Have you heard of the term quiet quitting? It’s the latest workplace buzzword that seems to be making headlines across social media and major news outlets alike. The term refers to employees who do what’s asked of them at work and nothing more. While some employers find this frustrating, other experts have noted that it’s a sign that folks are simply setting boundaries to foster healthy work/life balance.
Is this trend news to you? Read on to learn more about what quiet quitting is, what it looks like, and what you can do to foster a workplace that promotes engagement, work/life balance, mental health support, and more.
What is quiet quitting?
Quiet quitting isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. Instead of thinking about employees leaving your business, consider it this way: employees are more comfortable setting boundaries in order to enjoy the lives they lead outside of their designated work hours.
While some cite quiet quitting as merely employee disengagement, this isn’t quite the full story. Quiet quitting is more of an employee doing only what is expected of them, without any extra assignments or social events to stress them out. Instead of working beyond their scheduled hours or asking to take on more responsibilities without a pay increase, quiet quitters are comfortable clocking out because they know that their work speaks for them.
What quiet quitting is not
What does quiet quitting look like?
With these distinctions in mind, here are some behaviors that someone who is quiet quitting (or more accurately, setting boundaries) might exhibit in your workplace:
- Only accepting tasks, assignments, or responsibilities that were explicitly outlined in the description of their job
- Not going out of their way to engage with folks outside of their team
- Not participating in conversations, activities, or tasks that aren’t required
- Attending required meetings but not actively engaging
- Coworkers reporting that their workloads have increased because so-and-so declined to take on an additional task
Five ways to foster an engaging work environment
1. Offer career growth
I’ve got some bad news for you: the modern employee doesn’t expect to spend the rest of their career at the same business. If anything, every new role should be a step up from the one they held previously.
In order to quell quiet quitting at your workplace, then, you need to offer true career growth. This goes beyond showing career pathways that a select handful can work their way through; it means investing in your employees so they grow their skill set and become more valuable not only to you, but to future employers later.
While this concept may feel like your company is footing the bill for the betterment of someone who may not stay, the engagement that you’ll receive from those you’ve invested in will keep them from falling into the quiet quitter category.
2. Clearly define your jobs
Expectations are everything, in personal relationships and in the workplace. When it comes to the modern employee, they will meet your expectations to the T — and then stop. If you think adding extra responsibilities due to a general catch all, like “as assigned” or “as needed,” is going to keep your business running smoothly and employees happy, it’s time to think again. It’s not fair to ask more and more of your employees to make up for a lack of staffing without offering financial compensation or more PTO for additional duties.
One strategy to avoid quiet quitting when the work just won’t stop is to revise your job descriptions so that they clearly define all of the responsibilities the employee will be held accountable for. When an employee is new, they’ll likely refer to this list anyway to make sure that they are meeting your expectations.
There are two caveats to keep in mind with job descriptions. One: it’s not unreasonable to tack on obligations to a certain role, especially if the scope of work falls in their wheelhouse. There is a proper way of doing this, however. You need to clearly communicate with your employee why this change is occurring and what you will do to make it worth their while. Two: when you’re hiring, be sure to clearly list the types of tasks and assignments that a potential employee will be responsible for. If it seems like too much to write out, try to hit the high points; you can provide a detailed list after they’ve submitted an initial application. This can help you prevent quiet quitters later while also reducing the amount of interviews your hiring managers get ghosted on.
3. Take a pulse check
It’s always a good idea to have a finger on the pulse of your business, especially after the pandemic. They allow you to get a real time view of morale and overall company culture if done correctly.
By doing company-wide, anonymous surveys, you can see how the workplace is carrying on overall. While you can’t get specifics from this type of survey, you will be able to see if engagement efforts — like learning and development initiatives, clubs, and company picnics — are taking hold or if your employees would value a different approach. The important thing is to listen to the feedback you gather through these surveys and find a way to make your company culture better.
The second way you can do a pulse check is by implementing one-on-one meetings with immediate managers. This time can be devoted to addressing any concerns that your employees have, checking in on them, or seeing if they would like to learn a skill that might not necessarily fall into their realm of work. This time is truly for the employee’s betterment; if they only want a brief meeting, it could signal that they’re quiet quitting or just not as engaged overall.
4. Remind workers to use PTO
You’ve put the work into doing what’s best for your business and your employees by giving out extra PTO when they take on more responsibilities — but it’s up to them to use it!
Sending out quarterly emails from your human resources department to remind employees how much time they have stored up for their next vacation can help remind them why they go above and beyond at your job. The benefit here is twofold: you get the extra help you need from people already on your team while they see that you not only value their work, but also them as a person since you’re encouraging them to step away from their role and have some fun.
A happy employee is an engaged employee; when they feel valued, they’ll be likely to do more with little prodding. Taking the time to draft an email template thanking them for all that they do while saying something along the lines of, “It’s been a while since you took some time off — and you have [x] days to enjoy!” can really make the difference in an employee who enjoys their work life balance.
5. Address and prevent burnout
The elephant in the room is still the same: preventing burnout before you have to address it in a performance review. Ultimately, burnout is the primary reason why quiet quitting occurs; employees are tired, stressed out, and feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to tackle all that they have to do between work and their personal lives.
No one is a quiet quitter if everyone clocks out at 5 pm — so consider setting company-wide guidelines like no late night emails, last minute or rush jobs, or required overtime on the weekends. Your employees have a right to enjoy what free time they have outside of work, so expecting them to happily stay later to work on a project or pick up an extra weekend shift they weren’t originally scheduled for isn’t exactly fair.
If, for example, overtime is required to meet productivity quotas or because there’s a lack of caregivers available, it is imperative that you clearly communicate this with your employees ahead of time as well as what you’re doing to compensate them. Even if you think that it’s a possibility that these situations may occur, having the heads up can make a world of difference.
Quiet quitting: what you need to know
At the end of the day, quiet quitters aren’t lazy or trying to steal time from your company. They’re just setting clear boundaries as to what they will and will not do. Some will follow job descriptions to the letter when it comes to what they’re accountable for, while others will never willingly attend a company picnic or volunteer for overtime. The best way to prevent quiet quitting at your place of business is to take precautionary measures to keep your employees from burning out, clearly lay out what your expectations are for each role, and encourage your employees to follow their curiosity and add to their skillsets.
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