The Great Resignation trend dominated human resource (HR) discourse last year.
A sequel of sorts, another shift in employee behaviour, known as quiet quitting, is now becoming mainstream. While the underlying causes for both trends overlap, the latter manifests as decreased productivity rather than an outflux of talent.
And just as the Great Resignation presented possibilities for organizations to reinvent their recruitment and engagement strategies, quiet quitting provides one more opportunity to understand employee expectations better.
What is Quiet Quitting?
Employees are increasingly using it as an antidote to the hustle culture that promotes going the extra mile at work at the cost of personal well-being. They are adopting it as a means of self-preservation by setting healthy boundaries between work and personal life.
Per the LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report, 2022, 63% of job seekers treat the work-life balance as their top priority at work. It even trumps compensation as a workplace selection criterion.
How The Trend Started?
A recent 17-second TikTok video went viral and popularized the ‘quiet quitting’ concept across the US and the world. It draws inspiration from the Chinese lifestyle protest ‘Tang Ping’ that started in April 2021. Translated as ‘lying flat,’ the Chinese workforce utilized this campaign to prioritize their psychological health over financial ambitions and materialism.
Why are Employees Quietly Quitting?
Quiet quitting is a response from employees struggling with burnout due to unsustainable workloads, irrespective of work models adopted by organisations.
Per Gartner’s research, 85% of employees have experienced higher levels of burnout, and 40% reported declines in their work-life balance during the pandemic.
The pandemic led to the rapid adoption of remote and hybrid work environments. While these offer flexibility and save travel time, employees are increasingly experiencing remote work fatigue, which ultimately leads to quietly quitting their roles and responsibilities.
Most remote employees perceive that they work more than employees at the office. It is because they struggle to disconnect from work post office hours. Many organizations implicitly expect employees to dedicate the time saved on travelling to take on additional work. But, this attitude hampers employees’ work-life balance and ultimately leads to burnout.
In hybrid work models, employees may perceive coming to the office as the curtailment of their freedom and disengage themselves, and unintentionally or intentionally start surrendering themselves at work.
Signs of Quiet Quitting
Managers must be on the lookout for subtle signs indicating quiet quitting.
Disengagement and seclusion are two of the tell-tale signs. Additionally, other signs could be-
- Employees may spend less time at the workplace, give up non-mandatory projects, and display a general lack of enthusiasm.
- Employees may not participate actively in business meetings or provide inputs only when asked.
- Employees may lack the initiative to take up new projects, training programs, or volunteering opportunities.
- Frequent mid-week absenteeism suggests that employees are feeling burnt out and trying to take breaks.
- Quiet quitting employees avoid informal team gatherings or team-building activities beyond office hours and lack interest in coworkers’ lives.
- Employees may seem disinterested in performance reviews and restrict their efforts to the minimum required for achieving performance goals.
- Employees may try to push non-essential workloads to teammates frequently.
How can Employers Prevent Quiet Quitting?
Employers must understand that quiet quitting is not a sign of laziness or unprofessionalism. It is a behaviour issue that has existed for quite a long time. It has exacerbated and gained popularity in recent times, owing to uncertain unfavourable workplace dynamics.
It is less about employees avoiding work and more about them wanting to embrace experiences outside of work. HR teams must strive to engage employees better and make them feel valued. Employers must ensure that employees feel psychologically or emotionally attached to their work.
A Human Approach to Employee Engagement
Managers must build a rapport with employees and conduct regular check-ins to listen to how they feel about their work. They must encourage employees to voice their opinions and concerns about work and personal well-being. It creates an emotional connection with the employees.
Enterprises must also leverage automation to ensure employees do not waste time on mechanical tasks and focus on meaningful work. It signals to employees that their time is valued. Managers must also understand genuine requests for flexible timings and allow employees to work when they are most productive.
Employers must sincerely try to understand individual aspirations, chart personalized career paths, and give opportunities for personal development. It makes the employees feel cared for and provides them with a sense of fulfilment.
Quiet quitting is a bad idea for employees also, as it undermines their capabilities and can prove to be detrimental to their career growth in the long run. It is in the employer’s best interest to take cognizance of the phenomenon and open dialogue with its workforce to understand its root cause and resolve it.