Quiet Quitting is defined as “an employee who performs the minimum requirements of one’s job without putting in any more time, effort, or enthusiasm than absolutely necessary.” Sound familiar?
The art of quiet quitting is not a new concept, but many tales of its origins exist. From TikTok influencers to job-recruiting gurus, many experts claim they were the first to coin and utilize the tactic. However, we like to believe quiet quitting began with Seinfeld’s lovable underperformer, George Costanza.
Throughout the nine seasons of the show about nothing, George hilariously avoided work by mastering quiet quitting and sometimes not-so-quietly quitting.
Check out a few ways George Costanza launched quiet quitting into the mainstream and how it can negatively impact the workplace when it happens in real-life scenarios.
George Costanza’s Greatest Quits
According to RateMyJob, everyone’s favorite George held at least 14 different jobs during the Seinfeld era. Throughout the series, he was known for creatively avoiding work or completely giving up on a job for greener pastures.
Possibly, the most well-known story of George’s rocky employment history was when he worked as a real estate broker. After receiving a memo explaining he was no longer allowed to use the executive bathroom, Costanza demonstrated his famous not-so-quiet quitting with a blistering speech aimed at his boss.
George would ultimately be rehired after management had a change of heart at a company party until Costanza drugged his boss. It’s widely speculated that if you drug your employer in real life, you won’t receive the same welcome-back offer.
Another famous quiet quitting moment occurs when George works for the New York Yankees. As a nap lover, it was unfortunate his office was next to a large hallway window where his peers and bosses could check-in. After recruiting a carpenter to customize his desk with more space underneath, a blanket shelf, and a cup holder, George could finally relish in his new “bed.” Of course, if you’ve seen the episode, you know his plan hilariously unravels.
During his work career, George would also:
- Pretend to be handicapped to land a job with preferential bathroom treatment. (What’s with this guy and bathrooms?)
- Destroy a long-standing parking company in one day.
- Wear Babe Ruth’s old uniform during a board meeting only to spill strawberries all over the front.
- Drive around Yankee Stadium while dragging the World Series trophy behind his car.
- Refuse to accept a buyout from a company to eliminate his year-long contract.
- Create a fake charity to get out of giving gifts to his co-workers.
Some would argue that if George Costanza would have focused his energy into working rather than getting out of work, he would have been a permanent employee of the month.
While quiet quitting certainly makes for good television, the disruption in the workplace can cause devastating effects on employee morale and production. When staff members feel underappreciated, it’s common for them to “act their wage” and seek more fulfilling opportunities elsewhere.
“I love a good nap. Sometimes, it’s the only thing getting me out of bed in the morning.” George Costanza.George Costanza
If you’re in a leadership position, recognizing the signs of a quiet quitter is critical. Finding a solution through open and honest conversations, addressing the root of a problem and offering opportunities for growth are great tactics to retain your star employees.
When analyzing an employee’s performance, you can look for these signs that a potential quiet quit is on the horizon.
- Decreased productivity
- Missed deadlines
- Increased absence or tardiness
- Lack of engagement during meetings
- Disinterest in company culture and social events
If you feel like your people potentially have their foot out of the door, try maintaining open communication or improving your training program. Sometimes, leading with care is enough to revive a failing working relationship.
Throughout the tenure of Seinfeld’s TV run, Jerry enjoyed continued employment as a standup comedian. His cohorts, George and Elaine, bounced between careers while Kramer did whatever he did. He always had enough cash for cigars, so he must have had some source of income.
As the great George Costanza once said, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.” Unfortunately, many leaders mistakenly believe their employees are happy and fulfilled in their roles – even if they are not. However, the reality is that many employees quit quietly when they disengage from their work and ultimately leave their jobs without any notice.
So how can leaders prevent this from happening? It starts with acknowledging the problem and taking action to address it. This can mean regular check-ins to gauge the interest and satisfaction of their employees and identify any issues they may be facing.
To retain more Jerrys, create a culture of open communication and feedback where employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns and ideas. It’s always better to anticipate potential issues than waiting until it’s too late.
Take action to keep staff engaged and happy, and you’ll be rewarded with a loyal and productive team.
Need some tips on building an employee communications framework? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ve built internal communications strategies and programs for Fortune 100, midsize, and startups alike. Full transparency – our personality skews more Kramer than George.