What is quietly quitting?

I am not going to lie; when I first heard about Quietly Quitting, I assumed it is where you stop showing up to work but continue to get your salary deposited into your bank account every week because your boss forgot to inform HR of your departure. I can tell you (with much relief) that I was utterly wrong with that dramatic assumption. Quietly quitting can be described as when employees do the absolute bare minimum required by their role. So, in a nutshell, quietly quitting is when:

  • The person is not outright quitting their job, but they are quitting the idea of going above and beyond. Or;
  • The person is still performing their duties, but they no longer subscribe to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.

 I read an article this week that said quietly quitting is a new concept. Having managed people for nearly 20 years (oh my gosh am I really that old already) I can promise you that this is not a new concept, it has been happening for decades, but there was no catchy term to go with it. We have all seen in our careers, employees just doing the work assigned to them and not going “above and beyond,” just silently sitting at their desks doing the bare minimum. And I am sure you can think of many people you have worked with who fit this bill.

So why are employees quietly quitting?

COVID, lockdowns, working from home, increasing prevalence of anxiety and depression… There are so many reasons why employees are slowing down in the workplace when previously they were considered “high performing” and would regularly go “above and beyond”. People are tired and haven’t seen the annual bonuses they are used to. Coupled with this, the cost of living has increased, whilst pay rates are staying the same, and people haven’t seen regular promotions like they used to pre-COVID. Many people just can’t see the benefit of putting in that extra effort anymore. 

To make matters worse, many employees have likely felt that during the pandemic their employers have not shown the care and compassion that they should have. This has resulted in employees feeling that after years and years of putting in extra effort, they have not received anything in return and are pretty much over feeling used and undervalued.

If you run employee engagement surveys, you can probably notice, like most of us, that employee engagement is dropping. Has productivity also decreased? Are you seeing that your people appear less invested in work?

 Is this good or bad?

According to research, quietly quitting can boost productivity. Employees who previously organised coffee runs, birthday lunches, secret santa’s and special morning teas, stacked dishwashers, answered other people’s ringing phones (or tracking down an unpublished copy of the next Harry Potter book for your boss like poor Andy in The Devil Wears Prada) are now no longer volunteering to do this kind of work and are putting all of their time and energy into getting their work done. That doesn’t sound too bad to me! Suppose you are paying someone to do a particular job such as strategic forecasting and paying them well to do it. In that case, you don’t want to be wasting your investment in them washing dishes every day, watering the plants and going shopping for baby shower hampers do you? 

But what can we do to help them?

 In my opinion, if people are quietly quitting, it could mean it’s time for them to move on from their current roles. But before they quit, there still may be an opportunity to talk to them. You may want to consider other opportunities in the organisation for them or maybe you could look at giving them some time off to explore other interests like supplementing their career with further study or volunteering opportunities.

 But they may also just need some help to feel more engaged at work. One of my favourite catchphrases as an HR Consultant is “Just ask them,” which is not as simple as it sounds. Although this great question does apply well in situations where you might be wondering things like: Are my people happy? Why are they unhappy? What can I do to make them want to come to work and work hard?

So, engaging with your people by holding regular check-ins and generally making them feel valued and heard is going to be your number one strategy against quietly quitting. People at the end of the day want to come to work to feel seen, and if you are not engaging with your people on a daily basis, then there are likely many people flying under the radar at the moment.

The other option is to use a team culture survey to identify why your people are quietly quitting. We use a process developed by Sharetree; you can learn more about their methodology here. It will give you insights into how many of your people are on the cusp or engaging in the phenomenon of quietly quitting, and let you know what you can do about it.

From there, HR Gurus can support you via engagement workshops to ensure your employees are involved in the process of addressing any issues that need your focus in order to improve your culture.

If you need a hand with identifying the best ways to engage your employees and increase productivity just reach out to us we would love to help

 Written by HR Guru – Emily Jaksch

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