybody going out to drinks, and whatever that is, maybe mixed in with some values and whatever. But, basically that experience at the office. Well, I’ve refined that or at least revised that to culture today is how do you treat people? At the end of the day, whether or not they’re in the office or out of the office or whatever, it’s how do you treat them. Now, that’s just where I’m at right now. I’ve written that in pencil, so I might revise that again a couple times. What’s your take on how we view culture today?
Matt Schmidt (23:29):
Yeah, I think it’s interesting, because the pandemic really forced us to … It surfaced the best in people, but it also surfaced the worst in people, right?
William Tincup (23:42):
Matt Schmidt (23:43):
So, I think the one thing we can all agree on is that in a zombie apocalypse, we’re all dead. We’re done. There’s no, oh, we’re going to rally together and beat the zombies. No, we’re done.
William Tincup (24:01):
In fact, get it out of the way early, just like the first zombie. Okay, yeah, just go ahead. Go ahead, thank you.
Matt Schmidt (24:10):
I know that’s dark. I think what that led to was in response to that, we have decided that as we need to apply some of the same values as people, as individuals, the things that drive us, we need to apply those to the companies that we work for. I think that’s part of what we’re seeing now. We’re seeing some of this before the pandemic where particularly as Millennials entered the workforce, they wanted to understand what had been called previously the triple bottom line. They wanted to understand the impact that an organization was having on the world. Now, it’s become it’s not the outlier. It’s simply the way that we expect companies to behave.
William Tincup (25:10):
Which is a good thing, not a bad thing.
Matt Schmidt (25:13):
Yes, ultimately a good thing. Otherwise, we wind up with a dystopian corporate capitalism. I think that’s not good for anybody, either. Now, we’re seeing where culture is everything about how we treat our employees, how we treat our customers, how we value data, how we provide for the extended ecosystem around our people and our teams. All of those things are now super important as part of the culture, in addition to the mission and the vision and the values and the things that we’re trying to solve for, which don’t need to necessarily be some high minded thing. Not every company needs to change the world.
William Tincup (26:13):
Sometimes you just need to manufacture hubcaps. That’s okay. It’s a bit. It’s good.
Matt Schmidt (26:20):
Yeah. Well, those businesses make the world go round, literally. But, they also employ a ton of people. Those businesses and every business has a responsibility to its people to take care of them.
William Tincup (26:42):
I don’t know if this is a conversation you and I had, or I read it somewhere else, saw it on Instagram or TikTok. I don’t know, but basically the bit was I don’t focus on customers. The CEO was saying, “I focus on employees, and our vendors are partners. By doing so, by over-indexing there, customers are taken care of.”
Matt Schmidt (27:04):
I think there’s a couple of schools that thought there, and I don’t think it was with us, but there’s been a lot written. I think, yes, if the company takes care of its people, people will take care of the company. Other companies look at it a little bit differently. At the end of the day, it’s about a positive culture. HubSpot’s founders have written a lot about their culture and how they manage their culture. But, it starts with company and customers and team and the self. When you’re making decisions, putting yourself is at the bottom. Now, that’s a bit of an altruistic view of the world, but it works for them, right?
William Tincup (27:56):
Well, it works for them now after they’re billionaires. Sorry, a little dark.
Matt Schmidt (28:05):
Yeah. I think they’ve had a similar philosophy for quite a while, but at the end of the day, the point is I think they’re saying the same thing a different way, right? If you take care of your people, and the people feel like they’re part of something important and that’s meaningful, then they’ll take care of your customers for you.
William Tincup (28:31):
Drops mic, walks off stage. Matthew Schmidt, thank you so much for your time and wisdom today.
Matt Schmidt (28:37):
Absolutely. Thank you, William.
William Tincup (28:38):
And, thanks everyone, for listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast, until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.
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