quiet quitting

Quiet Quitting in Supply Chain: Blind Spots for Leaders

By Published On: May 20, 2023


“Quiet quitting” is a hot topic in the work force parlance these days. The Wall Street Journal has even jumped in on it. Basically, if your employees are unhappy, productivity will suffer. You may not know they’re unhappy and “quiet quitting.” We’re here to help you understand that these issues could inherently be tied to blind spots – and how to address what you may not know about, moving forward.

Quiet Quitting in Supply Chain

Quiet quitting seems to be the talk of the town in the professional world nowadays. First it was “remote working will die” then it was “hybrid and flexible work environs” and now it’s quiet quitting. To be fair, folks do love a good trending topic. So why not hop on that train as well?

Quiet quitting is a phenomenon recently coined for folks that do the bare minimum to keep their jobs. If you’ve ever worked a government job, there was a term for a lot of the long-time workers called “retired at your desk.” Basically, since you can’t get fired from a government job, folks just showed up for work, did next to nothing, and got their checks and pensions. This is no sleight to any government workers whatsoever. Just a term that was picked up as a government worker. 

The term might be new but the act of quiet quitting most definitely is not. For as long as people have been working, there has been employee dissatisfaction and unproductive employees. People clock watch, take long lunches, waste time on menial tasks, and more. Some of us actually worked in the professional world before the internet, much less social media. Can you even imagine how time got wasted without surfing the net or social media? Distractions are more rampant than ever before, so the lack of production can be tied to that, in part. 

But, a note to employers out there: This is still a candidate driven job market, especially in supply chain. If you think you have employees that are “quiet quitting,” that likely says as much about the work culture as it does about the individual or individuals in question. 

Are you doing enough to invest in your team?

Do you provide an adequate feedback loop so employees can lay some hard truths on you as a leader?

Are you providing opportunities for growth and development?

Do you encourage your team members to learn more about their craft?

Most of all, do you simply stop by their desks and tell them how much you appreciate what they do? A little bit of acknowledgement can go a long way. 

Think about it this way: You’re in a very busy restaurant. Servers are running around crazily. You know it could be a minute. But, a diligent server with their hands full makes eye contact with you, acknowledging your presence and maybe raises a finger to say “be with you in a second.” That buys the server valuable time. Now, consider being sat in a relatively calm and not so busy restaurant. A few minutes go by, no one has greeted you. You see a gaggle of servers lingering around the bar and eventually one saunters over with not much of a sense of urgency. You probably won’t come back to the restaurant that doesn’t value a guest experience. The server is the boss in both cases; one takes the time to give a simple acknowledgement. The other? Can’t be bothered.

Supply Chain is people. Whether it’s front line transportation workers in freight, rail, and trucking or warehouse order pickers or your regional distribution managers, your people make your money. They keep you competitive. They keep your supply chain alive and thriving. Keep them satisfied as best you can. 

You can’t please everyone -and sometimes you shouldn’t. But there are some things you can do to ensure that you’re covering your blind spots.

What are your blind spots?

As an employer, you’re accountable to yourself. Sure, there are typically others, but as a leader, you need the integrity and discipline to hold yourself accountable. That includes being aware of your team, collectively and individually. 

But this isn’t just about numbers and whether your teams are filling their key performance metrics. Your KPIs can be measuring all kinds of business performances, but if some of the people on your teams are quiet quitting, this could turn into a costly blind spot. One KPI that a lot of employers and leaders neglect: Keeping People Inspired.

One of our recent leadership podcasts is dedicated to this very subject. As supply chain leaders, we are often tasked with the oversight of myriad different teams – coordinating, linking, and facilitating communications and operations across the organization. Success is dependent upon a streamlined flow of information and knowledge within and among these disparate teams and units. It’s understandable that sometimes employee morale and buy-in can slip through the cracks. Things like mentorship programs can dramatically increase employee morale and buy-in and help avoid the quiet quitting trend. 

Former SVP of Supply Chain for Coca Cola – Chris Gaffney speaks at length about how supply chain leaders – and leaders in general – can do better about seeking out trusted insights about what they may not be seeing.

“I think when it comes to blind spots, even if you’re open to feedback, you can’t deal with something that you can’t see,” says Gaffney.
“So inherently you need some help. I think it’s important for supply chain leaders, in many cases because you impact a lot of people as a peer or as a team leader. And one of the things that I’ve seen over my career personally, in working for other people is high performers as individual contributors, and many leaders are not immune to this. And in many cases may be more susceptible to others. And I think it matters because there are a lot of unintended consequences of how your blind spot impacts other people. And I would say myself and I’ve seen others. Well-intended folks can do a lot of damage without any awareness that they’re impacting other people.” Gaffney has a point, here. Ultimate accountability comes from yourself.

Quiet Quitters Symptomatic of Larger Issues

Often times, those who are quiet quitting also are doing the bare minimum to get by in most every aspect of their careers. While they may want a healthy work life balance, there is also an issue of integrity and the importance of being a more engaged employee. After all, the job description clearly laid out obligations and duties of the position. While burned out employees sometimes find it difficult to always be going above and beyond, there are also simply bad hires. A lot of these same types of employees are ghosting interviews which can result in quiet bridge burning.

Regardless of who is at fault, the hustle culture mentality and poor management can lead to the loss of quality staff. But it’s also incumbent upon the employer to combat quiet quitting while ensuring that they’re sourcing and hiring the best candidates for the job.


Quiet quitting is a blind spot for employers. That’s it. That’s the sentence. As long as there are employers and employees, there will be unproductive and dissatisfied employees. In our information, we sometimes craft click-baity catchphrases to capture different trends. I suppose this is one of those times. But “quiet quitting” does give leaders an opportunity to take some time for self reflection, especially in supply chain. We all know how scarce top-tier supply chain talent can be. According to SCM Talent Recruiters, their candidates tend to have 3 different offers to choose from, on average. If your less productive employees are quiet quitting, then you can bet that your strong employees also have a sense of dissatisfaction. Do some personal inventory and go invest in your people. You’ll be glad that you did.

If you want to hear more about how supply chain leaders can avoid blind spots, check out the below podcast!

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