I’ve been intrigued by the term “quiet quitting” since I first saw it earlier this year but had never really done a “deep dive” into its origins, causes, or potential solutions. I must admit that I had actually discounted the validity of the idea because it got its initial boost into the mainstream from a Tik Tok post. A Tik Tok post…Really?
Before I share my Nobel Prize worthy solution (I’m being sarcastic okay?) on addressing this issue, let’s get a little more background on this whole movement known as quiet quitting.
What is Quiet Quitting?
Simply put, quiet quitting is a workplace trend where individuals pull back from going the extra mile at work. They don’t quit their job but quit extending themselves beyond the contracted hours or minimum responsibilities and expectations.
Claire Minnis describes quiet quitting like this: “It’s about performing your role but staying within your contracted hours, and “quitting” anything beyond your contracted duties. The idea is that doing so protects your wellbeing and makes space for other priorities in your life.”
Where did the term come from?
In a recent Quartz article, Zachary Seward writes, “This year’s sudden cultural conversation about coasting at work can be traced to a Business Insider column by Aki Ito. In March, she profiled a recruiter, using the pseudonym Justin, who slowly cut back the hours he devoted to his job without much consequence. The piece inspired a TikTok, and it was off from there.”
Who Is Quiet Quitting?
That’s a little harder to determine. We know the majority of those engaging in the practice are younger workers (Millennial and Gen Z). The percentage of the workforce who are thought to be quiet quitting varies wildly. I’ve seen numbers as low as 21 percent while a Gallup poll suggests that at least half of the US workforce is quietly quitting.
What are the reasons people are Quiet Quitting?
According to CoachHub, there are three key factors driving the trend. They include:
· Poor employee wellbeing. Not wanting to compromise mental wellness or work life balance.
· Remote work and Covid-19. Working from home blurred the lines between work and personal lives.
· Burnout. Some people feel like they have gone “above and beyond” for too long.
Paul White, in his insightful article, Quiet Quitting Isn’t Bad, sees some very different reasons, such as:
· Indirect communication. The unwillingness of some workers to communicate directly to others when the conversation is uncomfortable or involves some degree of disagreement.
· Inauthenticity. Not being open and honest with an employer about how one feels about their responsibilities or levels of compensation.
· Lack of empathy. White writes, “Frequently situations in life are more complicated and require a little more effort or problem-solving to truly meet the need. When you quietly quit, you are saying, ‘Sorry. That’s all I’m going to do. You will have to figure it out,’ which doesn’t show any concern for other people’s situations.”
Finally, I don’t believe any research into the reasons for quiet quitting would be complete without acknowledging that many of the factors I have shared all point back to one thing… a lack of engagement. Gallup describes those who are “not engaged” at work as “People who do the minimum at work and are psychologically detached from their job.” Sounds a lot like quiet quitters to me.
“Gallup describes those who are ‘not engaged’ at work as ‘People who do the minimum at work and are psychologically detached from their job.’ Sounds a lot like quiet quitters to me.”
So Jones…What’s your solution?
To be honest, I believe there are numerous changes that need to occur in our workplaces to combat quiet quitting, corporate coasting, working to rule, acting your wage, morale-adjusted productivity, or whatever term we use.
BUT, and this is a big but, I don’t think any of them will work unless we are willing to do one thing…. T-A-L-K. That’s right. My answer to addressing the quiet quitting conundrum is to talk. Start having conversations that address the issues driving employee’s lack of engagement which leads to quiet quitting. And those conversations need to happen all the way from the newest entry level employee to the C suite and the boardroom.
Before you stop reading, see what others much smarter than I am say about what needs to happen to address quiet quitting:
Annie Duke, author of Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away, says of the workplace “You have to have the conversation about how your job isn’t aligning with your values, so that your employer can address it.”
In “Is Quiet Quitting For Real?” Jim Harter writes, “Managers must learn how to have conversations to help employees reduce disengagement and burnout. Only managers are in a position to know employees as individuals — their life situation, strengths and goals.”
Claire Minnis affirms the idea in Don’t Hate The Quiet Quitters when she writes, “Leaders and managers can see this as an opportunity to check in with their people and reengage them with honest communication.”
In Quiet Quitting: A Sign Of Poor Employee Engagement, the solutions offered to combat quiet quitting include:
· Get employees to speak up about what motivates them and is important to them
· Ask them about their interests and hobbies. Be curious.
· Get employee’s feedback about their workload
· Talk to the employee about career progression
AND this idea of “talking” extends to investing more time reflecting (i.e. talking to yourself). Here are some reflection questions suggested by Paul White:
· What is driving your desire to quit quietly – to avoid conflict? Fear of negative response? Sense of a lack of empowerment? A desire for revenge for being treated unfairly?
· Are there other areas in your life where you aren’t honest with people and don’t tell them what you really think or give them honest feedback?
· What are your career and personal growth goals? How does quiet quitting help you achieve those?
The mindset we need to change to make this idea of “talk” work
One of my current opportunities is the group coaching of some really high achieving individuals. These are people who work with tremendous intensity. In my first session with them I ask the question, “In your drive to get it all done, what’s NOT getting done?” Silence ensues. Then one brave soul will speak up, and there is this immediate sense of “You too?” that permeates the group.
These participants want to admit that things aren’t the way they want them to be, but don’t want to appear weak to their peers. The irony is that once they recognize it’s a safe place to share such thoughts, there is a renewed sense of hope that there are things that can be done to improve their situation. Individuals support one another. They offer suggestions.
In a recent HBR article, Keith Ferrazzi and Jacinta Jimenez write, “Before organizations can address burnout [or quiet quitting], however, they need to create the necessary conditions to discuss it. Too often, burnout carries a stigma of individual weakness, that someone “can’t hack it,” which makes people reluctant to be honest about it. So team leaders must provide psychological safety, or a culture where people feel secure enough to take risks and share problems without fear of punishment.”
We have to make it okay to talk about things that aren’t okay.
So where do we start?
If you’re someone contemplating or already quiet quitting, find the courage to TALK with your supervisor. Get input from trusted peers or mentors on how to address your concerns. Also be willing to have honest conversations with yourself about what’s driving your desire to quietly quit.
If you are a supervisor or manager, be willing to have some different TALKs with those you manage or lead. I really do believe this is the area of greatest opportunity to address quiet quitting. If you’re uncomfortable having more personal conversations with your team members, read my post, How To Talk Your Way To A Stronger Team. You can also send me an email and I’ll be happy to share more tips with you. Finally, be willing to TALK to those you report to about what training or resources you need to have those conversations with those under your leadership.
If you’re a CEO or in a senior leadership role within your organization, TALK to your managers about what they are seeing with their teams. Model the conversations you want them to have by having them with your leaders. Be honest about your own journey seeking work life balance, battling burnout, or how you stay engaged with the work you do.
A final thought
Some people say that quiet quitting is a social media movement that will soon fade. There are signs that quiet quitters will be the first to be let go if a recession does happen. In fact, “Justin” the original quiet quitter, is now back to working 50 hours a week because some of his colleagues were laid off, and he was afraid he would be next.
My fear is that a changing job market will cause some organizations to see less of a need to improve the engagement of their workforce. They won’t address the need to create more sustainable workloads, more flexible work environments, and more personalized career progression plans for a vastly diverse workforce.
And because they won’t TALK about these things and make changes within their organization… people will quit. Period.
What’s the TALK you need to start today?
For more information on Jones Loflin, go to https://speakers.speakernow.com/profile/5350