What is Quiet Quitting?
Quiet quitting is a relatively new employee relations challenge facing businesses. It is not, as the name may suggest, employees quietly handing in their resignation from a job and leaving, but when employees work to rule, carrying out the basic duties their job requires, but intentionally not going above or beyond, taking on any extra responsibility or contributing any unpaid overtime. Very similar in fact to the ‘Work to Rule’ approach adopted by union members in unionised organisations when they take action that stops just short of striking.
This blog will outline the current stats and ideas surrounding the concept of quiet quitting. It will help employers to understand what may be driving this phenomenon and suggest ways to manage it and understand what they could change in order to challenge or prevent quiet quitting.
Current stats surrounding quiet quitting
The commonly agreed definition of quiet quitting is understood to be employees who do the basic tasks their job requires, this is thought to be driven by a level of disengagement with their job, their place of work and/or the organisation they work for.
Data from the US workplace and global research consultancy Gallup, indicates 18% of employees are actively disengaged in the workplace, these are the workers who are unhappy and vocal about it, which can cause a spread of the phenomena, whereas the intersection of the workforce that represents “quiet quitting”, those employees categorised as disengaged, but more compliant and working to rule, accounts for 50% of the workforce. With the other 32% of the workforce classed as engaged in the workplace.
This research indicates this phenomenon is predominantly driven by hybrid workers under the age of 35 driving this trend. Employees under the age of 35 who are engaged in the workplace dropped by 6% between 2019 and 2022, the same age demographic saw a 10% reduction in workers who strongly thought somebody cared about them, pushes them to develop or grow and provided them with the opportunity to do so.
What is driving quiet quitting
One argument behind this is that a large part of the workforce is burnt out and unhappy with the terms and conditions of their employment. There are arguments this is tied to the pandemic, where long hours and worries about working conditions and safety, especially for essential frontline workers, resulted in employees reaching a breaking point, where the extra work they did has become an expectation, they are expected to risk their own safety and they are unwilling to continue.
There is also an argument that categories of employees, such as women and minority groups, are less willing (or in many cases less able due to caring responsibilities) to work discretionary unpaid overtime or work beyond their job description. This is predominantly driven by the view that these groups of workers must work a lot harder for the opportunities afforded their straight, white, male counterparts and again demonstrates the pay gap. In essence, they are withdrawing potentially as a form of protest against this social injustice. It might also be valid to ask, why should employees be expected to work over and above their job description, the overall objective of an employer should be to provide a fair wage for a fair day’s work.
This phenomenon is also thought to be particularly prevalent in Gen z populations of employees, with speculation that social media, such as TikTok, could be a galvanising force driving a collective attitude among this generation towards the workplace.
How to prevent quiet quitting
There are some key areas that employers can improve in their offer to try to prevent or slow this phenomenon in their organisation.
Be clear in the clarity of expectations the business may have for employees, if something is critical to the business, is a necessary function in a job or delivers significant value, this needs to be included in the employee’s job description from the inception of their employment to ensure that this task is completed, and the roles, responsibilities and expectations made clear during induction and orientation.
Provide employees with sufficient and varied opportunities to develop and grow. This could be as basic as internal training on policies or best practices, to ensuring that there are training programmes which are clear and specific in providing tailored training and development opportunities for aspirational employees who wish to progress in the business, such as leadership programs which could also involve mentoring by senior management or presentations in front of the board, to gain experience and exposure.
Link the colleague’s role with the organisation’s mission and purpose, which strongly ties into employer branding and making sure that an organisation goes beyond mere money making, but has some sort of social purpose adding value to the communities it operates in. These could be tailored to utilise the expertise of the business or tie environmental initiatives or targets into the business operations. This could also involve re-evaluating through regular 1-1s, surveys and pulse points if employees feel connected with their colleagues across the organisation or have the opportunities to build working relationships that may facilitate a feeling of belonging. If employees know how they fit into the organisation and how their role contributes to the bigger picture, they will be more engaged.
Consider mentors for younger employees, these could be either experienced colleagues who have worked for the organisation for a long period of time or colleagues who are relatively new to the organisation and of a similar age bracket that may have a positive influence and be more relatable to their younger colleague. It could also be important to re-evaluate the organisation’s onboarding program, to ensure that these colleagues have an in-depth understanding of the organisation and whom they need to approach for specific information or support.
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