Quiet quitting has popped into headlines across the globe over the past several weeks. As the phenomenon continues to gain steam, it’s important to remember that this practice has likely been present for years. After all, overworking, burnout and disengagement are not new challenges in the workplace, and individuals have long had to cope with them in different ways.
Some personnel continues to push themselves beyond their limits, resulting in unhealthy stress. Others formally quit their roles to move to other organizations. And still, others have stayed and simply do what they must. With the term “quiet quitting,” employees now have a new language to describe the scenario which (to paraphrase from the BBC):
A person does only what their job demands strictly within their standard work hours.
Some outlets have defined this practice as doing the “bare minimum” to get by. Presented in those terms, individuals may have some preconceived notions that quiet quitting is innately a bad thing, when that may not always be the case.
Team members who quietly quit can still produce appropriate results and may be perfectly content at their organization. They simply are not modulating their work-life boundaries. I liken it to getting a 3 out of a scale of 5 on a traditional performance review. The person accomplishes their tasks, meets expectations, and does exactly what they were hired to do.
In other instances, managers and leaders may find that quiet quitters are experiencing challenges that must be addressed. They may be dealing with pressures that impact their mental wellness. They could be falling behind on deadlines because they have too much to do. Lack of enthusiasm and be disengaged, which is not only demoralizing for that person. It can also rub off on colleagues.
When these issues are present, quiet quitting can turn into a dilemma. To empower those with management responsibilities to avoid the negative impacts of this trend, I will explore some of its common causes as well as offer a few tactics to better support staff.
4 Underlying Problems Driving Quiet Quitting
The Rise of Burnout
According to Asana’s 2022 Anatomy of Work report, 7 out of 10 employees experienced burnout in 2021. Staff members may be tasked with unrealistic expectations by being given too many projects or tasks for a standard workday. Additionally, they may lack support from their managers or not have the knowledge and tools to complete what is being asked of them. A high-pressure company culture can further exacerbate stress.
The Great Reckoning
In the past, many businesses celebrated a “work is life” mentality, and many individuals embraced the “hustle” philosophy. During the pandemic, personnel increasingly gave thought to what they wanted out of life, and very few decided that it was more work! In most cases, people sought greater balance and wanted to reprioritize their roles outside of the office. Couple these desires with the unrealistic expectations I noted above, and it’s not hard to imagine some of the reasons behind the Great Resignation or this current trend.
The Desire for Voice
Another priority that has gained more prominence since the Great Resignation is employees’ growing aspirations to have their voices heard. They are increasingly uninterested in being told what to do without having a say. Instead, people want to work at a place where they know they can make an impact, and their inputs will be respected and welcomed. In organizations that have not yet embraced employee voice, many staff members may choose to do only what is required of them, believing there is no use in sharing opinions that will go unheard.
The Struggle for Engagement
A 2021 survey from Gallup found that only 36% of people reported being engaged with their jobs. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why an employee might disconnect from their employer. In addition to what I’ve already shared, disengagement often occurs when personnel does not think they are contributing to a compelling purpose or meaningful goals. It can come from being stuck in a particular role with no growth path. They may feel isolated from their teammates, or it could be aligned to another obstacle entirely.
6 Potential Remedies to Quiet Quitting
Focus on Wellness
Prioritizing workforce well-being is essential. When team members believe that executives and supervisors are truly concerned about their physical, mental, and emotional wellness, it can help them grow more comfortable speaking up when burnout arises and feel encouraged to engage in self-care. For specific ideas to deliver on this recommendation, read this blog post from my colleague and download our Manager Toolkit: Battling Burnout.
Collaborate on Setting Boundaries
Many corporate cultures celebrate their overachievers. While recognizing those who are going above and beyond is important, be mindful of striking a balance to make sure that people do not overcommit and burn out to get ahead. To promote work-life integration, partner with direct reports to set healthy boundaries. This blog post can offer some ideas to start those conversations.
Provide Learning & Development Experiences
Talent development can address multiple aspects of quiet quitting. Training is one of the most crucial elements of a company’s climate and workforce retention. In fact, the #1 reason people left their jobs last year was a lack of career development and advancement. Investing in learning programs inspires greater engagement and motivation. If staff is burned out because they do not have the skills they need to perform, training may resolve the situation.
Cultivate a Sense of Belonging
Promoting an ethos of inclusion can reduce disengagement and ensure each contributor knows they can have an impact. Personnel needs to recognize that they are seen, appreciated, and valued. At Emergenetics®, one way we help leaders create this sort of environment is by empowering them to honor the gifts of cognitive diversity. When people understand their brilliance and have an appreciation for the strengths of others, it creates a community of belonging where each person knows that their voice matters.
As more and more people express their interest in engaging in purposeful work, it’s important that executives and people leaders take the time to create a compelling vision. That does not require the business to become a nonprofit. Instead, reinforce the company’s mission and make connections so that staff recognizes how the corporation is supporting its employees, clients, community, or a better future. Additionally, make sure each contributor sees how their jobs impact the bigger picture.
Have Honest Conversations
In response to quiet quitting, I’ve noticed some are employing “quiet firing,” where managers do not offer team members new, potentially engaging projects or opportunities. Worse still, the supervisor may treat them poorly for not going above and beyond. This is not an effective or motivating management style. It only hurts the employee as well as the manager’s and the organization’s reputation. If a direct report seems disconnected, disinterested, or is not meeting expectations, it’s time to provide thoughtful feedback and have an empathetic conversation to gain insight and understand their perspective.
As workers strive for balance and advocate for a change in employer-employee relations, leaders will better serve their organizations and people by responding with curiosity and compassion. In examining the factors that may be influencing quiet quitting and designing an atmosphere where people feel engaged and cared for, executives and managers will create a welcoming, motivating workplace, and reap all the bottom-line benefits that come from a culture where everyone is inspired to contribute.