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Quiet quitting: Why it isn’t something to remain quiet about with your employees

By Charlotte Smail 

Quiet quitting. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s similar to the concept of “coasting” or “checking out”; doing the bare minimum of one’s job description at work. Thanks to a video on the social media network TikTok in July, the term has now entered our language around work.

Quiet quitting is a broad definition that has been described differently amongst sources and provoked conversations about the expectation for employees to go “above and beyond”. It has also brought to light embedded expectations of expecting employees to engage in unpaid work and the ethics around this. We’re focusing on quiet quitting in terms of disengagement and demotivation in the workplace and the impact this can have on workplace productivity and culture, and individual well-being.

According to Gallup, quiet quitters comprise more than half of the US workforce, and from what we’ve heard, Australia may be close behind. In fact, just revealed that 2 million Australians are ready to quit their jobs.

What’s the cause?

Disengagement and disconnection are at the core of quiet quitting, when employees feel unmotivated by their jobs and employer, and a disconnection with the organisation’s mission or purpose. One of the sources of this disconnection is usually a misalignment between the employee’s needs and values and the employer’s ability or willingness to meet these needs and values.

Covid has exacerbated experiences of burnout (42% of Australians are experiencing burnout) and caused people to reconsider where they place value in their lives. And if they’re not feeling valued in their workplace, they are rerouting their energy from work to outside of work.

How to mitigate risks and re-engage your Quiet Quitters

Prevention will always be easier than recovery. Both recommendations are relevant for both.

Talk to your employees. Understand what’s important to them – what they value and their needs. They might not even know; people are often clearer about what they don’t want than what they do want. So, help them to understand. Provide your employees with the tools and support to identify and articulate their needs. Promote a culture of open conversations between managers and team members and build psychological safety in your workplace.

Importantly, demonstrate to your employees how you value them in a way that is meaningful to them. This could be recognition, flexibility, salary, benefits, development, or social events. Remember, not everyone is driven by the same things. Find out what drives your people.

We know that with inflation and the rising cost of living, many workers need an increase in their salary and expect one because of their increased workload and efforts because of the pandemic. However, many workers will trade off a lower salary if it means a better work-life balance. This reiterates why it’s essential to talk to your employees to understand what’s important to them individually.

Whilst Korn Ferry doesn’t predict that widespread quiet quitting will be a maintainable trend for much longer (at least in America), in Australia, the quit rate is expected to be as high as 15% by the end of this year. That’s a 5.5% increase from the 1.3 million Australians who quit their jobs last year. An organisation is only as good as its employees, so don’t wait for a mass exodus or a room full of quiet quitters to do something. Get to know what motivates your people individually and keep engagement high to ride out the turbulent times ahead.

An organisation is only as good as its employees, so don’t wait for a mass exodus or a room full of quiet quitters to do something.