Blog | Personal Finance

The Third Way of Quiet Quitting

Some employees are lazy. Some bosses are bad. But some quiet quitters have a different motivation.

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It’s a tale as old as time: the struggle between employers and employees.

As a business owner, I know how hard it can be to find great employees, as well as retain them. It’s an unfortunate reality of business that some employees turn out to be lazy, dishonest, and need to be fired. Those are the easy ones to find out.

There’s also another class of employee, the one who does the bare minimum and just scrapes by. You’re not sure if you can make them better and coach them up, or if they need to go. Meanwhile they underperform relative to your high achievers.

Enter the term “Quiet Quitters.”

What is Quiet Quitting?

According to The New York Times, quiet quitting is a term that started to take hold on the popular social media platform TikTok. It then went mainstream with articles in The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian.

The basic ethos of quiet quitting is that it’s ok to just do your job. It doesn’t have to be your passion. It doesn’t have to consume your life. It doesn’t have to be the center of your identity. Show up. Do your 9 to 5. Log off and live your life.

There’s a whole host of responses to this mindset. Some find it offensive that an employee would think this way. You should always go the extra mile at work, they say. Others think it’s an attempt to finally set some healthy boundaries between work and life.

Quiet quitting is really about bosses?

Almost all the commentary on quiet quitting has been around the employee and their behavior. Interestingly, Harvard Business Review had a different point of view. They say it’s actually about bad bosses.

“Our data indicates that quiet quitting is usually less about an employee’s willingness to work harder and more creatively, and more about a manager’s ability to build a relationship with their employees where they are not counting the minutes until quitting time…We found that the least effective managers have three to four times as many people who fall in the ‘quiet quitting’ category compared to the most effective leaders. These managers had 14% of their direct reports quietly quitting, and only 20% were willing to give extra effort. But those who were rated the highest at balancing results with relationships saw 62% of their direct reports willing to give extra effort, while only 3% were quietly quitting.”

I always believe that there are three sides to the coin. The front, the back, and the edge. The truth is usually found at the edge. The front and back of the quiet quitting coin is the struggle between bosses and employees between productivity at work and fulfillment in other areas of life. Like most things in life, it’s more complicated than that.

Some employees are just bad employees, even if they have good bosses. Some people work hard, even for bad bosses. As in life, it takes all kinds.

But at the heart of all these discussions is what I find most interesting, control and freedom.

The CASHFLOW Quadrant, Control, and Freedom

To illustrate what I mean, I want to share the CASHFLOW Quadrant with you.


The CASHFLOW Quadrant is a simple representation of four types of people.

E = employee

S = self-employed

B = business owner

I = Investor

Employees and self-employed people crave the same thing, security. But they go about it in a different way.

Employees think the true path to security is a safe, secure job. In exchange, they give up their freedom and control to the employer. They may feel like they have some semblance of these, but they have very little leverage compared to the employer.

Self-employed think the true path to security is control. Unlike the employee, they are unwilling to give up control. There is no one that can do it better than them. They think of themselves as business owners, but really they only own a job. If they stop working, they can’t survive. As such, they sacrifice freedom in the name of security.

On the right side of the quadrant, business owners and investors understand that it is very insecure to be either an employee or self-employed. Instead, they understand that true freedom and control is found in being on the right side of the quadrant. They give up perceived security in favor of those values, though it often ends up being as secure or more secure to own a business or invest, precisely because you have control.

What kind of quiet quitter are you?

As I mentioned earlier, the third side of the coin in any issue is the edge. It’s on the edge of the quiet quitter coin where I ask, what kind of quiet quitter are you?

My guess is that most quiet quitters are dissatisfied Es and Ss. Maybe they really do have a bad boss and are feeling insecure. Those are employees that will try to find a better job at some point. Or maybe they’re tired of feeling out of control. So they are doing a side hustle. Those are self-employed folks masquerading as employees. They’ll never be happy.

But there might be another subset of quiet quitters out there…those who really want to make the move to the right side of the CASHFLOW Quadrant but haven’t had the courage yet. Those are the quiet quitters I’m interested in talking with.

These are people who don’t want to really put in the bare minimum. They like to work hard and make things happen, to pursue their passion. They just don’t want to do it for someone else. Unlike a self-employed person, they also want to build something great and be free with their time to enjoy other things in life. For them, the path to this freedom and control is to build a business or become an investor. They just don’t know it yet.

Why a quiet quitter should build a business

If what I just said resonates with you, I want to especially talk to those who want to enter the CASHFLOW Quadrant as a business owner. Here’s a few reasons why you should consider building a business instead of quiet quitting or trying to find a new job.

  1. Building a business is an adventure

    When I formulated my plans to build my first business, my rich dad was adamant about the spirit with which I undertook this new adventure.

    “You build a business because of the challenge,” he said. “You build a business because it is exciting, it’s challenging, and it will require everything you’ve got to make it successful.”

    If you’re ready to throw your passion, energy, and skills into something that has more meaning than just being a cog in a wheel, building a business is a great place to start.

  2. Building a business builds spirit

    Rich dad also wanted me to build a business in order to find my entrepreneurial spirit.

    “The world is filled with people with great ideas,” he said, “but only a few people earn great fortunes from their great ideas.”

    He encouraged me to start a business, any business, no matter whether I liked the product or not. He was not concerned about whether I failed. He simply wanted me to start. One of his favorite quotes from Albert Einstein was, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” He wanted me to start a business simply so I could challenge my mediocre mind and develop my entrepreneurial spirit.

    Rather than do the bare minimum for someone else, free up your time and energy to do what you know you want to do already: invest 100% in yourself and your future.

  3. Building a business takes everything you have

    A lot of people have a goal of becoming an accredited investor, which takes $200,000 a year in earnings. To some people, that is a lot of money, but it is not a reason to start a business.

    In all honesty, the risks in starting a business are too large for such a small amount of money. If you decide to start a business, don’t do it for pennies on the dollar. The risks are too high for a payoff so small. Do it for a much bigger payday. Why? Because building a business will demand everything you have to make it successful. You can make $200,000 as an employee with a lot less stress and risk. Building a business requires you to have a higher goal in mind.

    The pay off of this hard work is that you will earn the most important things in life: control and freedom. I have a hunch that’s what many quiet quitters really want, and given the path to obtain them, they’ll work very hard.

  4. Building a business is a life of love

    That being said, while money is important, it’s not the primary motivating factor for building a business. I think the question, “Why would you start a business?” can be best answered by asking the same question in another way. “Why would you keep playing the game of golf?” The answer is found in the spirit of the game.

    Today, I have friends who have sold their businesses for millions of dollars. Many of them take a few months off, and then they are right back in the game. It is the excitement, the challenge, the spirit, and the potential for big payoff at the end that keeps these entrepreneurs going.

    Building a business is a life of love, powered by the entrepreneurial spirit.

Original publish date: September 19, 2022

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