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Five reasons ‘quiet quitting’ is bad for compliance

Quiet quitters, known during prior generations as corporate lifers, survivors, zombies, and burned-out cases, are everywhere, at least judging by their social media presence. They’re what comes next after the Great Resignation — mainly younger corporate workers who stay on the job but do nothing extra, their purpose being to seek a better work-life balance, protect against total burnout, and keep from being exploited.

How does quiet quitting impact compliance and compliance officers? Let’s take a look.

#1 Quiet quitting puts the focus on compensation. When corporate workers emotionally withdraw from their jobs but stay for the paycheck, that paycheck becomes what matters. We all work for money, more or less. But when we work for money only, that’s unhealthy. It’s easy to imagine those workers making decisions that might be good for their compensation but bad for the company. Anyone in a business development or sales role, for example, who’s thinking too much about the paycheck, might take unreasonable risks. Ironically, quiet quitters may start out thinking money shouldn’t be the object of their work life. But if they stick with a job merely to collect a paycheck, then the job becomes all about the money.

#2 Quiet quitting protects bad bosses. When people work to rule, as quiet quitters do, they aren’t likely to make an effort to improve their company’s work environment. They’re apt instead to ignore the nuances of the workplace, including the influence of incompetent bosses or those with bad intentions. So, a byproduct of too much quiet quitting can be the emergence and protection of unworthy leaders. Company values, including a commitment to compliance, tend to flow from the top down, so bad leaders have an outsized negative influence. Creating a safe haven for creepy and undeserving bosses will eventually undermine the compliance program.

#3 Quiet quitting disguises or conceals mental health issues. Even for employees plugged in and on their toes, spotting mental health issues in co-workers can be challenging. With quiet quitters around — disengaged and passive — those with mental health issues are less likely to be identified or helped. And some quiet quitters may themselves need care. But if they cast themselves in the socially accepted role of a quiet quitter, that can divert attention. Corporate life is stressful. Sometimes, for some people, the stresses of work and home life can be overwhelming. Responding to mental health needs isn’t formally assigned to most employees outside HR. But finding and helping needful co-workers should be part of everyone’s job and personal responsibility, and quiet quitting isn’t an excuse to look the other way.

#4 Quiet quitting impairs training. The best employees to train are those most engaged with their work. Conversely, the worst to train are those who are disengaged and emotionally distant. It’s even worse with quiet quitters who view training as a workplace “extra” they should avoid. When someone says to themselves (or to TikTok), “I’ll show up and do what’s in my job description but nothing more,” don’t expect them to value compliance training. Beyond that, quiet quitting usually involves an element of cynicism, which is a form of distrust. Cynical workers who distrust their bosses and the corporate mission respond by erecting emotional barriers. Those same barriers block or impede training that imparts the company’s values and compliance requirements.

#5 Quiet quitting spoils compliance departments. Can quiet quitters be effective compliance officers? Hmm, not likely. Compliance requires the presence of mind, sustained concentration, consistent effort, a drive for improvement, and even a dash or two of creative application. That doesn’t describe a worker who decides to coast — show up, do the minimum, collect a paycheck. Even a small percentage of quiet quitters in a compliance group will likely lower the overall effectiveness of the group, perhaps dramatically, and put the company in danger. Bottom line: The only thing worse for compliance than quiet quitters among the general workforce are quiet quitters in a compliance role.

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Quiet quitting is a problem, not a solution. Who wants to spend the best hours of the day doing work they don’t enjoy, that doesn’t inspire them, and in which they have no ambition to improve or advance? Sorry, that’s an unacceptably high price for a paycheck.

My advice: If you must quit, quit for real. Do what it takes to find work you love and would do without pay. Be willing to try different work in different settings — big companies, small companies, for-profits, non-profits, private sector, public sector, or even on your own. Whenever possible, find a mentor. Watch them work, ask them questions, and listen to what they say.

Above all, redeem the days. Keep this gem from Ben Franklin in front of you: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.”

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