How to combat the rise in ‘quiet quitting’

Posted in Best Practice Research Thoughts & Culture

Is the ‘quiet quitting’ trend coming for your employees next?

Just when we thought we survived The Great Resignation, the newest challenge facing companies across the globe has just reared its ugly head.

‘Quiet quitting’—or, the practice of employees purposefully doing the bare minimum to not get fired and nothing more—has undoubtedly been in practice for some employees since the very concept of work began, but it’s been amplified recently due to the events of the past few years.

As fears and concerns rose and many employees were suddenly shifted to working from home, employees had a greater opportunity than ever to reevaluate things like the meaning and priority of work in their lives. This exercise has led many of them to reconsider how much time and energy they’re investing into their jobs, and it has caused them to put a new perspective on the importance of work-related objectives like promotions and career paths.

“Going above and beyond at a company, they won’t remember the effort you put in a few years down the line, but what you will remember is those sleepless nights you had. Why can’t you shift that focus to prioritizing your life and your hobbies and nurturing more of the things that matter?” said Zaid Khan, an engineer, in his interview with Worklife.

Khan took his feelings to TikTok, and his video on ‘quiet quitting’ went viral with over 3.3 million views at the time of this writing:

Here’s what Khan says in the video:

  • “I recently learned about this term called ‘quiet quitting’, where you’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond.
  • “You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.
  • “The reality is, it’s not, and your worth as a person is not defined by your labor.”

But, while Khan may have been one of the first to give it a name publicly, the truth is that ‘quiet quitting’ has been on the rise (though unnamed) for some time. In fact, per the Gallup 2022 State of the Global Workplace Report, a whopping 60% of people report being emotionally detached at work and 19% even considered themselves miserable.

This problem is obviously much bigger…and more insidious…than we give it credit for, and it’s poised to cause some serious damage if we can’t reverse it.

It’s not about work-life balance. It’s about attitude

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Now, to be clear, we want our employees to have a healthy work-life balance—

We don’t want them missing out on family events and special moments because their nose is stuck in email, and we don’t want them to suffer burnout and health issues because they’re working themselves too hard, so we’re most certainly not attacking the tenets of working reasonable hours and having manageable expectations.

No, the concern with ‘quiet quitting’ is in the ‘bare minimum attitude’ that comes along with it.

  • An employee who is only doing the bare minimum doesn’t go out of their way to help their co-workers.
  • An employee who is only doing the bare minimum doesn’t try to make meaningful contributions or help change small things that could make a big difference in the company’s success or profitability.
  • An employee who is only doing the bare minimum doesn’t contribute to a healthy workplace culture. In fact, they usually detract from it.

The truth is that ‘quiet quitting’ doesn’t just affect a single employee’s output, it creates a work environment that brings everyone’s morale down. After all, why should your best employees strive to do their best when their co-workers are barely pulling their weight?

Employee engagement tactics aren’t enough

This is where many companies turn to simple employee engagement tactics to try to coax their employees into applying themselves harder during work hours, and this may look like:

  • One-off social or team-building events
  • Poorly-organized workplace ‘buddy systems’
  • Creating an artificial company culture without building the foundation for it first
  • Or the dreaded ‘IT monitoring, oversight, and regulation’ option

…but these attempts usually fall flat because employees can sense that these tactics often lack depth and will practically be over before they begin.

No, the key to successfully combat ‘quiet quitting,’ is all in the how, not the what.

It’s empathy. Seeing things from your employee’s perspective.

Hope isn’t a strategy. Empathy is.

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Think of what you and your employees have lived through these past few years, and understand that ‘business as usual’ is now anything but.

It takes empathy to recognize that, while some employees adapt well to change, some are struggling right now to find their identity and the role work has in their lives, and the ramifications of this can show up in many different ways.

So take a few seconds to answer these questions from your people’s perspective:

  • What information and support do your people need from you?
  • What are they motivated by and interested in?
  • How are their work schedules arranged and what is their workload like?
  • How much can they handle at once?

…and then apply this exercise and these perspectives to your programs and shape your delivery around what your people need right now.

The old ways don’t work anymore, and it’s not a bad thing. It’s a chance for reflection for all of us.

‘Quiet quitting’ can pose a serious threat to your business

…but it doesn’t have to.

When you begin to design your programs starting with your people’s perspective in mind, they’ll notice. And, by figuratively coming alongside them, you can help them stay motivated and find the deeper meaning in the work they’re doing and the relationships they’re building with their co-workers.

Empathy isn’t just a strategy to increase employee output. It’s a mentality that helps your employees find purpose in the work they’re doing.

So no, your worth as a person isn’t defined by your labor. But your teamwork and contributions will help accomplish feats far beyond what a single person could ever accomplish alone.

Want to see the latest behavioral science-backed approach to motivating your people?
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