The pandemic of 2020 triggered a revolution in the workplace. In 2021, we witnessed the Great Resignation where over 47 million American workers voluntarily quit their jobs. In fact, that number actually grew over 2022, where an average of 4 million Americans quit their jobs each month. Even with a recession looming, trends show that workers are continuing to resign at unprecedented rates. But for those who have decided that a leap into an unknown future is not the risk, there’s the option of quiet quitting.
“Quiet quitting” is a term coined by career coach Brian Creely back in March 2022 on the social media platform TikTok. The term refers to the age-old idea of working at a job but not giving it your all, also known as “phoning it in” or just showing up for paycheck. While the term is attributed to Brian Creely, the trend can be traced back to the 2021 Chinese work trend known as “tang ping” or lying flat. Tang ping is a movement that advocates taking a break from the never-ending rat race known as employment.
Quiet quitting or lying flat is threatening to upend two of the world’s largest economies: America and China. And, if this trend continues, nowhere will be safe.
Let’s discuss what quiet quitting is, how it started, and what you can do to prevent it from happening in your workplace.
What is Quiet Quitting?
Quiet quitting, also known as soft quitting, is a trend where overworked employees have decided to dial back their efforts and put forth the bare minimum to get their jobs done.
The idea of quiet quitting isn’t exactly new. We’ve all had that one co-worker who would never put forth any effort to work and would then obnoxiously brag about not working. And perhaps we’ve likewise had the impulse to “take it easy” at work too and not stress out about the latest work emergency.
Quiet quitting is actually born out of a healthy need to set boundaries and achieve the often-elusive work-life balance. Your grandfather’s workplace, where workers would trade 50 years of their life, from 18 to 68, to an organization in exchange for a watch and a job well-done plaque, is a relic of yesteryear. And the determination that your father had to make a name for himself and be considered a dependable asset to the organization is also yesterday’s mindset.
Many of today’s workers don’t believe that their employers actually care about them. The so-called “loud layoffs” of 2023 across the tech industry have further driven home the idea that employers don’t really value their employees. There’s a growing mindset that loyalty is not a necessary part of the work experience. The thought goes, “If employees are expendable, so are employers.”
But lack of loyalty is only one part of the equation. In addition to feeling no allegiance with their employers, many workers aren’t willing to invest more than the bare minimum in their jobs. They don’t have the inner drive to be recognized by their employers for extraordinary efforts. They don’t exhibit the competitive spirit that drove them to work longer hours or put in the extra effort.
Who’s to Blame for Quiet Quitting?
It’s easy to blame young people for the shift towards quiet quitting. After all, quiet quitting is happening suspiciously at the same time that Gen Z is entering the workforce. Gen Z is compromised of those born between the years 1997 to 2012.
But research shows that the most disengaged are workers who’ve been in the trenches for a while, specifically the prior generation to enter the workforce, known as Millennials. Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials have identified themselves as the age group most susceptible to burnout.
The World Health Organization has classified it as a medical condition known as “Millennial Burnout.” It’s chronic stress that hasn’t been successfully managed. The majority of Millennials are reportedly burnt out on a daily basis as a result of working long hours and being always accessible by way of phone and email. Then there’s the looming sense of disappointment as they fear they will never meet up to the goals set by previous generations, namely Baby Boomers and Gen X.
Chronic burnout leads to all sorts of unwanted conditions, including depression, lack of motivation, and a perpetual, nagging sense of self-doubt. It can also lead to physical health problems, including a lowered immune system, high blood pressure, and even cancer.
Burnout, when left unchecked, can be crippling both mentally and physically. In light of this, it makes sense that Millennials are leading the charge to quit quietly.
Why is Quiet Quitting a Problem?
The workplace has always dealt with a few disgruntled or apathetic workers. What’s new?
What’s unique about quiet quitting is the sheer number of people who are doing it. (It’s definitely more than a few.) A recent Gallup study reports that at least 50% of American workers, or approximately 80 million, are quiet quitters. That’s an astounding statistic that cannot be ignored.
While quiet quitters technically remain on the job, they’re definitely not giving it their all.
Quiet quitting is contagious, too. All it takes is one worker who lacks enthusiasm or who shows an unwillingness to live out the organization’s values. That dissatisfied employee can have a major impact on the rest of the team. Before long, other employees on their team will start displaying symptoms of quiet quitting.
These symptoms include:
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Cynicism or negativity on the job
- Poor attendance
- Coming in to work late
- Unwilling to provide new ideas or feedback
- Lack of innovation when it comes to problem-solving
- Not willing to work one minute beyond the end of their workday
- Performing tasks at the bare minimum
Because it ultimately leads to unproductiveness, quiet quitting threatens every business goal. If left unchecked, it can interfere with your ability to generate profit or grow your business.
Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent quiet quitting from happening in your organization. And, if it’s already begun, you also apply the following strategies to re-engage your quiet quitters. Let’s discuss.Here are 15 strategies to prevent quiet quitting from happening in your organization: Click To Tweet
1. Set clear expectations
Your employees need to know what’s expected of them. Too often, managers simply assume that their employees know how to handle a task or an issue that may arise. Don’t assume. Instead, meet with your employees and be clear about what your targets are for each goal you’ve set. Meet often to discuss their progress on that goal. Be realistic with your expectations and invite the employee to share their feedback openly with you.
2. Follow up regularly
Meeting with your employees shouldn’t be a once-a-quarter event. It’s essential to meet regularly to review their performance and address any roadblocks that may be preventing your employee from reaching their goals.
3. Provide timely feedback
Providing feedback to your employees is important for their professional growth. As a manager, you have the ability to see a bigger picture than your employees do. Give them feedback on how their work affects the rest of the organization. Not only does feedback reinforce positive behavior on the job, but it can also promote a sense of confidence and job satisfaction.
4. Create meaningful goals
Set S.M.A.R.T. goals. In other words, make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-based (or have a set deadline). Using this goal-setting framework will make it easier to follow up with your employees when it’s time to review their progress.
5. Recognize successes
Everyone wants to feel like what they do matters. This is especially true of work that we do 40+ hours each week. Actively look for and regularly recognize your staff for a job well done. The compliment can be big or small. That part doesn’t matter. What does matter is the fact that you noticed their effort towards some task? Employees will feel validated when you genuinely recognize them, especially if you are specific in your recognition.
6. Ensure adequate support
One of the biggest complaints that employees have is a lack of support from their management team. The reason why employees feel disposable is because no one invests in them. There are many ways you can invest in, or support, your employees. The biggest ways are to recognize and reward positive behavior and be available at all times to listen and help. It’s crucial that you understand your employees’ pain points and be able to provide the solutions they need.
7. Encourage involvement in decision-making
Involve your team in the decision-making. Employees who get a vote often feel more engaged in the outcome. They also feel more valued by their organization when asked to vote. When you empower your team member to make decisions, you’re also telling them that you trust their input. To involve your team, be sure to ask directly or even set up a suggestion box to gather feedback anonymously.
8. Create a culture of open communication
Practicing open communication in your workplace will lead to increased trust and higher levels of engagement as employees feel more comfortable to self-advocate for their needs. To create a culture of open communication in your workplace, be transparent as possible. Don’t hide conversations by regularly hosting closed-door meetings. Closing your door makes the rest of your team feel excluded. Share your business goals publicly and offer regular updates on your progress towards meeting those goals.
9. Involve your employees in problem-solving
You’ve brought your employees into your organization to be highly specialized problem solvers. Each worker is there to solve a unique problem within your organization. Don’t shut them out by only listening to your own ideas. Invite them to share their own ideas on how to solve issues that may be plaguing your organization.
10. Roll up your sleeves to help
Are your employees drowning in their workload? If you’re not sure, the answer is probably “yes.” Your employees may not reach out to you when they need a lifeline, but that doesn’t mean they’re not struggling. Silence isn’t always golden. Actively look for ways that you can help your employees and then do it, even without them asking you for help.
11. Invest in professional development
A growing response to quiet quitting is quiet hiring. Quiet hiring occurs when an organization assesses its needs and attempts to fill those needs by leveraging the skills of its current employees. Quiet hiring can also refer to hiring short-term contractors, but more often than not, it focuses on rewarding the employees you already have by putting them in positions that better suit their skill sets (and your current needs).
Quiet hiring may also take the form of providing additional training to expand your current employees’ skills. Paying for continuing education for your employees will not only benefit your organization but will also build your employee’s confidence in their abilities.
12. Offer flexible scheduling options
Are you still requiring employees to work Monday through Friday from 9 to 5? Although some jobs do require a static schedule, many jobs do not. If you’re still forcing your employees to come to work, you may need to reconsider. Research shows that hybrid or work-from-home employees tend to be more productive and less susceptible to burnout.
13. Don’t micromanage
No one likes to be micromanaged. When you hire your employees to accomplish a set of tasks, trust their ability to do their job correctly. Give them goals and parameters and then get out of their way.
14. Offer mental health resources
Did you know that one of the best ways to prevent burnout is to train managers to be sensitive to their employees’ mental well-being? Encourage your managers to check in regularly with employees instead of assuming that everything is okay. Also, make it a point to communicate clearly and comprehensively so that none of your employees feel confused but hesitant to ask for greater clarification.
Also, provide easy access to mental health resources for all of your employees. This includes partnering with a mental health provider that can offer one on one sessions with your employees. Finally, be flexible with your time off so that employees can feel empowered to take a mental health day when needed.
15. Advocate work-life balance
Go out of your way to support a better work-life balance for your employees. For example, an employee may not request time off for their mental health, but taking regular breaks from work helps to prevent burnout. Instead of focusing on how much time they spend at work, consider how productive they are. Working longer does not mean that they’re getting more done.
Also, review your employees’ workloads on a regular basis to determine if you may need to scale back on expectations, reconsider assignments, or reassess if your goals are actually realistic given all other constraints.
Encourage your employees to take time off to volunteer. In fact, offer paid time off for volunteerism. Doing good for others will recharge your employees and make them feel better about working for your organization.
Quiet quitting is a pushback against the idea of working just for the sake of working. It’s a form of self-advocacy where workers prioritize their emotional and physical well-being as the most important consideration. To effectively prevent quiet quitting from happening in your organization, listen to your employees and remember to incorporate the above best practices.
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