Quiet Quitting Part 2: How to Recognise and Manage it
In Part Two of our series on ‘quiet quitting’, we explore how employers can recognise when someone has become disengaged in their job role and how to manage the situation. If you would like to understand more about the background of quiet quitting and why it happens, you can read part one here.
Quiet quitting is a phrase used to describe an employee rolling back their participation in work, inputting only the effort required to meet their job description and work their contracted hours in order to keep their job.
While employers should not rely on hours of unpaid labour and the constant availability of their staff for last-minute requests or crunching deadlines, quiet quitting is a symptom of a problem that needs to be addressed.
The Issue with Quiet Quitting
Whether an employee becomes disengaged with work due to an objection over their treatment (such as feeling underpaid or under-utilised), feels bored and unchallenged in the job role or has had to pull back due to feeling overworked and burned out, they are unhappy in their professional lives – an unhappiness that’s likely to be compounded by quiet quitting.
The reality of modern life is that, whether we are engaged with it or not, work takes up a large part of our time. Lacking the motivation or inclination to actually engage with the time spent at work – whether that’s having a day-brightening conversation with a regular customer or feeling proud of the effort you invested into a successful project – can make that time feel meaningless. This ennui and boredom can then contribute to poor mental wellbeing.
For employers, quiet quitting should be even more of a concern, because the workplace factors that lead to it (which include disillusionment, poor treatment, lack of reciprocity, uncompetitive pay and lack of advancement) are also associated with other costly issues. These include low productivity, high turnover and high rates of absenteeism.
The most concerning issue with quiet quitting, however, is that it can be self-perpetuating. When people pull back their enthusiasm and are no longer inspired by their work, it affects both the atmosphere and productivity of a working space. What’s more, participation that’s limited to the bare bones of outlined duties can affect the social element of work (such as organising socials, bringing in treats, chatting while making coffee) and damage team morale.
Before long, the workplace no longer feels like an engaging and exciting place, encouraging disengagement in people who might have been highly involved team members.
How to spot Quiet Quitting
Quiet quitting can manifest in the workplace in a variety of ways, which include people:
- not wishing to take part in any company activities, events or socials;
- refusing opportunities to learn new skills or take on new responsibilities;
- not contributing to meetings, or even appearing bored by them;
- keeping conversations with other members of the team short and perfunctory;
- maintaining performance levels that only meet the base requirements of their role;
- lacking interest in the wider aims of their work and the business, and failing to see the bigger picture and;
- engaging in tactical absenteeism that is low enough to avoid disciplinary meetings but is higher than the rest of the team, or appears carefully planned
Of course, these factors should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. If someone is competently fulfilling their role but less social than other members of the team, it might just transpire that they lack confidence or are highly efficient. It is also important not to mistake presenteeism for high engagement and unfairly favour the “loud labourer” over the focused and quiet worker.
How to manage Quiet Quitting
Managing quiet quitting is similar to the methods used to reduce absenteeism, high turnover and poor employee wellbeing. Some approaches to take include:
Ensure workloads are manageable…
..and that hard work is rewarded. Many kinds of businesses rely on engaged employees to tackle busy periods, but increases in workload should be both recognised and temporary.
Quiet quitting can happen when a person is happy to go above and beyond, but this stops being regarded by management as an exception based on goodwill. Activities like staying late, taking on extra tasks or being available via email at the weekend shouldn’t be taken for granted by management or conducted by staff because those higher-up in the business exert constant pressure to do so, but are recognised as behaviour that exceeds a person’s duty.
This ensures that people neither get burnt out nor feel underappreciated and can remain enthused and conscientious in their role.
Unpaid labour should be distributed fairly amongst the team and that it doesn’t fall to one person to keep on top of tasks such as organising events or taking minutes in meetings.
Practice give and take
Every employee should recognise their role in meeting the needs of the business or organisation they work in. However, our working lives are defined by the relationship between organisation and worker, and relationships between individuals in the team. All relationships require reciprocity to thrive.
The advantages of providing employees with good benefits are demonstrated by the countries where this is the cultural norm. Denmark outstrips the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and every country in Europe excluding Ireland in productivity, while also being lauded for having one of the most flexible and balanced working cultures in the world. This includes the freedom to manage their own workload, informal work settings, generous paid leave and a relatively short working week.
In return, Danish workers are expected to meet deadlines, be punctual and above all to be engaged being expected to contribute their thoughts and ideas with everyone, no matter their seniority.
Provide good compensation and career advancement
A major motivation for quiet quitting is the perception that people aren’t properly recompensed for their work. This can become particularly destructive in the workplace if some people are on higher pay grades despite having similar job roles to those who are paid less. Quiet quitting can also be a response to a person’s sense that their career has stalled and they are being passed over for promotion unfairly.
Good communication between employees and management is critical. Understanding who wishes to advance in their job role and is open to new opportunities, who is unhappy with their pay and who is feeling overwhelmed with their current workload is key to avoiding or solving these problems. As such, you can do much to avoid employee dissatisfaction and promote accountability by maintaining an open dialogue through both informal conversations and tools such as monthly 121’s and staff surveys. If you would like help with any of this please get in touch with our team of HR Consultants.