Quiet Quitting

What is it and why it matters to your business.

Amanda Childs

Group HR Director

What is it and where did it come from?

The trend ‘quiet quitting’ is not a new trend, it is something that many HR professionals have been aware of for some time, perhaps described in other ways.  It became more commonly known and shared with me via a TIK TOK video that went viral from @zaidlepplin ‘work is not your life’. 

As he shares, Quite Quitting is the common practice of employees refusing to put in more effort than is required for the job. He shares that this is felt to be an antidote to the hustle culture that we have all become accustomed to.  

At the same time, some believe that it means doing what one is getting paid to do without taking on extra work. It is an employment trend where employees do the bare minimum due to lack of motivation or any other reason, do not get fired, take home the salary and that’s about it.

Why did it start?

Quiet Quitting came to light because the pandemic forced the whole globe to step into a deeper period of reflection in a very unexpected way.

I think it’s safe to say, many but not all, of our working population up until the pandemic had been undeniably conditioned to work in a way that led to poor work practices that involved long hours, heavy commutes, and a hustle culture; always pushing to do more.

Effectively many adults were in sleepwalking mode going to work.  During the pandemic, a large proportion of working adults were pushed into either a period of no work or furlough or for some different work. 

This sudden shift for this population really brought home front and centre that if your life had up until this point been all about work, suddenly you were now left in a complete vacuum.  This vacuum allowed ‘space’, an uncomfortable period where you had to go inwards and suddenly question who you were and what you stood for as work was no longer the ‘thing’ that you were or did. 

These reflections then brought up an awareness and challenged working adults to really look at, what do I really want to do? What really is my value or purpose? And more importantly, how do I want to live my life? 

Now, many of us can see that previous ways of working contained practices that were great for capitalism and wanting more, but mostly lacked good health, love, safety, and great relationships.  We were devoid of all the actual ingredients that were needed in a pandemic – now we have awoken to this.

What are the signs of someone engaging in Quiet Quitting?

There are signs for quiet quitting, that can be true for other issues.  So, we ought to assume here that the employee is not suffering with ill health and is also not in a culture that is toxic with poor work practices.

Is when you start to notice that there is a significant change in their behaviour and approach towards the role that they do, and this behaviour is not explainable through an obvious change of circumstances (So they are not ill for example).

Is when you or others notice that members of the team are starting to engage in very pessimistic views about their work, their role, and the company. This behaviour can be very toxic and can spread very quickly.

It’s also safe to say that if there’s quiet quitting going on in your organisation, you are probably seeing and hearing feedback from external parties, including customers and clients. Where somehow certain activities, jobs, tasks just don’t seem to be finding a way to get completed despite the resources being available.

For some, you might notice a general underperformance. They may not be fully underperforming, but they suddenly develop behaviours that are not usual, such as avoiding phone calls, deadlines, not taking on new work or volunteering in the way they might have once done.

How do employers deal with it?

Unchecked or unaddressed, quiet quitting can harm your culture: it could disincentivise other employees, discourage them from going above and beyond and sadly not afford the organisation the chance to see the employee perform at their best.

Create an environment, ideally within your teams to be able to discuss and share issues about how you and your team are working. These conversations are happening already, perhaps over teams or in private. Get the conversations out in the open and work with facilitators and or HR professionals to have the discussion with each other if this will help. This can open a host of value for all concerned and work towards a healthier dialogue about work practices that are not working for all.

Encourage boundaries for everyone in the team, including the boss. Take time off, don’t work at the weekends. Encourage a practice where personal time is personal and respect that. This is important to protect as it allows people to rest and recharge.

Take the time to capture feedback via engagement surveys and of course in person. Look for ways to sign-post progress and changes. We can all too often fall into the negative trap of trying to get out of the problem. Learn to reframe the issue and look for where contribution is valued and recognise this.

Encourage career discussions and look for where people want to grow and change. These do not happen enough and some of this insight could really ignite ideas and solve business issues if there was valid awareness of how to encourage different contributions from different team members.

Check for other issues and make sure you have 1:1s with employees whom you feel might be in this space. If employees are struggling with their mental health, consider ways to support them. Refer them to professionals to get support as early on as possible.

It is also true, that sometimes things have progressed to far, in which case you may have to work to start a more formal process and will have to deal with an employee’s behaviour under a formal disciplinary or performance process. However, care and consideration should be taken before starting along this route to ensure that the behaviour warrants such action, and that a full and fair process is followed.