Social Media’s latest buzzword has business leaders scrambling: quiet quitting. The phrase quiet quitting brings to mind images of employees sneaking out the side door never to return, mountains of work left incomplete on their desks. With the Great Resignation and the uncertainty of the pandemic fresh in our minds, it’s easy to read these two words and expect them to be followed by the next dropping shoe.
Quiet quitting is not quitting! Despite the name, so-called quiet quitters aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’ve been around for a long time. Historically, HR has called them not high performers or, in the worst case, disengaged employees.
Depending on your perspective, quiet quitting can be both a positive and negative trend. On one hand, quiet quitters use the time they are allocated to complete the tasks they are assigned. They are effective workers, and they are doing exactly what you are paying them to do. On the other hand, they balk at overtime and are unlikely to raise their hand to volunteer for a new project. They are not going the extra mile, but they are not phoning it in either. Quiet quitters do not subscribe to hustle culture and avoid burnout by setting and enforcing clear boundaries to keep work out of their personal lives.
Hustle culture encourages employers to push all their employees to be high achievers. Push harder, go faster, accomplish more in less time… And employees feel that pressure as well. But traditionally, high performers make up approximately 10% of the workforce. Completely disengaged employees constitute an additional 10%. The remaining 80% hold a primary goal to do their job, get paid, and go home to their lives and families. Sound familiar?
Whether this 80% is labeled “quiet quitters” depends in large part on you, the employer. They can be open and excited to work, or they can be closed and unwilling to put in any extra effort. They can be engaged, motivated contributors or they can be quiet quitters, still contributing but only as much as necessary. The question is, how can you maximize their engagement?
- Start out right with a clear job description. What tasks are required? What does the reporting structure look like? How will success be measured? Check that your job descriptions explain your expectations as comprehensively as possible. Does the role have a set schedule or are hours flexible? Is this position in-person, work-from-home, or hybrid? What about on-call requirements? Weekend projects? What unwritten expectations exist in your culture around hustle culture and working extra hours to get ahead? If your culture doesn’t match your job description, something needs to change.
- Next, check your culture and review your employee engagement practices. What are you doing to show your employees they are valued and appreciated? Have you ensured they have the tools and training they need to complete their tasks effectively? Is safe space provided for collaboration, risk-taking, and idea sharing? Clarify your policies around disconnect hours. While mandatory in some jurisdictions, the right to disconnect is still at the employer’s discretion in others. Are employees expected to respond to emails after hours? On weekends or holidays?
- Incorporate employee wellness initiatives into your culture. How do you know if an employee is burning out; will they trust you enough to tell you? What aspects of work-life balance do you support, such as flexible hours to accommodate family schedules or a hybrid model to give your employees back their commute time? When changes come, big or small, acknowledge the stress that comes with them. What sort of support networks exist within your organization? What external resources are available for employees undergoing stress or mental wellness issues?
- Most importantly, get your leaders on board. Have expectations around team engagement been clearly set; are they meeting these expectations? How do you measure their performance? Help them help your people by ensuring they have the skills necessary to engage, motivate, and support their teams.
Of course, on top of this, Generation Z is entering the workplace: pragmatic, informed, diverse, and naturally fluent in all forms of technology. Known for speaking out against injustice, this group will absolutely take note of disparity between hours compensated and hours worked. Then, they post about it. And buzzwords like quiet quitting are born.
Your Engaged HR Assignment: What are you doing to engage your employees and train your leaders? Consider Engaged HR’s courses: Essential People Management Skills and Leading People in Today’s Workplace as possible resources to help your leaders level-up their skills.
Looking to learn more about other HR topics? Check out our Art of HR series!