Quiet Quitting: What Is It and How Can Your Business Avoid It?

Quiet quitting. You’ve definitely heard of it (unless you’ve been in hiding for the past few months). It’s a new workplace phenomenon that’s getting plenty of airtime. The central premise of quiet quitting is this: employees are increasingly doing the absolute minimum in their jobs – i.e., being true to their actual job spec – in the delivery of their role.

Rather than going above and beyond for their employer, quiet quitting workers tend to fly under the radar and take a step back from any emotional attachment they may have to their job. Wikipedia defines it like this:

Quiet quitting is an application of work-to-rule, in which employees work within defined work hours and engage in work-related activities solely within those hours. Despite the name, the philosophy of quiet quitting is not connected to quitting a job outright, but rather doing precisely what the job requires.[1] Proponents of quiet quitting also refer to it as acting your wage

Wikipedia

Act Your Wage: How Did Quiet Quitting Become a Thing?

After two years of COVID stress, workers were somewhat discombobulated. Holidays didn’t happen, but burnout did. And workers sought better work/life balance. This, coupled with the labour shortages brought on by COVID (a prime trigger for burnout), and workers have seemingly called “ENOUGH!”.

📧 Enough answering emails at any time of day (particularly out of work hours).

😤 Enough working on projects and tasks outside of their job spec.

🤡 Enough of toxic work environments where unhealthy competition between workers is the norm.

⏰ Enough of the long hours and meeting the sometimes-ridiculous expectations of their employer.

The term ‘quiet quitting’ was coined by TikTokker @zkchillin. He suggests the concept of quiet quitting is to meet the expectations of your job but resist the urge to overperform to win brownie points or accelerate career advancement.

“You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond”….

“You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life — the reality is, it’s not”.

“Your worth as a person is not defined by your labour.”

TikTokker @zkchillin

The video has been viewed more than 3.5 million times and received over 4k comments. The theme of the commentary was very consistent:

“I went on vacation for a week and didn’t check my work email once,” one user said.

“Even set ‘average’ goals so I’m doing enough but not above and beyond,” another claimed.

And this: “Currently doing this. You definitely get an awakening at how pointless building someone else’s dream really is.”

quiet quitting Australians

Why is Quiet Quitting Happening In Australia?

There are a few reasons.

Firstly, the Australian job market vacancies are at a record high – there are as many as 480,000 open positions in Australia currently. This strained labour market puts pressure on the currently employed, to do more than their job spec, because ‘we’re short staffed’.

“The large volume of unfilled demand means the labour market will likely continue to tighten,” said ANZ senior economist Catherine Birch.

An upside of this labour shortage for employees is their new position to negotiate better terms of employment. From requesting hybrid work to four-day work weeks and securing previously elusive pay rises.

However, burnout is the obvious counter here.

Estimated to cost Australian organisations almost $11 billion/year, burnout has had a huge impact on workers since COVID. In 2021, the Australia and New Zealand Autonomy of Work Index 2021 found that 77% of employees in the region experienced burnout at least once in 2020, while 50% said being overworked was a key factor contributing to burnout.

One in three workers cited an inability to disconnect from work as the main reason for burnout.

Data From The US

Data gathered by Harvard Business Review since 2020 on 2,801 managers, who were rated by 13,048 direct reports, shows some telling signs (sure this is US data, but the lessons are valid for Australia). On average, each manager was rated by five direct reports from which two data points were compared:

  • Employees’ ratings of their manager’s ability to ‘Balance getting results with a concern for others’ needs’
  • Employees’ ratings of the extent to which their ‘work environment is a place where people want to go the extra mile’

The term ‘discretionary effort’ has been used by HBR for those workers willing to go the extra mile. This group had a profound effect on organisational output: so, if 10 workers each give 10% extra effort, the net results of that additional effort are exponential. See the graph below.

The data shows that the least effective managers have three to four times as many people in the ‘quiet quitting’ category compared to their more effective leadership counterparts. To give some perspective here, poor people managers had 14% of their direct reports quietly quitting, and only 20% willing to go the extra mile in their job. Conversely, those rated the highest at balancing output and results with professional relationships saw 62% of their direct reports willing to give extra effort, while only 3% were quietly quitting.

A staggering differential.

Quiet Quitting

How to Stop Quiet Quitting in Your Business

If you’re seeing quiet quitting behaviours in your business, there are several steps you can take to turn it around and prevent a resurgence in the future. From our research, we recommend the following strategies:

Make Sure Employees Aren’t Neglecting Their Personal Lives

From working 12–15-hour days to being hesitant to leave work early for personal reasons, workers’ personal lives must be respected by their employer and their direct manager.

Kids get sick. Cars break down. Life happens.

Being in a workplace that expects life to not happen is unreasonable. And is a surefire way to experience quiet quitting in your workforce ranks.

Similarly, big working days and weeks are not sustainable. If you’re short-staffed and you need workers to pull extra hours from time to time, offer them time off-in-lieu to show you respect their life outside of work.

Create Boundaries Between Work and Personal Lives

Hybrid working – in some format – is now commonplace across Australia’s workplaces, especially for knowledge workers. The big risk with hybrid working? The ‘always on’ mentality.

If workers are taking up work-from-home options, their work life actually enters into the physical sphere of their personal life. And healthy boundary-setting can be a challenge.

Being able to work from anywhere, at any time, doesn’t mean pushing employees to be ‘always on’. To help create a healthy working environment, try these boundary-setting tactics:

  • Allow workers to determine when communications will be responded to and via what medium. Typically, more important, formal work requests are best handled via email, within normal working hours. Direct messaging platforms are good for less formal communications, and issues that are urgent
  • Be ready to wait for responses from workers; don’t expect immediacy in everything they do
  • Establish regular team and one-on-one meetings in hybrid working settings, so visibility of all projects and progress is regular and consistent. This also allows workers to feel engaged with their colleagues and their manager
  • Show support for workers who may have previously burnt out. Give them time to recover, goodwill to take time off, and space to recalibrate so they can come back fresh and motivated

what is quiet quitting?

Show Workers You’re Grateful

Workers are always interested in their manager’s view of their work.

Is it high-quality? Is it up to standard? Is it having an impact on the business?

Don’t give your workers the silent treatment because they’ll feel unappreciated and alone. As a people manager, you need to notice and appreciate the inherent value of your workers.

Remember this too: gratitude isn’t just thanking your workers for their output and achievements. It’s also about helping them see their worth as your employee, colleague and as a human being.

Set a Good Example

A ‘do as I say not as I do’ mentality will not fly (no matter what the market conditions). Especially in this era of quiet quitting.

A big motivation around quiet quitting is to create boundaries between work life and personal life (as we mentioned above). Workers don’t want to respond to emails on the weekend or when they’re on holiday. So don’t send them during those times, and definitely don’t expect a response.

Workers can get anxious and distracted if they’re getting emails on the weekend. It can ruin their personal time away from work. So set a good example, by not sending emails during the weekend but instead, setting a timer so your email is sent at 8:00 am Monday.

Show your workers how important life outside of work is, by demonstrating active boundary-setting. Encourage workers, especially those working from home more frequently, to leave the virtual office on weekends, holidays or days off.

 

It’s easy to place the blame for quiet quitting on lazy or unmotivated workers. This is misguided. Instead, look within the business at systems or behaviours that may encourage quiet quitting. And conversely, start to recognise those workers who are engaged. Mostly, the workers willing to give their energy, creativity, and enthusiasm are to managers and leaders in the organisations that respect their personal lives, and their personal time, and therefore deserve it.

Finally, please do contact us if you have any feedback or comments.

As one of the world’s leading providers of contingent worker management solutionsCXC is well-positioned to optimise all elements of your contingent workforce strategy.

With operations in more than 50 countries across five continents and decades of experience, we can assist with every aspect of your program.

If you are interested in discussing the concept of quiet quitting, we’d love to hear from you. Simply contact us here.