Dear J.T. & Dale: “Quiet quitting” is becoming a well-known topic. Are there any reports on interview questions surrounding this? They may not actually ask specifically — it could be questions that sneakily get you to answer. What’s the word on this? — Elle
DALE: Let me start with a bit of background on the questionable term “quiet quitting.” Turns out, it’s a misnomer, because it doesn’t involve leaving one’s job, but rather, describes those employees quitting any attempt to excel or to contribute beyond minimum job requirements. So, the term is merely a new name for “slackers,” or those “just getting by,” or, as I’ve written about them, “the ALAPs,” the As Little As Possible employees. Thanks to the work of Greg Daugherty at Investopia.com, I can also tell you that “quiet quitting” was popularized earlier this year by TikTok (of course) and YouTube videos, and is related to a slightly less recent Chinese term that translates to “lying flat.” The Chinese notion makes more sense as it suggests avoiding being seen by supervisors, a workers’ strategy that surely predates the pyramids.
J.T.: I have not heard any report of companies asking directly about an applicant’s thoughts on quiet quitting. However, it could come up and, if you’re asked about it, I suggest framing the discussion by asking the interviewer, “Can you clarify what that term means to you?” This gives you a chance to tailor your response, saying something about proper communication and assuring the hiring manager that this is something you would participate in. At the same time, any company that is so worried about quiet quitting that they’re asking about it in an interview should be regarded as a red flag. Pay close attention to what they say about work-life balance and their expectations of employees’ time commitments.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I was with my former company for five years. I was then recruited by a company (same industry but not a competitor) that offered me double the pay. Well, it’s awful here. I don’t have confidence that the company is going to even survive. Truthfully, I want to go back to my old job, which is still open. What’s the best way to approach my former employer? I really would like them to acknowledge that I was doing a great job and at least pay me more to come back, but, at this point, I’d take the job just to get out of here. — Jeremy
DALE: I’m surprised by how often we’re getting asked similar questions. I suspect that the tight labor market has caused some employers to offer big jumps in pay and to, perhaps, be less than candid about working conditions. Even so, doubling pay is an extreme case and I think it’s also your conversational home-free card. Often, there’s resentment toward people who quit the team and suspicions about why they want to return; here, though, being offered double the salary is enough to explain/justify your leaving and it fits with a prodigal son return.
J.T.: Maybe. First, you need to start by getting clear about why you chose to leave: was it truly only the money? And did you have some honest conversations with management prior to looking for a job where you’d make more? You have to own up to your past actions in order to be able to go to them and have an honest conversation about returning. I would reach out to your manager and ask if you can chat directly. This kind of thing is too sensitive to do via email. And then I would share the story of the money and how you didn’t realize what you were getting into. I would then ask them if they would ever consider hiring you back. If they show interest, you could talk about the fact that one of the reasons that made you want to leave was the pay and could they find their way to pay you a bit more money. These are always difficult conversations, and I find the best thing to do is be transparent and sincere.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2022 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.