Quiet quitting by employees is shouting a profound message to their employers that Human Resources professionals, and organizations as a whole, cannot ignore. The pandemic impacted businesses in myriad ways, and for many employees, the pandemic delivered an epiphany. Through lockdowns, quarantines, and long periods of remote work, workers had the opportunity to reevaluate their personal and professional lives. Part of this evaluation was taking a hard look at their daily lives and discerning what really mattered to them. Many determined that a healthy work-life balance was essential.
LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2022 report attests to employees’ wants and needs evolving into a more distinct work-life balance. The intrinsic flame burning in many employees started to flicker, and for some that flame went out completely. While quiet quitting is not a new concept, it is on the increase in many organizations. Leadership needs to identify and implement solutions to address the concerns of “quiet quitters” on their teams.
Quiet quitting is getting increased notoriety through social media today. However, the idea has been around in some form for quite a long time. In the past, the idea was used to describe employees who had hit burnout and shifted gears to do the minimum work needed to do the job adequately. That definition is accurate for some quiet quitters; however, quiet quitting has evolved into a more broad concept.
What is Quiet Quitting?
Quiet quitting does not have a strictly defined meaning, nor does it look the same for all employees. Some quiet quitting employees do not take on additional work or responsibilities, but still complete their responsibilities with excellence. For other employees, their version of quiet quitting is doing the minimum required–and nothing further.
TechTarget generalizes quiet quitting as a “rebellion” against the “hustle culture” of going above and beyond what a job requires, and instead, limiting their tasks to only those within their job description to avoid longer hours. These employees are technically fulfilling their job duties; however, they reject the “work-is-life” mindset where they feel obligated to continually do more. They are not seeking the “golden employee” label. Rather, they are trading long hours, additional projects, and accelerated promotions for the ability to go home and focus on non-work activities. They leave work at work. Ultimately, less is more for them.
From data collected in June 2022 through a Gallup poll, quiet quitters make up at least 50% or more of the United States workforce. Mic drop. Over half of the country’s employees are “quiet quitters”.
What is the Impact of Quiet Quitting?
Quiet quitting is increasing the level of apprehension within companies and impacting productivity. Productivity levels are crucial for a business to thrive especially in our current economic state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States non-farm worker productivity in the second quarter has fallen 2.5% since the same period last year which is the largest annual drop since 1948. The economy may be on the cusp of a recession due to supply chain issues, inflation, and other factors stemming from the pandemic. Companies are fearful that their financial bottom line will suffer if the production of goods and services cannot meet the demand.
The challenge for employers as they grapple with quiet quitting is that not all employees actually want to leave their jobs; hence the “quiet” part of the quiet quitting concept. Lack of advancement opportunities, low pay, and feeling disrespected were the top reasons Americans quit their jobs in 2021, according to a Pew Research Center survey. But many quiet quitters are not experiencing those reasons to quit, they are content with their job…as they decide to perform it.
There will always be a population of employees who feel content being “worker bees” and whose job performance “meets expectations” on their performance evaluations.nd there will always be the employee population that strives for the “gold star” and attains “exceeds expectations” on the performance evaluation.These groups of employees can coexist, but is labeling the “worker bees” as quiet quitters accurate?
Why are People Quiet Quitting?
With layoffs and terminations at a record low, employees have heightened sense of job security. Companies cannot afford to lose employees since they are scrambling to fill a high number of job vacancies. Even if a termination does occur, the odds are favorable for the employee to find another job quickly.
According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), an organization’s culture directly contributes to employee behavior. Some cultural issues that may contribute to quiet quitting, include:
- Lack of engagement by and between management and employees fosters weak relationships.
- Communication challenges, along with the fear of conflict, mitigate open dialogue between teams.
- Remote and hybrid work is a contributing factor to quiet quitting because additional challenges exist to have candid, honest dialog.
- Management faces additional challenges validating work efforts and task completion in remote and hybrid environments.
Workplace culture sets the foundation of an organization and reiterates what behaviors and performance levels are accepted, rejected and tolerated.
Disadvantages of Quiet Quitting
Quiet quitters who are emotionally uninvested in their jobs often have challenges working in a team environment through a lack of motivation and flexibility. Employees who are not quiet quitting might become frustrated at having to pick up additional responsibilities or tasks from those employees who will not. Resentment builds amongst teams and that dissolves trust and motivation. Employees who do the minimum in tasks have a higher chance of being passed over for promotions and pay increases as compared to other employees.
Advantages of Quiet Quitting
Advantages to quiet quitting do exist. Employees who leave “work at work”, and then spend time on personal interests, might be more relaxed and motivated when they return to work. That could help increase productivity. Quiet quitting for a temporary time could help reduce burnout if the employee takes time to refocus and prioritize. So quiet quitting is ultimately a plea for open communication between employees and management to discuss concerns and deficiencies in the working environment.
How to Combat Quiet Quiet
HR professionals have quite the challenge on their hands, as they are the catalyst for communications between management and quiet quitting employees. HR and senior management within an organization need first to check how engaged entry and mid-level managers are within the organization and with their teams. If engagement is lacking, senior leadership needs to help reskill and motivate managers to help others, especially in new remote and hybrid working environments.
Managers need to find 15-30 minutes weekly to have a sincere, purposeful conversation with members of their teams. These conversations should strengthen relationships and reiterate value in each team member’s efforts. If employees see how their work contributes and is a benefit to the organization, they will be motivated to see value in their work and heighten their accountability for performance.
Listening is just as important. Often employees convey a message without saying a word. So managers need to learn how to recognize these messages and, in response, hold conversations to address and reduce burnout. All employees have challenges in their work and personal lives to varying degrees. It’s up to managers to know their team’s needs and be cognizant of ever changing factors that could transform productive employees into quiet quitters.
Employee Engagement Matters
Considering that the average person will spend over 90,000 hours working in their lifetime, spending that time completing tasks that are enjoyable in a generally positive environment matters. Time magazine shared that Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report found that job dissatisfaction is at a staggering all-time high, and that unhappy and disengaged workers cost the global economy $7.8 trillion in lost productivity.
Organizations cannot afford to lose talent through attrition or sustain a loss of productivity without it impacting the internal dynamics and the external competitiveness of an organization. Quit the status quo and invest in designing and maintaining a workplace culture where employees thrive, and do not just simply survive. When an organization is invested in its employees and is committed to providing a supportive and rewarding culture, employees will see that quitters–even quiet ones–really do not win.
The win-win comes from both inside and outside the organization, where employers and employees agree on how work and life can balance together.