What is quiet quitting, really?

Written by Ali Shalfrooshan, Head of International Assessment R&D

Future of work. The Great Resignation. Hybrid workplace. Quiet quitting. All terms that have huge implications for businesses, which were relatively unheard of until recently. All come with a level of open discussion about what they truly mean, with many unanswered questions on how to address them. Much of the genesis of these terms tie directly to both the pandemic and the wide global adoption of virtual working.

Quiet quitting in particular has recently burst into the spotlight, reflecting a perception that many employees are choosing not to leave the organisation, but are adopting a much more transactional relationship with their work.

No matter how you view this potential phenomenon, employee engagement can have significant implications on both organisations and employees. Many products, innovations, organisations, and institutions have benefitted for years from the creativity, teamwork, inspiration, and culture facilitated by employees who identify and have a meaningful attachment with their organisation. If this association is reduced or disappears altogether, it can have dire consequences for an organisation’s potential and an employee’s personal development.

The rise of quiet quitting

The topic of quiet quitting is causing much debate, with a range of views being shared. Some say it is just a rebranding of employee disengagement, while others believe it is a symptom of burnout and depleted well-being. Some commentators believe it is the outcome of employees rewriting the psychological contract, while others simply see at as people shuffling priorities to put more of a focus on themselves and their families rather than a job and their employer.

Whatever people’s views are, most agree that quiet quitting, much like the Great Resignation, appears to stem from similar root causes – specifically the soul searching many of us have been doing over the last few years and feeling burned out after the tsunami of challenge and change we have experienced.

Learn more: How to counter employee burnout through resilience

Every aspect of how we define, perceive, and feel about the workplace has gone through a significant change. One of the positive outcomes of this is a growing acknowledgement and appreciation of the fact we are all individual human beings. We all have unique circumstances outside of work that demand our attention and impact our lives. With that in mind, are organisations using the right strategies to create an engaging environment and reduce the chances of quiet quitting impacting employees?

The role of employee engagement

Fundamentally, the challenge is the same as it has always been: employee engagement. This is reflected in the Gallup State of the Global Workplace 2022, which reports that stress is up and engagement down since 2019, halting a 10 -year improvement.

While metrics for measuring employee engagement, such as higher productivity and revenue, might be useful for board reports, they have lost the more human aspect of what true engagement is.

Real employee engagement is a psychological state that is pervasive and persistent. When employees experience a sense of meaningfulness and purpose from their work – drawing enthusiasm and energy from their job – they feel emotionally attached to the organisation. When this phenomenon is in motion, employees feel a genuine connection to their work and their employer – quite the opposite of quiet quitting.

How to prevent quiet quitting

The human element of being an employee – and an individual human being – is important and needs to be acknowledged. To address quiet quitting, organisations need to ask themselves:

  • Are we providing an environment that gives our people meaning?
  • Are we creating an identity they can be proud of?
  • Do we provide jobs that energise our team?
  • Do we help provide our employees with the right opportunities for development?

If you’ve answered “no” to any of these questions, here are some initial steps you can take to ensure that your employees know that you value them and their contributions to the company :

  1. Ensure that there are open lines of communication at all levels of the organisation. Have a way for employees to share feedback or concerns 24/7 – not just when you undertake an initiative and proactively solicit it.
  2. Embed your values and purpose in everyday literature and communication like the company website, newsletter, employee acknowledgments or accolades, discussing projects or initiatives, and in day-to-day conversations when possibl e. Ensure employees understand the ‘why’ behind what they’re doing.
  3. Revisit job descriptions, compare to current workloads, and review existing processes and procedures. This will ensure that the shift to hybrid working has not created significant gaps in operations and the work employees are performing is reasonable and within original employee expectations.
  4. Have a development program that is readily available to all employees – from individual contributor through executives. Everyone has room for growth, so opening these opportunities to the entire company will benefit not only the individuals, but the organisation as a whole.
  5. Ensure well-being and engagement is at the heart of your people strategy. Employee well-being can only be facilitated by proactive action from leaders, managers and employees. Everything worth doing requires resource, so make sure well-being is not something you just verbally advocate but something you do.

By focusing on more fundamental human needs you will find your employees will contribute so much more. Employee engagement is dead, long live employee engagement!

Building resilient organisations

As a result of both the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the recent pandemic, change is now constant and relentless.

Despite the vast opportunities that change enables, issues like increased stress, burnout, and lower well-being are on the rise – highlighting the undeniable importance of organisational resilience.

To survive and thrive now, it is essential for leaders to build their resilience to be able to respond to change well and recover from setbacks. As they learn this, they then directly impact the resilience of their teams since the most critical ingredient for a resilient organisation is its resilient people.

It has been shown that highly resilient employees are 43% more productive, 47% more engaged at work, and twice as likely to stay at their current organisation.

Download our whitepaper now to find out:

  • What is resilience?
  • How does resilience impact organisations?
  • The eight key resilience development strategies
  • How to connect individual resilience to organisational resilience
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