Quiet quitting is the popularly growing trend of staying in the same job with the same pay but taking a step back and not going above and beyond. It means setting boundaries such as not working after hours or taking on responsibilities outside of the job description. Individuals are taking this approach to prevent burnout and in quiet protest to organisations asking more of employees, requiring additional hours, effort and responsibilities without additional compensation, reward or recognition. Other factors contributing to this phenomenon include poor management and misalignment to an organisation’s culture.
While it’s hardly a new concept for employees to be disengaged or ‘bludge’ at work, quiet quitting is now being talked about and highlighted for various reasons. The pandemic and life in lockdown have provided an opportunity for individuals to re-evaluate their wants and needs, at a time when, after an initial lack of jobs available in the market, there was then a surplus, meaning the power balance shifted to employees. The mammoth weight of juggling work and home-schooling kids without any opportunity to socialise and partake in hobbies and generally let off steam proved too much.
For some, this meant getting a pet or jumping on the sourdough baking bandwagon. But for many, this meant changing jobs, as work was one thing they had the ability to take control of and change to suit their circumstances. ‘The Great Resignation’ saw a mass exodus of employees from jobs no longer matching their priorities in terms of environment, values, and work-life balance.
It’s been very challenging for organisations to backfill these resignations as well as hire for new roles after the initial pause in recruitment activity during the pandemic. Because of the severe shortage of candidates available in the market, salaries have had to inflate to meet demand. Organisations have had to spend up to bring in new talent, creating an imbalance with incumbents often being paid less for the same role; being subjected to a ‘loyalty tax’.
Is quiet quitting a good option? What does it achieve?
The benefit and appeal if quiet quitting is understandable in the short term. However, more often than not, it may be a convenient or ‘band-aid’ solution, but not actually serve the individual or address the reasons for quiet quitting in the first place. Delivering on basic job requirements and removing the pressure to go above and beyond may remove a mental load that allows burnt out employees to catch their breath after an unimaginably difficult few years. In the longer term however, it would be more beneficial to address the issues bringing about the feelings of discontent in case something can be shifted. Things like negotiating a compressed work schedule, taking ownership of an initiative, finding an area to upskill or offloading certain tasks all could be options that improve circumstances and re-motivate.
Quiet quitters are not advancing in terms of gaining experience and are likely to be looked over for promotions or other internal opportunities if their attitude and reduced effort levels are picked up on. It may be the comfortable option to stay in a role they can do with their eyes closed and coast by, but it’s not challenging them, upskilling them, or engaging them and it’s holding them back from reaching their potential. Changing roles and finding a new opportunity that better aligns with their priorities may be a better option..
What can be done to prevent a culture of quiet quitting?
Employees are an organisation’s most valuable resource. Leaders should be wary of employee disengagement and low productivity levels as it can spread and create a negative culture. There are certain steps that can be taken that will help to make employees feel respected, improve retention and remotivate quiet quitters. This is particularly important in the current tight labour market where they are facing inflated costs to rehire, as well as losing significant corporate knowledge that each employee holds. So, what can be done to prevent quiet quitting?
Don’t take advantage of loyal employees - recognise their contributions. Employees are generally happy to go the extra mile when they feel their work is recognised, impactful and feel that their efforts are rewarded with development opportunities and more interesting work. Employees should feel incentivised and trust that with strong performance comes new opportunity.
Communicate! Look for signs of burnout or overwhelm and make sure there is open communication with managers where they can speak up if support is needed. Consider implementing an Employee Assistance Program that provides access to professional assistance for personal or work-related issues.
As workplaces become more virtual, it’s important to take measures to foster a collaborative culture and create opportunities for employees to socialise and form connections. This could include things like formal or informal mentoring or coaching, cross-functional projects, wellness challenges, shared interest groups and charity team building activities.
Non-financial benefits such as compressed schedules, hybrid working environment/working from home, and flexible hours are benefits that are really important to individuals and make them feel trusted and respected.
Although quiet quitting might be just a new spin on a well-established trend, the spotlight that it is shining on the employee/employer relationship should be taken seriously by leaders who have the opportunity to develop a dynamic workplace environment. For employees, the motivation to quiet quit may be just a symptom of a larger issue with their current role, and the recent talent shortage means there is ample opportunity to move into a role that better fits their priorities in the workplace.
Edwina is a Senior Consultant at Parity specialising in Marketing, Communications & Digital across financial services. Having experience working across financial services recruitment in Tokyo, she is known for building strong relationships with her clients. She is a sushi addict, our resident Uno champion, and amateur writer. When she's not at home with her baby (and fur baby), she is probably exploring the neighbourhood or catching up with friends.
Parity Consulting works with clients who embrace diverse and inclusive environments and empower their teams to bring their authentic whole self to work. We encourage people with different beliefs, abilities, backgrounds and life experiences to contact us. Contact Edwina directly at email@example.com or +61 405 381 550.