There’s a new trend on the rise. It’s popping up on TikTok, Twitter, and other social media sites. And no, it’s not a viral recipe or tightly choreographed dance: It’s called “quiet quitting,” and it’s coming to a workplace near you.
What is Quiet Quitting?
Quiet quitting is a bit of a misnomer — it’s not about quitting at all. Quiet quitting is a serious attempt to set boundaries at work: Employees firmly deny requests to do work outside their job description and/or close Slack at 5:00 pm, shut down their computers, and turn off email notifications until the next day. The trend has been likened to “slacking off” or “doing the bare minimum,” but I’m not sure that characterization — or the anxiety from employers — fits. In my view, the rise of quiet quitting is an opportunity to make organizational changes and to do right by your employees.
Quiet quitting speaks to low engagement among employees, who have drastically changed their relationships to work since the onset of the pandemic. Low engagement comes from a few sources but generally means that employees aren’t getting what they need. They’re overworked and underpaid. And in this new world, they’re looking for more respect from their employers.
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How Can Employers Cut Down on Quiet Quitting?
If you’re concerned that your employees’ healthy boundaries are moving into slacking off territory, you’ll need a game plan to re-engage them. Re-engagement efforts might mean a culture shift in the office — one that starts to look at employees as whole people with needs and responsibilities outside of the workplace.
1. Put regular meetings on the calendar for employees and managers to discuss their workloads.
Sometimes, a manager simply doesn’t know an employee is underwater. And because it takes time to reach overwhelmed, the employee has likely struggled for months. Hence this critical next step: Put a plan in place to help managers ease overbearing workloads for their reports. Codify ways for managers to ask for more headcount to hire support. Get extremely clear with managers about their teams’ responsibilities. And regularly check in with managers about priorities, so they can adjust work assignments and deadlines.
2. Create concrete performance goals for each employee that directly lead to growth.
Employees should always have a sense of what comes next for them, whether it’s moving into a management role or continuing on the independent contributor track. These growth plans should also be tied to raises — giving employees an idea of how their compensation will change over time is critical to letting them plan their lives and stay invested in the job.
3. Provide mentoring to employees from within the organization.
Employees are more likely to be engaged with an organization that supports their growth holistically. Consider setting up a mentorship program where company leadership mentors junior and mid-level employees and provides professional development. This can look like a monthly meeting between employees and their skip-level boss or workshops on topics that help them grow.
4. Don’t just respect employee boundaries — help them set them.
It simply cannot fall to employees to set up boundaries for employers to respect — there has to be buy-in on both sides. Organizations can and should put boundaries in place to show respect for employees’ lives outside of work.
For starters, establish a no-emails-after-6:00 rule. Leadership or employees are still free to send the emails if they work best at night, but they can schedule send — a feature available in almost every email client — so emails won’t show up in employees’ inboxes until work starts the next day.
Emergencies happen. You can be frank with employees that in rare moments, you’ll need to contact them outside of working hours. The key here is building trust: By holding to your commitment not to bother employees outside of working hours unless it’s an absolute emergency, they will respect those rare, urgent moments and step in.
Should You Worry About Quiet Quitting?
There’s no need to panic — I’m guessing that as with most social media trends, the impact has been somewhat overblown. But the popularity of this trend can be a wake-up call to employers who should assess the engagement of their employees. If you feel like your employees are listless and simply punching a clock, it’s time to refocus your efforts on supporting your employees, so both of you can get more out of your working relationship.