Aim Higher: The death of ambition?



The Phenomenon of Quiet Quitting


The term “quiet quitting” has been all over the news this year.



It’s generally used to describe workers who have decided to do the minimum required at their jobs. No “going the extra mile,” no overtime, no volunteering for stretch assignments.

In short: no ambition.



What are the causes of this trend? Is it really something new, or are we just re-labelling a phenomenon that once might have been called “retiring in place?”


Elements of Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting can include:

  • A strict adherence to rules; a sort of “passive aggressive” compliance attitude.
  • Requiring detailed, written instructions for even ordinary business actions.
  • Increased levels of cynicism.
  • An unwillingness to do any task not specifically in a job description.
  • Stopping work as soon as possible.
  • Refusing to take on new, undefined tasks.



Obviously, there are going to be levels of this behavior. Some people may just stop volunteering for stretch assignments or high-stress projects. Others may be so checked-out that they aren’t regularly performing to even minimal standards.



My panelists and I discuss several reasons behind this phenomenon. Obviously, the pandemic plays into the equation, as do other global sources of stress that have left many, many people feeling burned out. And this lack of ambition is clearly not isolated to one generation or one part of the world.


But here’s an important thing to consider for yourself and the teams you manage. Many people confuse the drive of ambition with career rewards. We think that being ambitious means wanting more status, more responsibility, and, above all else, more money.


That is not—or should not—be the case. You can also apply the term to all the goals you have in life, work-related and personal. You can be ambitious for successes that involve family, relationships, health, travel, or creativity. My fear is that if you—or members of your team—approach a job, any job, with an attitude of “quiet quitting,” it’s more likely to dampen your enthusiasm in other areas.


I believe in work-life balance. But I believe that’s best achieved by being equally excited and energetic about both work and all the other important areas of your life. If you’re quiet quitting at work, ask yourself this: have you transferred your ambition to other activities, or are you burned out in every way?


This is an important topic, and I think you’ll benefit from my guests’ thoughts on the subject.


Click here to listen to the episode.





Image Credit: Samuel Ng


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