Viewpoint: 'Quiet quitting' has roots in 'learned helplessness'

The term "quiet quitting" — referring to a phenomenon in which employees reduce their enthusiasm at work and stick to the minimum expectations of their role — gained traction on social media and in the news over the last year. However, the term is only the latest to describe a fundamental aspect of human nature.

That is what two authors argue in a Harvard Business Review article published Jan. 3. The article is written by David Rock, co-founder of the Neuroleadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work, and Jay Dixit, senior science writer at the NeuroLeadership Institute and lecturer at New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University. 

The term "quiet quitting" has particularly caught on among younger workers, with 82 percent of millennials and Generation Z workers saying the concept appeals to them, according to a study conducted by Axios and the research firm The Generation Lab.

But in their article, Mr. Rock and Mr. Dixit contend the term is just the latest to describe this fundamental aspect of human nature: "In the face of persistent and inescapable stressors, people often respond by simply giving up. When nothing is in your control, why even try?"

According to the authors, scientists describe this as "learned helplessness," a term coined in the 1960s in a psychological experiment.

But they said more recent research suggests "helplessness isn't just a response to enduring misfortunes beyond our control. Rather, passivity is our default hardwired response to prolonged adversity."

Mr. Rock and Mr. Dixit recommend organizations work to reverse passivity by providing workers with "a direct experience of autonomy."

To read the full article, click here

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