Publish date

28 February 2023

What is ‘quiet quitting’? And what can employers do to prevent it?

What is ‘quiet quitting’?

‘Quiet quitting’ is a term that has been coined in the last 6 months to describe employees who only meet and wish to work towards the minimum expectations. Rather than go ‘the extra mile’, employees who are quiet quitting will do the minimum required and put in no more time or effort at work.

When and how did ‘quiet quitting’ start?

Quiet quitting, though not a new idea, has become topical since the pandemic and the rise of employees searching for a better work-life balance, as well as a greater understanding of their own mental health. Younger generations specifically, have looked to create stronger boundaries at work.

Employees who will find it difficult to find a new job or will not be promoted in their current role, either because of the job market or because of a lack of transferable skills, are more likely to adopt quiet quitting. An employee may see little benefit to arriving early and staying late if they feel that they will incur a personal toll and feeling stuck in a job with little progression.

An increase in ‘quiet quitting’ could also be linked to the increased conversations concerning ‘burnout’. Employees are dedicating more time to activities outside of work and rest and recuperation.

Options for how employers could react

The worrying result for employers experiencing a number of employees ‘quiet quitting’ is reduced productivity, impacting profits and the morale of other workers. Potential solutions include:

1.    Instil purpose into employees

If an employee is attached to a purpose or an overarching goal, they are more likely to put more time into their work to achieve this goal. If the employee feels like a cog without any understanding of the greater picture, it can result in less motivation. Therefore, companies should clearly define their mission and direction, both during the interview process and install this in the employee upon joining and explain how their work impacts the companies’ goals.

Remember the anecdote from President Kennedy’s visit to the NASA Space Centre in 1962.  During his tour he noticed a janitor, walked over to the man and asked him what he was doing. The janitor responded “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr President.”  How can your managers install that sense of purpose throughout the organisation?

2.    Managers

This brings us on to managers. If managers are ‘quietly quitting’, the organisation is in trouble, as it is managers who come into contact with your employees everyday (in person or remotely). If they are disengaged, it will spread to other grades in the organisation.

Consider training. What training have managers had?  Is that suitable for the ongoing hybrid and remote working environment?

3.    Listen to employees

Check in with employees and ask for feedback or contributions to suggested actions is a way of ensuring that employees feel heard. Additionally, the increase of allowing employees to voice concerns will allow for issues to be prevented or solved at an earlier stage.

An employee survey provides an anonymous way for employees to voice their opinion and a fast way to collectively gain a picture of the current state of the companies’ atmosphere and toxicity level.

4.    Recognise achievements

A ‘quite quitter’ may re-consider their approach if they can see that extra effort and achievements are rewarded.  What works will vary per organisation.  For example, you might decide to change from a performance bonus scheme to a quarterly one, so achievement and reward come closer together.

You likely do not have capacity to promote everyone, but ensure that when promotion opportunities arise, the selection process is fair and transparent, so that everyone can see what needs to be done and why the promoted got their reward this time around.

For others, a simple “thank you” is all that is needed.

An organisation that can make its employees feel they are part of something purposeful, valued and taken care of, will not be grappling with the detrimental impact of quiet quitting further down the line.

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