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Quiet quitting – a blessing or a curse?

Published on Friday, January 6th 2023
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Fake news abounds on social media, but some messages simply need to be heard – even by HR professionals. People from Generation Z are currently circulating messages, primarily on TikTok, saying that they only do the bare minimum at work (as set out in their job description) on a daily basis. You can forget about additional things such as helping new colleagues out, organizing team outings or attending inspiration sessions – quiet quitting makes going the extra mile a thing of the past. Is that a blessing or a curse?

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What is quiet quitting, exactly?

The definitions of quiet quitting vary greatly, depending on whether you talk to advocates or critics. Some claim that the concept means people are saying no to doing stress-inducing extra work without additional pay, rather than simply not wanting to do it. Critics, however, believe that quiet quitting promotes laziness and harms performance, even if the basic expectations of work are met.

Of course, there have always been those who simply do their jobs and nothing more. The difference now is that the current generation can express their feelings through TikTok and hashtags. Many of these 20-somethings worked through the Covid-19 pandemic, living through all of the disruptive consequences that it brought (including a blurring of the boundaries in the work-life balance). These consequences can also be seen in the figures compiled by Gallup in its State of The Global Workplace 2022 Report, which shows that the majority (57%) of employees around the world aren’t engaged and aren’t flourishing. It gets worse: Gallup’s annual survey found that 60% of people are emotionally disconnected at work and 19% are unhappy.

Is quiet quitting a problem or does it present opportunities?

Being able to not take your job too seriously and separate your career from who you are can help protect you against a “hustle culture” and burnout. That can be a positive effect of the lower engagement associated with quiet quitting. Unfortunately for some, however, lower engagement also goes hand in hand with a few negatives, such as a lack of clarity regarding managers’ expectations, a lack of commitment to a company’s mission or aim, little or no recognition for hard work and little career development (Gallup, 2022).

When these are underlying reasons behind quiet quitting in your organization, you should take action – if only for the well-being of your staff and the health of your organization. Employees who aren’t engaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity. Business units with engaged employees generate 23% more profit compared to business units with dissatisfied employees. In addition, teams with flourishing employees see significantly less absenteeism, less staff turnover and fewer accidents, while they also see greater customer loyalty (Gallup, 2022).

A need for decisive leadership

When employees see promises, such as a healthy work-life balance, going unfulfilled, it’s only a matter of time before hopeful employees become discouraged. On-the-job experiences should match what was promised during recruitment or in monthly newsletters. Furthermore, experiences come from the corporate culture. If the culture doesn’t match the promises made by your employer brand, employees will leave the company or quietly do the bare minimum.

But how do you bring such a culture to life in a hybrid working environment? An organization’s leaders – by that we mean all managers – are a crucial lever in bringing your corporate culture to life and embedding it in the organization. They can keep their finger on the pulse among their team by checking in with everyone on a regular basis and helping members of their team look for meaningful work. Taking a passive approach to your career instead of finding work that really gets the juices flowing is a missed opportunity. It’s up to managers, with the support of the HR department, to encourage internal mobility. Showing employees how their work contributes to the organization’s aim as a whole allows them to gain an insight into the bigger picture and the added value their work provides.

Three ways to increase employees’ autonomous motivation, based on the self-determination theory

  • Let your team decide how they want to connect with each other (autonomy).

Ask your team whether they have any connection needs and how they can be met. Have they all agreed, for example, to come and work in the office on a fixed day? Evaluate this approach after a few months to see if the initial need has been met.

  • Share blossoming and growth moments (engagement).

Celebrating successes will make your employees more inclined to set new, positive goals themselves. Sharing mistakes, such as publishing a blooper of the month, will help people to realize that they’re not alone.

  • Organize inspirational moments (competence).

Make time each month during a team meeting to let one of your employees talk about their passions or hobbies – voluntarily, of course. Doing so shows you’re interested in their experiences and may inspire others (with insights from a good book, for example).

In larger teams, it’s often difficult to maintain a holistic view of each and every team member. Leaders could add well-being indicators to their dashboards to help them in this regard, which may in turn help them to pick up on warning signs they wouldn’t otherwise see on a traditional spreadsheet. These tools allow you to stay ahead of the quiet quitting curse, while you can use any warning signs to intervene in good time and adapt your organizational culture and leadership style to the needs of your youngest generation of employees.

Written by
Charlotte Peeters Copywriter

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