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Quiet quitting, what it is, what it isn’t, why you should care, and what you can do about it. The term “quiet quitting” is making the rounds on social media these days. The first thing to understand about it is that we are speaking about a phenomenon that, according to Gallup polls, affects more than 50% of the US workforce. Therefore, if you have employees, it’s more likely than not that you have at least one employee, likely more, who are quiet quitting.
The term applies to individuals who are neither actively disengaged nor engaged by traditional metrics. Quiet quitters have made a conscious decision that they are going to give the exact amount of energy to their jobs to satisfy the requirements of their job, and not an ounce more. The idea of going above and beyond is off the table for quiet quitters as they are setting personal boundaries for completing the tasks assigned to them in the time that they’re paid to do them.
The data reveals most quiet quitters are age 35 or under, but the data also suggests that quiet quitting is a trend on some level across all generations of workers. And, while quiet quitters do tend to feel undervalued and unappreciated, quiet quitting should not be confused with slacking or burnout as they are different.
The goal of the quiet quitter is not to shortchange their employer by giving less than is required of the job while still collecting a full paycheck. Rather, the goal of the quiet quitter is to meet the requirements of their job without taking on additional stress to impress their boss or anyone else. The sense of responsibility to meet the requirements of the job, and do a good job, remain in place. But what is decidedly absent is the desire to go above and beyond to climb the proverbial company ladder. Quiet quitters reject the notion that their job should be the central focus of their lives and refuse to worry themselves over work outside of work.
While it is true that quiet quitters are more psychologically detached from their job it’s not all bad news. They’re prioritizing their mental health and healthy employees are essential to healthy organizations. Even though they aren’t focused on going over and above, if the employee is achieving a good work-life balance you’re more likely to find them to be more focused on work while they’re at work. And they may feel more refreshed by their measured engagement and become more efficient in their job. Research suggests that the boundaries quiet quitters are putting in place are there for them to pursue other passions outside of work, alleviate unnecessary stress, and take control of their work-life balance.
Some managers, seeking to understand the phenomenon, look to the pandemic that took a toll on almost everyone’s mental health, but the phrase was coined 10 years before COVID-19 hit the world. Other managers point to shrinking discretionary wages as disincentivizing employees but again, the trend started long before the pandemic which triggered the economic forces that resulted in inflation and thus shrinking discretionary wages. In truth the factors that have led to this trend are not yet fully understood.
One thing that is clear is that employers are not going to ignite the flame of high engagement by ignoring the changing world around them and failing to adapt to a changing workforce. There are many things that managers can do to increase engagement at work, and they all start better understanding your employees. That starts with having at least one good meaningful conversation each week, so employees get the message that their employer cares about them as individuals and recognize their contributions to the organization.
Organizations that make employee engagement a priority and provide the right tools for employees to stay engaged are going to fare better through these changing times. Look for tools that enable employees to clearly understand job expectations and make clear progress towards goals to make the best of engagement energy that employees have to give. And give them tools to recognize each other for a job well-done to promote higher levels of engagement throughout the organization. Talk to them about possible career paths and help them to reach their personal goals with clear, actionable steps. Do these things and rather than fighting the trend you’ll make the most out of the energy that the quiet quitters have to give the organization.