ManagementSpeak: We need our employees to be fully engaged.

Translation: Our employees are doing only what we pay them to do.

Today’s contributor went the extra mile by providing this sadly accurate translation.

We used to call it “retiring in place” (RIP). Now, those who like to claim ownership of old ideas by attaching new names to them are calling it “Quiet Quitting.”

Back when I was in management and needed to recruit an employee for an open position, a prerequisite was drafting a position description – an eloquent soliloquy that listed the responsibilities the new employee would be responsible for and the skills they’d need to fulfill those responsibilities.

The final responsibility was always, “Other duties as assigned on a time-available basis.” The skills needed for it: flexibility, adaptability, and the ability to innovate.

HR generally asked me to remove this responsibility. I generally explained that it was the only responsibility that mattered.

HR and I didn’t always get along.

But neither HR, job applicants, or I once considered that including it would end up placing an unfair burden to a new hire. Quite the opposite – it was understood to be the most efficient and accurate way management had to understand what other roles employees could succeed in, which in turn translated to providing opportunities for promotions and the increased compensation that accompanied them.

Sometimes it even worked that way. But in all too many companies it devolved into a transparent stratagem for employers to get fifty hours of work for forty hours-worth of pay, with the promised benefit to employees somehow never turning up.

Understand, I’ve been writing about this and related subjects for 18 years, questioning whether “work ethic” has anything to do with ethics (it doesn’t – see “Work Ethic,” 9/13/2004 and “More Work Ethics,” 9/20/2004). All that’s happened since then is that employees have (1) caught on; and (2) acquired enough bargaining power with their employers, at least temporarily, that they can do something about it.

And so they are. Some are embracing the “gig economy.” Many are leaving jobs (and managers) they hate for pastures they hope are greener. Overlaying this are those who don’t leave but do work remotely as much as possible, in part to minimize contact with the managers they dislike, along with those who RIP or QQ.

As a manager in this new world of employer/employee relationships, your options are limited. Your protestations that employees who … QuietStay? … will find their efforts rewarded in the long term might be credible on an interpersonal level, depending on your reputation within the confines of the business that was.

But unless the whole business has earned credibility, any promises you make are bounded by your personal presence and won’t survive you should you move vertically, laterally, or beyond.

So as a manager, assess the aggregate mood of the employees in your organization and adjust accordingly, recognizing that like it or not, your relationship with employees is and will increasingly be more transactional than you’d prefer.

Bob’s last word: If you’re an employee considering the RIP/QQ alternative, think very hard about a downside that’s rarely mentioned. As I said in one of articles linked above, “If someone wants to work hard for an employer who doesn’t value the hard work and rewards other qualities, there are good reasons to do so, as several readers pointed out. For many people it’s a matter of self-respect. Even more important than that, slacking off is an easy and bad habit to get into, and hard to break once you have.”

Bob’s sales pitch: Want to give your group an entertaining and iconoclastic view of How Things Work? Sorry – Bill Nye isn’t available and if he was, you couldn’t afford him.

On the other hand, I am, and you probably can. So if you’d like a keynoter who can deliver the Keep-the-Joint-Running perspective on life, the universe, and everything, or at least on how IT and the rest of the business can and should fit together, let’s talk.

Now in CIOs get wrong about optimization.” They ignore the principle that in order to optimize the whole you must sub-optimize the parts.