The Employee/Employer Dance


I’ve been an employee and an employer (a couple of times) and now as an executive recruiter I’ve seen a lot when it comes to the employee/employer dynamic or what I refer to as “The Dance.”

The hot topic in my world right now is the phenomenon called “Quiet Quitting” – where employees take the stance of only doing what is in their job description, nothing more nothing less. Quietly closing down their workstations at the agreed upon quitting time, not staying late nor coming in early. Essentially, putting in as little effort as possible. They have adopted the “work to live vs. live to work” mantra as their guiding mission. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree with this mission, and I don’t espouse the idea of grinding away in the proverbial sweatshop, doing a job you hate, simply to pay the bills, pad the 401K, and maybe “one day” enjoy your life. What I don’t agree with is Quiet Quitting.

The dance between employee and employer should be a fine orchestrated waltz, but to be honest, that’s rare, especially in our post-Covid world. The current dance I’m seeing is more the Mashed Potato and throw in the twist. The dance is wild and everyone is trying to figure it out where the hell their feet are supposed to go!

It’s true – Millennials are far better at the work-life balance than we Boomers. I have encouraged our children to follow their passions, enjoy their lives, travel, and experience life – BUT I’ve also instilled a solid work ethic in them – Commit and give 100% or don’t even go there – wherever there is.

I strongly believe that if you are going to do anything in life, you should give it your all. Yes – try new things and if they aren’t for you, it’s ok, find something else until you are happy and fulfilled. That’s called growth. But to take a job and not care – just glide through, collect a paycheck, and never want to push yourself to be better, that is not giving 100%. If you are that apathetic, I would say the job isn’t for you – go find a new one.

Employers now find themselves in an unknown dance – not sure where to put their feet, as the younger generations choreograph their own routines and expect the show to go on without a hitch. The dance doesn’t work that way. Employees and employers are frustrated – so it’s time to take a step back and figure out where the feet and the bodies need to go. Who moves first?  Well, I think a certain sector of employees has already done that with “Quiet Quitting.”

As for the employer’s next move? They need to step back and decide about their culture and whom they want to attract as the next generation of leaders. Is there a place for Quiet Quitters? If so, great. Create processes, systems, and a culture around that. If there isn’t, be clear about not only the “job description” but about expectations beyond what is in writing. On the other hand, make clear the possibilities and opportunities given to those who decide not to be invisible, those who want to give the extra effort. Encourage those who aren’t shy about bringing forth new ideas and are willing to put in the time to implement new strategies.

I think that’s how the dance gets back to a Waltz. Communication and clear expectations from all parties. The passive-aggressive complaining and taking it to social media versus having intelligent conversations and finding the right employee/employer relationship just isn’t working for anyone anymore.