There is a new trend among the younger members of the workforce, and that is the “Quiet Quitting” trend. At first glance, the emotional side of the argument seems to make sense. Employers ask too much, they are asked to work off the clock, and they struggle to get the promotion or desired pay they feel they deserve. The emotional response that many see in quiet quitting is to “work the minimum” or “work their wage” in response to being dissatisfied. They quietly disengage, and effectively simply exist in their workspace, fulfilling a bare requirement, and remaining in their current role.
Aimee Picchi (MoneyWatch) points out in her August 24, 2022 article, that the trend also appears to be shaped by generational changes, with Gen Z and millennial workers increasingly questioning the hustle culture embedded within corporate America against the backdrop of the pandemic.
Across all age groups, about 25% of workers said they are doing the bare minimum at work in an August survey of 1,000 employees by ResumeBuilder.com. But about 30% of people between 25 to 34 said they’re doing the bare minimum — compared with just 8% for workers over 54, the study found.
I believe one must peel the layers back on this to really assess if doing what you are hired for, and no more, is labeled as quiet quitting. Alternatively, if one is slow or reluctant to work across business unit lines with the not my role or problem thinking, perhaps you do fall into this quiet quitter definition. At the least, intermittently, and has nothing to do with hours worked or the scope of work assigned. How did this behavior and debate develop?
In my opinion, there have always been REAL quiet quitters in the workforce. Not a lot, but enough for the employee group (your work family) at large to wonder out loud how so and so can still be working here? Does he/she do nothing? This behavior of a visibly unproductive employee was left to “linger” because of leadership flaws. Failure to establish metrics of the scope of work accountability, coach/counsel to course correct shortfalls in meeting the metrics, and warnings of disciplinary actions for unwilling or unable to course correct, inclusive of termination.
Leaders (anyone with direct reports) lacked the courage and skills to engage in tough love with those that needed it. It’s much easier to ignore the problem. Fast forward to today’s discussion on larger percentages of the employee groups viewed or admitting to quiet quitting. Several societal dynamics is the causation, in my opinion.
- One is the elongated work from the home period in relative isolation (18-24 months or more),
- Two, with business closures, reductions in workforce levels for survival, and
- Three, human adaptation to the joys of spending more time with family, reduction in commute and child care expenses, and yes, perhaps some level of federal aid that one might qualify for that provided safety net living.
In my vocation, I don’t want more stress and chaos in my life by spending more time at work than is absolutely required or even considering saying yes to any last minute time-sensitive project on Friday afternoon.
Here’s the deal. If there are actual quiet quitters in the work family, this is a leadership failure and challenge to correct. In chapter two of my book (7 Pillars of an Unbeatable Company & Culture), I advocate for a company culture where the employees (work family) feel a sense of belonging to a cause. If they do, they will move swiftly to accomplish the assigned work, hurdle obstacles, work gladly across departmental boundaries, and likely do it in record time, negating the need for excessive hours or other unrealistic demands. If only a few are unwilling or do not subscribe to the cause, then tough love (chapter 3 of my book) may be required for corrective behavior, up to and including termination.
It is a leader’s responsibility to step up to this role and action. Truly unproductive, negative attitudes, and not my job employees are cancer to the health of an organization’s culture and must be treated like a disease with course correction medication or cut out from the healthy tissue (a metaphor for work-family), before it brings down the entire business unit or company in the form of exodus by valued employees or loss of market share to competitors. If you as a leader (supervisors up to C-suite) have not fostered a culture that rallies the work-family around a cause and sense of belonging, then you are the problem and in need of coaching to learn how to create that unbeatable work-family through a unified cause.
Most of us spend more than half of our weekdays working. We are so much better off if we spend this time doing something we enjoy and believe in, than spending it just going through the motions and waiting for the workday to be over.
To be clear – work is generally not all fun and games. We cannot expect to enjoy every minute. But we should feel a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and challenge. Therefore, quiet quitters of the disengaged type owe it to themselves to find a way to move on from their current job to a job they will enjoy doing. This will take time and effort. It may require learning new skills, investing in classes, networking, and developing an online brand. But eventually, the efforts will pan out and will be well worth it.
People leaders owe it to the company and their other employees to identify the quiet quitters, find out why they are not engaged, and try to change the situation. It is not always possible. Sometimes the quiet quitters are just not a good fit for the company and sometimes they have personal problems that prevent them from giving their all to the job even when in the office. But frequently, by being empathic, trying to genuinely understand what bothers the employee, addressing their concerns, and creating a development plan that takes into account their professional capabilities and professional desires, a leader can turn around the behavior of a disengaged employee.
What about you? Do you feel disengaged? Why is that? Are you a leader that has to deal with disengaged employees? What are you doing to help them?