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What is quiet quitting and should companies be worried about it?

What is quiet quitting and should companies be worried about it?

Many social media trends turn out to be just fads weeks after they've started. After all, coming up with something new and exciting keeps people scrolling. While “quiet quitting” first appeared on TikTok, this has become a widespread phenomenon in how a significant part of the workforce thinks and feels about doing their jobs. The mindset is so common that a recent Gallup poll revealed that more than 50% of American workers are currently quiet quitters. Coming on the heels of the Great Resignation and joining the volatile economic environment, this does not sound like good news for companies. For once, though, it's not as bad as it sounds.

What is quiet quitting?

At first glance, having employees quit, quietly or otherwise, is detrimental to business. Some analysts believe that it shows disengagement and can signal mental health issues. However, quiet quitting is mostly about setting boundaries and doing the job within its established parameters.

Quiet quitters show up for their shifts and perform their duties (they can even excel at them) but don't agree to extra tasks, put in more effort than necessary, or do overtime. "Above and beyond" is no longer a coveted description regarding performance on the job. It's important to note that people who adhere to this way of working are not slackers but individuals who have reassessed their priorities and decided that they do not want to be defined by their jobs anymore.

What does quiet quitting look like?

Depending on the job and the person, quiet quitting work will manifest differently. For some people, it will be simply adhering to the job description. Other employees will communicate their boundaries and availability to take on more projects. They will have their own rules about answering calls or responding to emails after work hours. For the most part, quiet quitting is a necessary coping mechanism for everything happening in the past couple of years. People seek to avoid burnout and a skewed work-life balance.

The personal downsides

On the one hand, demanding a good work-life balance and taking time to weigh priorities makes for good mental hygiene. It's essential to be aware of oneself and not squander time and energy. Yet, when quiet quitting goes beyond simply finding the balance, and the person is at a point where the job becomes only a means to an end (the salary), there's the risk of having a decreased sense of accomplishment. This can make employees feel bad about themselves and become increasingly disengaged. There's a fine line between working out how much one should give to a job and losing motivation and joy in fulfilling that role. There are even voices that say quiet quitting is not the right solution to avoiding burnout at all. People should focus on finding purpose and boosting engagement instead.

The organizational downsides

With so many people quitting literally, businesses have difficulty keehubping a full staff. This, of course, translates into more work for the remaining employees. When, in turn, some of these draw a very firm line and refuse to take on extra tasks or do overtime to get everything done, there's a lot of pressure on teams and managers. One of the most significant issues is that employees with a “going above and beyond” mindset are faced with a big workload while their quiet quitting peers seem to breeze through regular work days without overflowing calendars. The sense of inequity leads to frustration and friction within the teams.

How to avoid the possible adverse side effects of quiet quitting?

The first step in dealing with quiet quitting is assessing the extent to which it is present in the organization and the effects it has on workplace dynamics and results. It’s important to recognize that work-life balance is essential, and employees are within their rights to want this. Companies should neither blame people who are clear about sticking to the job description nor openly celebrate those who put their job above their personal life, as that would signal that the organization cares more about results than people. Quiet quitting doesn't have to be bad; it's a natural rewriting of workplace rules in a new context.

1. Assess employee engagement

HR departments should run frequent polls to gauge employee engagement and satisfaction in the workplace. When there are signs of low engagement, apathy, and an increased number of complaints from colleagues who feel like they are left with a bigger burden than they should, it's time to intervene.

2. Take proactive steps against burnout

Employees should be encouraged to take time off and disconnect from the workplace. This will avoid burnout and have positive effects on innovation and productivity. It's crucial for managers to set an example by taking time off and delegating while they are away instead of overseeing emails and stepping in. Emails can also wait if it’s after work hours and on weekends.

3. Maintain a psychologically safe workplace

An important point to focus on is building and maintaining a psychologically safe work environment. People should feel comfortable expressing their concerns and setting the boundaries they need. The threat of disengagement is significantly diminished by giving employees more control and showing them that they’re appreciated.

4. Become more flexible

When companies show that they are flexible and people-oriented, employees are less likely to become disengaged and have their productivity suffer as a result. In-depth onboarding and exit interviews are necessary; the first will give new hires a good sense of what they have signed up for and manage their expectations. The latter is the best source of information for gauging how well the organization meets the needs of its employees.


Read more: 3 Ways in which onboarding is key to employee retention


The scoop on quiet quitting

The phenomenon of quiet quitting is gaining momentum as you are reading this. It's a natural reaction to everything happening right now and a suitable defense mechanism against burnout and other issues caused by work overload. Healthy organizations need not worry about the effects of quiet quitting. When employees have a clear view of what's expected of them, a good, trusting relationship with their manager, and feel confident that they have a say in their work, they stay engaged and loyal to the organization. People are not trying to take advantage of their employers; they’re refusing to be taken advantage of. Ultimately it is a question of fairness and transparency, and neither of these should give companies reasons to be worried.

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