The Quiet Employee gets the Carrot

Steven C. Owens
6 min readJun 5, 2024


What 30 years of corporate experience has taught me…

The quiet employee is blessing.

“Keep your head down and do your job!”

This declaration was a mission statement 30 years ago when I first began my career in the corporate world. Grab the first job you see at 23 years old and stay there as long as possible and hopefully until you retire. We were a generation that saw our parents do that very same thing. My generation is the last to have that mind set. The explosion of the “.com” industry blew up in 1995 birthing a new worker strategy called the “job change revolution.” Stay for two years and move to another company for more money. Loyalty to one employer was dead.

Since then the world has advanced heavily into social media and a multitude of soap box platforms. The employee has gained more control over their employer much the way students have grabbed a stranglehold on our teachers. Parents are less likely to believe the teacher over their own child as opposed to the generation of the 1970’s and 80’s. If the teacher reprimanded my generation our parents felt we “deserved it” and didn’t question (which was not always good). Today parents are texting, e-mailing, posting all of their concerns and feelings of neglect of their child because in a class of 30 students they are not getting the attention they deserve? Understandably the pendulum needed to sway from the 70’s and 80’s. However,

have we become a society of soft parenting and corporate managing? Have we become afraid of our own children and employees?

The statement; “Keep your head down and do you job”, has even more meaning in today’s corporate world. Human Resource departments are being overwhelmed with everything from hangnail-ticky-tack complaints of “can’t you move my entire desk away from the sun glare”, to legitimt harassment, bullying and discrimination accusations. Human Resources have become a crisis center instead of a place to grow your career and bring in talented employees who want to work. They need to install double swinging doors like an Emergency Room complete with gurneys for hurt feelings because the employee’s boss actually asked them to do something. The freedom to simply say “no” to an employee has become a loaded response. Accepting lower standards in order to hire can result in filling bodies in chairs but many hours of additional counseling and coaching. If you are too strict with your standards to hire then you never gain the muscle needed to fill positions and keep the anxiety level low enough to retain your current workforce.


Ghosting the Employer

“Ghosting” has been a term fully supported by both the dating and working world. More people are avoiding the difficult conversations of ending a relationship either with each other and now has become popular among employees and their employer. A couple of years ago a phenomenon started where potential candidates for a job would be hired but never show-up? What? I try to put this in terms of me doing this in 1987 and explaining it to my Father. This would never be a conversation and therefore never an option. Jobs were at a premium then and there was usually a billion applicants to consider. Your best foot forward and college did not guarantee a job. You felt “lucky” when a company hired you. This is a time when paper resume’s were sent by snail-mail and you worried which pile they would be in? Did someone see it or lose it? Did I have it printed on the right paper? You worried about this. If you didn’t hear back from your potential employer you made a phone call to their Human Resources Department to check-in. Nobody wants to have verbal conversation but are quick to post exactly how they are feeling on Social Media . Right or Wrong or exaggerated, these comments can hurt the company’s reputation.

A number of years ago I decided I wanted to try something outside the insurance industry after a surprising lay-off. Wegmans Food Store had an excellent reputation and were known to send their produce managers to California to try the vegetables and fruit, to France to test their cheese, Dairy managers to the heartland to witness how the milk was processed. They had a 100% history of never having layoffs. I interviewed for their Cafe Manager and had three interviews. All with very enthusiastic hiring associates who almost assured me that I would get the job. After 6 weeks and three interviews I received a form letter mechanically typed with no signature turning me down for the job. What? Simply stated in one line that they went with another candidate with more experience. Three interviews and I get a form letter. Yup! I had to live with it. Today that would never fly. Facebook and “X” would be littered with company bashing. Wegmans would never get off the matt.


Dress for Success

Interviewing for me was always a labor of love as a Supervisor. I enjoy meeting new eager talent and relish in the idea of being surprised by a candidate that appeared to be an odd fit judging by their background, but the perfect fit in the end. I have seen everything from candidates crying because of personal issues to those dressed to go to a prom rather than an interview? One person actually said to me;

“You don’t have to hire me Steve if you don’t want to”.

I didn’t.

Nerves are always a factor and I can see past that. My philosophy is to tell the interviewee up front:

“I am not here to trick you but to get to know you. This is not an interview but a discussion.”

You can usually hear the massive exhale after that.

Appropriate attire is important and we have become a post-pandemic sweat pant society. Even suits are being designed for extreme comfort. Not quite the leisure suit of the 1970’s but almost similar to lounge-wear on a Saturday which is worse in my opinion. One applicant had a suit so wrinkled I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be deigned this way or the person literally rolled around on his living room floor to get that actual effect? I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. This one didn't get hired either. Another person brought their spouse and wanted them to have them sit in the interview with us? I declined that request and did not hire this person.

Do you have an iron?

If you are lucky enough to have been hired and like your job, keep your head down and do your job. Spend less time in Human Resources and be grateful for any or all perks they give you. Believe me… they will love you for it! If and when an issue arises and you need to communicate to your boss or H.R., you will be more likely to be heard. You are also most likely to get a promotion if you are not among the senseless squeaky wheels. The carrot that dangles can be yours if of course you fulfill all the basic requirements of being promotable. Bring to light major concerns that infringe on your professional and personal rights, otherwise, keep your head down and do your job! You will be amazed at the things you can accomplish.



Steven C. Owens

Writer of life lessons sprinkled with meaningful sports and history editorials.