We’ve heard all about the Great Resignation and the rise of hybrid work. Now comes the latest trend in the saga of dissatisfied and burnt-out employees re-evaluating their priorities, initially set in motion by the lockdowns and subsequent candidate shortages caused by the pandemic. It’s called quiet quitting and it has many managers wondering how they can tackle this challenge to ensure their team is working efficiently.
This trend of quiet quitting also links to the bigger picture that we have seen building since the pandemic and subsequent skills shortage took over – we’re in a candidate-driven market. So how can leaders help foster a culture that keeps their people engaged, rather than resorting to quiet quitting?
We’ll go over some of the ways you can do this in the following article. But let’s start at the beginning.
What Exactly is Quiet Quitting?
Quiet quitting is a trend that encourages employees to only put in enough effort in their job to not get fired. Followers are seen to be only performing tasks explicitly outlined in their job description, starting and finishing exactly on time, and generally being quite disengaged with their jobs. Initially popularised in TikTok, the idea is to act as a counter to the ‘hustle-culture’ that has led many to feel the effects of burnout in the past few years. While the label is new, this practice has always existed, although its growing traction can be unnerving for employers and leaders looking to maintain the productivity of their teams.
In short, quiet quitting is about doing your job, but not going above and beyond or signing up for anything that is not paid or rewarded. Supporters of the trend say it’s a solution to toxic, ‘always on’ work environments where staff are compelled to answer emails after-hours, work early mornings and late nights, or work on tasks outside of their job description.
The fact of the matter is that quiet quitting is not good for anyone. Doing the bare minimum and being disengaged will not bring happiness or fulfilment to any employee. Organisations, on the other hand, have to manage a workforce that does not want to be there and is not as productive as it could be.
Why do Employees Quiet Quit?
At its core, quiet quitting stems from an employee’s lack of motivation, whether it’s due to a poor organisational culture, lack of recognition, disinterest, or otherwise. Much of this can be attributed to, or at least affected by, leaders in the organisation. In fact, HBR recently noted that the least effective managers can have 3 to 4 times as many reports fall in the “quiet quitting” category compared to the most effective leaders. In contrast, great leaders could inspire 62% of their direct reports to ‘go the extra mile,’ compared to the 20% in teams with ineffective leaders.
That said, the issue can also stem from the organisation itself, or a misalignment between its values and those of its employees. As a leader, it may serve well to take a closer look at the organisation’s purpose and values. Are there any points that employees can get behind, or does it need to be updated to reflect its current reality? Salary will always be an important consideration for employees, but other factors like culture, sustainability, and values alignment are increasingly becoming points of differentiation for organisations to attract, engage and retain their talent.
However easy it may be to blame ‘lazy’ or ‘unmotivated’ workers, the onus is on the organisation to create an environment that inspires and engages its employees. Employees that feel aligned with the organisation’s goals and values will still want to achieve as much as possible because they believe in the larger mission of what they do.
How Can You Manage Quiet Quitting in Your Team?
Ensuring that team members are engaged in their roles is an essential part of preventing and managing quiet quitters. The path to fostering an engaging work environment lies in supportive leadership that can bring out the best in everyone. People want to feel like they are contributing to something of value, and have this value they deliver reflected in their treatment. Managers and leaders play an important role in creating an inclusive, encouraging culture that allows employees to feel a shared sense of belonging and purpose.
If employees do not enjoy their job and feel fulfilled in what they are doing, that means they are only at work to collect a pay cheque. If this is the case, they’re halfway to the quiet quitting stage, if not there already, and certainly aren’t inclined to go above and beyond.
Building a sense of trust between managers and employees is also an important part of avoiding this. Team members need to trust that their leaders truly care about them as people, not just cogs in the machine. Fostering positive relationships, being consistent, and having a high level of expertise are some of the ways this can be done.
Having a positive, trusting relationship between managers and their direct reports will significantly reduce the likelihood of the latter quiet quitting. The priorities of the modern workforce are shifting ever more into a focus on well-being and work-life balance. If leaders are able to adapt to this, organisations can see the excellent benefits in productivity and talent attraction that can come from fostering an engaging work culture.
Quiet quitting is another sign of the workforce’s continued prioritisation of employee wellbeing. It follows on from hybrid work, the great resignation, the 4-day work week, and other similar trends cropping up with increasing regularity. Like these other initiatives, organisations and leaders should be looking at solving the underlying cause, burnout. Prevention will always be better than a cure and in this case, quiet quitting can be prevented by keeping employees engaged and fulfilled in the work they do, through sense of purpose, positive relationships, and re-evaluation.