If you were in any doubt as to the latest work-related trend, try Googling “quiet quitting”. At the time of writing, this brought over 366,000,000 results.
On first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking “quiet quitting” simply meant employees handing in their resignation without any accompanying fuss – so why all the attention?
In fact, the term refers to employees who are, in the words of a recent Guardian article, “just doing enough in the office to keep up, then leaving work on time and muting Slack. Then posting about it on social media.”
“Quiet quitting” is thought to have originated on social media itself – in particular TikTok – following an emerging trend in China, which involved an avalanche of pictures, memes, and videos of people just lying flat. Each one was accompanied by the hashtag #TangPing; described as “an antidote to society’s pressures to find jobs and perform well while working long shifts.”
As a social media hashtag, #TangPing is now censored in China. Yet clearly, employees all over the world remain keen to reject the traditional corporate culture of toiling thanklessly for long hours, under huge piles of work that never seem to reduce.
Employees are feeling less engaged at work – particularly in the UK.
Gallup’s global workplace survey for 2022 states that the modern-day mantras of most global workers are “living for the weekend”, “watching the clock tick”, and “work is just a paycheck”.
In the UK, only 9% of the workers surveyed were “engaged or enthusiastic about their work”, ranking them a dismal 33rd out of 38 European countries.
The pandemic can probably be held responsible for at least some of these results. According to Maria Kordowicz, an associate professor in organisational behaviour at the University of Nottingham, “there was a sense of our own mortality (during the pandemic)… the search for meaning has become far more apparent.”
Yet “quiet quitting” has been around for longer than we think.
In a recent article for People Management, Jill Cotton, career trends expert at Glassdoor EMEA, argues that despite the trend seemingly exploding into being over the past few months, the concept of “quiet quitting” is anything but new.
“The difference now is that when the pandemic flipped the world of work upside down, more and more people questioned their career and work-life balance choices,” she says.
And although many managers may feel frustrated by the idea of their team members “slacking off”, in reality, regulating heavy workloads and taking quality time out of work can be beneficial for both employees and their organisations.
As an inews article points out, “quiet quitting is not about avoiding work, it is about not avoiding a meaningful life outside work.”
How should employers respond to “quiet quitting”?
Treating employees that they matter to the organisation, as human beings rather than just workers, can go a long way towards re-engaging “quiet quitters”.
Asking employees about what matters to them individually, then listening and responding to their answers, will help them feel more valued and appreciated – and in turn, more productive.
Remember that everyone is different, so a ‘one size fits all’ solution, such as a bonus or a fuller social events calendar, may not be effective. As Rachael Knappier, director of service at Croner, says, “for some (employees), regular words of encouragement can go a long way. Others might be bored and looking to take the next step in their career and challenge themselves further.”
Meanwhile, managers should be trained and encouraged to start private, informal discussions with employees who appear noticeably disengaged from their work, their team, or the organisation as a whole.
Importantly, such a discussion should not be framed as a potential misconduct issue, but as an opportunity to understand how the employee is feeling, and what may be done to rectify the situation.
Instead of feeling irritated or nervous about “quiet quitting”, employers should consider how they might use the trend to their advantage.
Open, individual conversations about wellbeing and work-life balance will help talented employees feel supported and valued, and therefore less likely to quit – whether quietly or noisily.
If you would like to discuss ideas for employee engagement and retention at your organisation, our experienced team at Viridian HR are happy to help. Get in touch to find out more.