Have you heard about “quiet quitting”? Gen Z on TikTok know all about it, and businesses should take heed.

What is Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting is described as a term given to someone who does the bare minimum in order to maintain their job and wage ‘doing what your job demands and nothing more’ (BBC). It’s associated with both work burnout and also the lack of motivation or interest in the business and ultimately loss of ambition.

The origins of quiet quitting tend to be from the younger Gen Z feeling burnout from working excessive over-time during COVID without appreciation or recompense. Feeling unappreciated and over-worked for their business entry wage, many took a stance to ‘Act their Wage,’ in essence to remember what they are being paid and what for, and push back other requests in order to avoid work burnout and gain a work-life balance.

As time has passed the term quiet quitting is now often also used for those who have decided to all but quit work, sitting silently at home, doing the bare minimum whether the day is filled or not. COVID and a shift to remote working may have provided the perfect environment for this emerging work trend, where being readily available 9-5 is not fully expected anymore, allowing people to ‘mask’ their work commitment.

Some reports suggest that almost half of employees are quiet quitters (Gallup). In a poll by YouGov 2022 discussed in Raconteur, the older the generation, the more the belief employees should go above and beyond in work, and conversely the younger the age group the more they believe you should just do the work you are asked for, no more no less. Most people quiet quitting also acknowledge that they’d never admit it further suggesting that the term may have become more prevalent with the action of not working to full potential even during contracted hours.

In contrast, many of the older generation have previously ‘put in the hours’ to get seen or get the job done, when this should not be part of a daily requirement. With present working expectations this generation now feels and appreciates the new balance. That’s not to say that sometimes the business needs a little extra help, just like the employee sometimes does with flexible hours, or working locations.

Maybe quiet quitting should be re-named and defined as it evolves with social media trends? Being massively overworked for long stretches of time is not healthy for employee or businesses; neither will perform at their peak. Likewise, someone not utilising their working day and team are unlikely to gain insight to the next career step and achieve promotion. They in fact may become a victim of quiet firing, which is a relatively new term used to describe when managers and companies deliberately make life harder for certain employees they think are underperforming to encourage them to leave.

A post-COVID new norm

Considering post-COVID ‘new normal’ working patterns, ethics and culture, many of us recognise the benefits of hybrid working: recouped travel time and expenses, flexible hours, better work-life balance, but it’s not a positive experience for everyone.

This is not always beneficial for everyone. For those starting their career or a new role, hybrid life can have negative effects. Without team, office presence, they are not fully experiencing the potential duality of the word ‘company;’ shoulder-tap meetings, spontaneous corridor chats, making genuine connections and friends, and becoming visible and confident within the business.

Without engagement, employees can easily withdraw from their role. Quiet quitting is also being associated with certain management styles – those who are responsible for a team, but don’t really keep connections, relationships and reporting alive.

It’s the organic interactions that can help break generational boundaries – unexpected common ground, lunchtime chats about sport, politics, something you saw on LinkedIn.

So how can we get the best of both worlds?

Employers must address the underlying issues at stake by building better working culture initiatives into their HR strategy and re-engaging employees with company values. It sounds a bit office-life-101, but simple steps have been adopted by numerous companies, and there seems to be some success:

  • Creating opportunities to feel involved, implemented by managers or peers
  • Asking everyone to be ‘in’ on certain days to encourage team face time
  • Scheduling team meetings to discuss workload and delivery for the day
  • Providing regular 1:1 supporting and identifying both over-stretched individuals and also those under engaging
  • Providing simple lunches one day a week
  • Using HR initiatives to suggest management styles and gather regular feedback
  • Inviting feedback on work-life, mental well-being, and flagging areas of concern
  • Making people feel valued through encouragement and mentoring
  • Cross-pollination – introducing someone to people they might not naturally meet, making connections that could be helpful now or in the future
  • Showing where aspiration can get you – make career progression visible

Regardless of the HR stance, quiet quitting is a sign of discontent. Businesses are increasingly being ranked on their culture and employee satisfaction. Glassdoor reveals the good, the bad and the ugly businesses out there.

We all know that the tone of business culture is set by the business seniors and team leaders, but it’s not a top-down approach that always works here, it’s about creating a narrative among employees of working together, collaborating, even simply consulting with one another. A little bit of “I had this idea, what do you think?” or “I’m not sure what to do with this, can we talk it through?” goes a long way.

This post was written by Zalaris. They are an exhibitor on the HRTech247 Payroll, Time & Attendance floor in the technology hall here, and the SAP Partners floor in the Partners Hall here.