In this week’s Principle 6 newsletter, “quiet quitting” or purposeful work?

Image show many hands coming together, each holding a different piece of a puzzle.
Cooperatives are hard-wired for sustainability.

In this week’s Principle 6 newsletter, guest author Martin Lowery considers how motivation influences the phenomenon of “quiet quitting.”

“Cooperative culture is unquestionably driven by our values and principles,” Lowery writes. “While we may not typically use the terminology ‘optimally motivated’ to describe our culture, optimal motivation is arguably in our DNA. ‘Quiet quitting’ is decidedly not.”

Read the full newsletter below, then consider how cooperatives can work together to provide more meaningful and rewarding jobs. NCBA CLUSA is on a mission to document Principle 6 collaborations across the country so we can identify trends, document best practices and share this knowledge with you—our fellow cooperators!

Share your example of Principle 6


Principle 6 Newsletter – “Quiet Quitting” or Purposeful Work?

September 7, 2022

People are always motivated.  The question is not if but why they are motivated… Motivation generated from values, purpose, love, joy or compassion is different from motivation generated from ego, power, status or a desire for external rewards. – “Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… and What Does,” Susan Fowler

[Looking to] a more inclusive future of work, the International Cooperative Alliance defends the basic principles of dignity and equality in the new and emerging forms of employment. – “ICA Declaration on Decent Work and Against Harassment”


We are all by now familiar with the Great Resignation that began in late 2020 and early 2021 in which a significant percentage of the U.S. workforce, presumably in a state of pandemic discontent, left their current employment. Lately we are learning of a related phenomenon dubbed “Quiet Quitting”—an intentional work slowdown by employees attempting to complete the minimum amount of work necessary to fulfill the basic requirements of the job.

While we don’t have data that can accurately determine whether cooperatives have been affected to the same extent as for-profit companies by these trends, there is excellent research in motivational theory to suggest otherwise.  A theory of optimal motivation in the workplace studied by Susan Fowler, who is quoted above, is a case in point:

“The first psychological need [of employees],” she argues, “is autonomy … People at work need to feel that they have choices; that they are the source of their actions. The opposite of autonomy at work? Pressure.”

“The second psychological need is relatedness … People need to care about and be cared about by others without ulterior motives. Relatedness also plays out when people feel they are contributing to a greater good, or that the company cares about them by being just and fair. The opposite of relatedness at work? Goals driven by metrics without meaning.”

“The third psychological need is competence … People need to grow, learn, and become more effective at meeting everyday challenges and opportunities. The opposite of competence at work? A day without growing and learning.”

Fowler concludes that when these three needs are satisfied, the result is optimal motivation.

A case can be made that exerting pressure on employees to achieve performance is not the cooperative way. Likewise, setting goals driven by metrics that are not meaningful is not the cooperative way. And, perhaps most importantly, spending one’s workdays without growing and learning is not the cooperative way.

Cooperatives are purpose-driven organizations and can be optimal (intrinsic) motivators. This should not by any means suggest that we dispense with the need for external motivators such as clear performance metrics, clear project deadlines or fair compensation and benefits.  The absence of such external motivators is, de facto, demotivating. What it does mean is that employees can be optimally motivated if their cooperative truly embraces and lives the cooperative values and principles.

Let’s for a moment consider how the cooperative values and principles relate to the potential for optimal motivation in the workplace.


The need to feel a degree of choice and self-direction at work correlates well with the cooperative values of self-help and self-responsibility, the ethical values of honesty and openness and the cooperative principle of Autonomy and Independence. Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations. Employees understand and appreciate this. Their cooperative is not controlled by anyone other than the members themselves. In turn, the employee can typically exercise a degree of autonomous choice and openly and honestly express their opinions.


The need to feel cared about by others and the desire to contribute to a greater good correlate well with the cooperative values of democracy and solidarity, the ethical values of social responsibility and caring for others and the cooperative principles of Cooperation Among Cooperatives and Concern for Community. Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures. Those connections give employees the sense that they are part of something larger than themselves. Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities. Because the cooperative is locally owned, the employees are naturally an integral part of the community. Many, many cooperative employees participate in voluntary community service projects, often independently of specifically supported cooperative initiatives.


The need to grow and learn and the desire to increase one’s effectiveness correlate well with the value of self-help and the cooperative principle of Education, Training and Information. Cooperatives provide education and training for their employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. In every cooperative sector in the U.S., there are frequent educational opportunities in which employees eagerly participate.

Simon Sinek, management expert and author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, defines organizational culture as the combination of values and behavior—“Culture emerges when a group of people who believe and value the same things unite around those shared ideals.”

Cooperative culture is unquestionably driven by our values and principles. While we may not typically use the terminology “optimally motivated” to describe our culture, optimal motivation is arguably in our DNA. “Quiet quitting” is decidedly not.

Stay tuned,

Share This Post

We hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, we would love it if you would share it to your social networks!