There’s a term trending on social media right now called “quiet quitting,” but in reality, it’s nothing new. It’s just a different name for an old behavior.
On quiet quitting #workreform
This TikTok video posted in July by @zaidleppelin went viral, and other users shared their own experiences propelling the hashtag #quietquitting to almost 212 million views on the platform currently. The TikTok definition of quiet quitting is no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality and a reclaiming of work-life balance.
Quiet quitting actually has nothing to do with quitting your job, but is rather about meeting your job description by doing the minimum without going above and beyond. You don’t have your foot on the gas 100% of the time, all of the time. You log off at 5pm, take regular time off to spend more time with family and don’t seek out additional tasks or projects.
Quiet Quitting = Disengagement
Before the TikTok video, we referred to this trend as “disengagement” and again, it’s not something new, although it continues to grow, especially recently.
Gallup finds that quiet quitters make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce. Only 32% of workers are engaged while the number of actively disengaged grew to 18%. The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is now 1.8 to 1, the lowest in almost a decade.
That dissatisfaction is especially prevalent among Gen Z and younger millennials since the pandemic. Younger workers say they do not feel cared about by their manager and do not have opportunities to develop. Whether you call it quiet quitting or disengagement, the situation provides managers an opportunity to improve their company culture and leadership skills.
The Change of Workplace Culture
The pandemic was a wakeup call for a lot of people, and the aftermath has forced big changes in workplace culture. Employees are searching for better work conditions, flexible schedules and improved benefits. They want to spend more time at home with their families and avoid long commutes with remote or hybrid work. But they are also dealing with burnout and increasing demands from employers because most companies are being asked to do more with less workers right now.
Decades ago, management expected employees to have lives outside of work, but that shifted along the way. The expectation for employees was switched to always going above and beyond, that being dedicated to your job meant being available and responsive 24-7, and that work was your first priority in life. But since the pandemic, the lines between work and home have become increasingly blurred. Some employers have come to equate true indispensability with true dedication, but companies can no longer have the expectation that employees will be at their beck and call.
How to Stop Quiet Quitting
People are realizing that work isn’t giving them the same fulfillment as things outside of work can or have in the past. After all, work won’t love you back like your family will. There’s a mindset shift happening to find your passion outside of work. If you are experiencing your joy somewhere else, it can help you not count the minutes until the workday ends.
If you find yourself exhibiting signs of quiet quitting:
- Set boundaries between work and home. That could be as simple of refusing to log on after hours or answering calls over the weekend.
- Raise your concerns with your manager. If you have an honest conversation about your work-life balance, and it’s met with resistance from management, perhaps this workplace culture is not the right fit for you.
- Advocate for yourself. Document times where you think you are being asked to do more work than you can handle so you can discuss the situations with your boss. Ask for help in setting priorities so that you can better manage your workload.
But this is definitely a two-way street. Often, quiet quitting is less about an employee’s willingness to work harder and more about a manager’s ability to build relationships with employees.
What to Do if you Manage a Quiet Quitter?
If you have employees who are exhibiting signs of quiet quitting, it’s time to take a look at yourself. What are you doing to create or encourage the disengagement?
Harvard Business Review gathered data on over 2800 managers since 2020 who were rated by their direct reports and found:
- Least effective managers have three to four times as many people who fall in the “quiet quitting” category compared to the most effective leaders.
- Managers who rated highest at balancing results with relationships say 62% of their direct reports were willing to put in extra effort, while only 3% were quietly quitting.
An employee’s lack of motivation can directly be related to actions of managers. If a manager inspires you, occasionally working late or starting early doesn’t typically lead to resentment.
Solutions will differ for each employee, because even the best managers have some level of quiet quitters on their hands. But it’s important to take a hard look at your management approach.
- Make sure you connect one-on-one with employees, openly and honestly to foster positive relationships. Find out what’s going on in their personal life that may be bleeding over and affecting their work performance. You may even find that you share common interests that can act as team bonding.
- Do you go out of your way to make sure that your team members feel valued? If you are asking them for increased productivity, you need to provide the tools so that they can do the work without being overwhelmed.
- Consider adding more accolades or recognition within your organization.
- Revisit salary structure and benefits to make sure they are competitive with today’s times and your industry.
- Encourage truthful feedback and develop a safe space environment that welcomes that from employees.
- Consider being more transparent in your business operations, including sharing more of the complete financial picture of the business.
- Provide actual professional development growth opportunities through training and mentorship.
- Use polls and assessments to gauge employee engagement, and deliver what you promise.
- The most important factor is trust. The HBR study found that when employees trust a leader, they also assume that the manager cares about them and is concerned about their wellbeing.
Quiet Quitting in the C-Suite
As much as quiet quitting seems to relate to younger workers, I’ve seen it happen with executives as well. I worked with a coaching client (we’ll call him Mark) who was dying to have more variety in his work. Mark worked as a consultant, and he was really bored with just one client. He kept asking the owner of the company for a new project or client to be added to his plate. He knew his job really well, and he knew his client really well so he was able to manage the client easily, but he wanted a new challenge. He was always told yes by management, but no action was taken.
Mark didn’t want to be stressed, but he desired more stimulation and an opportunity for intellectual growth in his position. When he didn’t get it, he began to disengage. He could go for a run in the middle of the day if he wanted without any issue, he could attend a parent-teacher conference, and he could pick up his children early from school when they were sick. Without even consciously realizing it, Mark began to show the signs of quiet quitting by still fulfilling his job responsibilities, but without going above and beyond.
Now, when it came time for him to leave for another job, Mark wasn’t a quiet quitter; he was a loud quitter. He expressed his displeasure that his requests to take on more challenge in his position were ignored for years. After voicing his opinion and being disregarded, he took matters into his own hands. Mark now has another consulting job where he feels the perfect balance of being challenged without being overwhelmed.
Coaching to Quiet the Quitting
Whether you are the quiet quitter or whether you manage them, coaching can help you do the internal work that needs to be done to quell this trend. For example, if you feel like the discussions you have with your leaders never go anywhere or if you are a leader who dreads crucial conversations with her employees, an executive coach could help you get comfortable with the uncomfortable in order to yield better results.
It can be easy to point fingers for quiet quitting at unmotivated workers, but remember the saying “When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you.” Leaders need to create an environment where individuals want to go above and beyond their job descriptions and give their energy, creativity, time and enthusiasm to the organizations worthy of it. If you do, you’ll have a lot of engaged performers on your team.