September 6, 2022
How employers should deal with quiet quitting

How should employers deal with quiet quitting? It's an important topic and it's time we set the record straight!

How employers should deal with quiet quitting 

Yes, “quiet quitting” has spread like wildfire throughout the press. Yes, it’s a TikTok sensation. And yes, it’s the next big thing after The Great Resignation clinched headlines for months and months during the pandemic. 

But what exactly is quiet quitting? Who’s doing it? And how does it impact employers who’re simply trying to run their company effectively? Let’s look at the phenomenon that’s impacting the workforce right now, as well as how businesses can counteract it by updating their internal culture, focusing on employee wellbeing and more. 

What is quiet quitting? 

While the concept sounds negative at the outset, the reality is that quiet quitting is just another way to say employees are no longer going above and beyond to impress their employers. Instead of staying an hour late to finish a project or taking on additional job responsibilities outside of their roles, “quiet quitters” are content to simply show up, complete tasks based on their job description and go home when the workday is done. 

In short, quiet quitting isn’t really about quitting at all. It’s about employees looking for ways to renegotiate the importance of work in their lives. Rather than work themselves to the point of burnout, quiet quitters are focused on prioritizing their mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Who is quietly quitting?

News flash: it’s your young workers. More than any other workforce segment, Millennial and Gen Z workers are the employees most likely to feel disengaged, stressed and burnt out. According to recent Gallup research, about 55 percent of employees born in 1990 or later aren’t engaged with their jobs.  

That’s not to say that Millennials and Gen Z employees any worse than older employees; in fact, when they do show up to work, they bring fresh perspectives, new cultural understandings and updated processes to the table. And that’s just one of the many reasons why quiet quitting can be so destructive: it takes some of the most talented workers on your team and prevents them from wanting to use their potential. 

Of course, many employees might read this and say, “Too bad, so sad. If you want me to work harder, pay me more.” And that’s a fair complaint — but what young workers might not know is that there are hidden dangers to quiet quitting that can actually hurt them, in addition to their employer. 

What’s wrong with quiet quitting?

While quiet quitting might sound like a solution to burnout, there’s problems with the concept. To start, it can prevent employees from having necessary conversations with their bosses about unfair working conditions

If an employer isn’t living up to their values as an organization, the way to address that isn’t by having employees keep their heads down and pretending those problems don’t exist while doing the bare minimum. To address unfairness in the workplace, employees need to be open and honest about their issues with their boss, and bosses need to be receptive to those issues. It’s a two-way street that requires communication on both sides, and quiet quitting is a sure-fire way to close the doors of communication once and for all.  

Quiet quitting can also act as a passive aggressive way to exact revenge on an employer. Instead of moving on to a job that’s better suited for that employee, your workers might be collecting a paycheck out of spite. That’s no good for anyone involved — and it’s especially bad for employees who might be happier working a job somewhere else. In instances like these, quiet quitting might just be a way for employees to kick the resignation can down the road, rather than having the hard but necessary “quit talk” with their boss.   

But perhaps the strongest objection to quiet quitting comes from those who say it stops people from finding jobs they love. Matt Spielman, a career coach in New York City, was recently interviewed by The New York Times to discuss the problems with quiet quitting: 

“You work four, five, six, sometimes seven days a week,” he told the news source. “There is no sadder thing to waste all this time in your life trying not to enjoy and be engaged and being excited in the work you are doing.” 

How can I stop employees from quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting can be problematic, but there are ways to prevent your workers from doing it. Here’s a few tactics you can try to help employees stay engaged:

  • Ask for (and implement) feedback: Quiet quitting starts with a lack of proper communication between employees and employers. It means someone’s either not talking, or someone’s not listening. Unfortunately, the power dynamic between bosses and employees means that it can be hard for an employee to bring up valid concerns to their boss out of fear of retaliation. So, instead of putting it on workers to come to you with their disagreements, make a point to go to them instead. Use tools, such as online surveys and anonymous questionnaires, to gauge how effectively you’re leading them. What’s working? What isn’t? Get it all out in the open so that you can start to amend some of the factors that are causing them to quietly quit. That last part is crucial — if you ask for feedback and don’t like what you hear, closing yourself off to it isn’t going to do you any good.
  • Offer recognition and appreciation: Most companies don’t make employee appreciation and recognition strategic priorities. But they should. In a speech at Workhuman Live 2022, Ed O’Boyle, Global Practice Leader at Gallup, O’Boyle noted that good recognition is one of the easiest ways to stave off burnout. Unfortunately, Gallup research also showed that 85 percent of company leaders in O’Boyle’s studies reported that employee recognition isn’t a main company priority. It’s time to change that — in doing so, you’ll not only retain younger workers, but you’ll also have an open, more honest conversation with them regarding their employment status.

  • Give employees a third party source to document their wellbeing: Despite how hard you might try, you can’t be everything for your employees. You’re a boss, not a therapist, caretaker, provider and career coach wrapped in one. Even if you provide additional resources within your company to address other facets of your employees’ wellbeing (which you should), there are some conversations your workers simply won’t feel comfortable having within the workplace. That’s why it’s crucial to provide workers with third party support in the form of career coaching programs, mental health resources, therapy contacts and more. Doing so will make employees feel cared for and seen, rather than used and unappreciated. 

Want to know more about how to combat quiet quitting? The Journal That Talks Back can help. We’re coaches dedicated to helping you navigate your biggest workforce problems, including meeting the needs of employees who’re starting to feel disengaged. Give us a shoutout and we’ll talk.

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