Tiktok strikes corporate America. Not by boosting a brand via a hot influencer, but by coining a phrase that scares managers and leaders everywhere – “quiet-quitting”.
American TikToker @zaidlepplin posted a video detailing this new workplace trend summing up the attitude with “work is not your life”. The hashtag #QuietQuitting, then went viral as TikTokers everywhere expressed their own journey to quiet-quitting.
After dealing with pandemic workplace transformations, the Great Resignation, and escalating levels of burnout, corporate leadership has one more thing to worry about.
What is Quiet Quitting?
The term might create images of an employee silently leaving the office with no notice and with no plans to return. Thankfully, this doesn’t describe the trend. However, the impact to your organization may be just as damaging.
Quiet Quitting is when an employee decides to disengage from their job. Yes, they may do their job, but only their job and within the narrow frame of their job description. Never generating ideas or input, volunteering for projects, doing more than what is assigned, and never overtime.
The Quiet Quitter puts their head down and performs as instructed but with no intention of engaging and creating more opportunities for themselves.
Unfortunately, this behavior will make it hard for many organizations to make goals. It can also create resentment among others and begin the slide into toxic workplace environments and damage overall morale.
A recent Gallup survey found almost 55% of employees born after 1989 are not engaged at work. They show up but do the minimum required. And according to a Talk-space / The Harris Poll Employee Stress Check 2022, employees ages 18-34 are more likely to feel burned out than the rest of the workforce.
Harvard Business Review created a survey collecting data from 2800 managers who rate 13,048 of their direct reports. The managers answered that 14% of their reports were quietly quitting, and only 20% were willing to give extra effort.
Why the Rise in Quiet Quitting?
For years, the way to get ahead in the workplace was to grind and hustle. In fact, to succeed many developed side gigs to expand their pocketbook and skill sets. The Pandemic changed all that. Placing people in isolated remote settings forced many employees to evaluate the work they do and how it affected their work-life balance. In fact, remote work often upset the work-life balance. Initially, the thought of working from home was a welcome respite from the commute and office politics, but slowly work crept into every avenue of life. People who didn’t set boundaries couldn’t escape.
These attitudes didn’t fade away when workers began coming back to the office. Many proclaimed, “work will never take over my life again”.
Gathering a sense of purpose and meaning from the workplace drove many employees toward greater achievement and recognition. At some point in our work culture, this has been lost.
As leaders, we must be aware of this trend and the attitudes of isolation and meaninglessness many feel in the workplace. There are steps you can take as a manager to create a culture that brings meaning and fulfillment. It all begins with a conversation and these steps will help you stave off quiet quitting from infecting your organization.
How to Combat Quiet Quitting
Psychological research around workplace satisfaction all point to three major elements that lead to engagement and fulfillment – autonomy, mastery, and belonging.
Autonomy – relates to a sense of control an employee has over their time and energy at work. Yes, we all have guidelines and structures to follow, but a sense of autonomy develops when an employee is given greater power for decision-making and how they prioritize work.
Mastery – is a sense of the development of skills in their job. The employee sees progress in their role through their own efforts. If a worker senses they are getting better at their job, and feel challenged to develop those skills, they will begin to develop mastery and feel empowered by the progress.
Belonging – is a sense of community and connection with co-workers and leadership. If isolation during the pandemic taught us anything, it was people craving for connection. Cocktail hours and lunches on camera were not uncommon due to the need for community. We are social animals and need community and nothing develops community like striving for a common purpose.
If autonomy, mastery, and belonging are keys to combating quiet quitting,
What are some practical steps we can all take to improve these essential elements?
Recognize people for their work and achievement, especially if they have shown growth and development in their role. Recognition can take many forms and individuals are different in how they respond. Communicate often with team members and learn their recognition triggers. Ask the questions and observe. It never hurts to ask them for feedback when they feel rewarded.
2. Focus on Purpose
Purpose creates belonging. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. It is a major reason we become rabid sports fans, join charitable organizations, and embrace faith communities. We need something beyond the scope of ourselves. When we see our efforts contribute to the common good or shared goal, we gain a sense of purpose. Be clear within your organization about your purpose then demonstrate how everyone’s effort fulfills that purpose.
3. Connect, Connect, Connect
Fierce is committed to connection. At the heart of our development programs is learning to build the skills and frameworks for deep conversations. Learning the skill of impactful conversation whether, through feedback, delegation, or even difficult conversations allow you to connect to the heart of your people. Ultimately work is about people. We are not robots or machines checking boxes and following algorithms. There is something uniquely special about each of us that longs to be seen. Find opportunities to connect with your people. Conversations are a great place to begin.
4. Career Development
Providing a path for development and skill acquisition contributes to mastery in an employee’s journey. Even for those employees that don’t want to move up the ladder, they still want to improve and become better. Jobs morph and change over time. We can’t stay static year after year and continue to excel even in the same role. Building development into your employee’s life will deepen engagement and ultimately improve performance in the workplace.
5. Clear Expectations
Boundaries at work are a major cause of quiet quitting, learning to set clear expectations is critical to help solidify them. Without communicating expectations on a regular basis, boundaries become fuzzy and employees become frustrated with their work life. Having regular check-ins, progress reports, and feedback sessions will greatly improve understanding of expectations. Don’t assume employees understand, check for clarification and help them meet those expectations.
6. Hold People Accountable
Accountability is a corollary to expectations. It is often a difficult part of the leader’s or manager’s role. We often assume confrontation when holding people accountable. It doesn’t have to be fraught with conflict. The Fierce definition of accountability is a desire to take responsibility for results. It’s easy for all of us to blame others or circumstances when we are unable to generate results.
Ask a simple question, “Are you getting the results you want?” Then sit back and listen. What is in their control? What can they do within their control to improve the situation? This provides a deep sense of autonomy and power for the individual and removes the blame game.
As leaders, we can’t stick our heads in the sand, and ignore the potential of quiet quitting in our organizations. However, we have the power to begin to change the culture and instill those three important values of autonomy, mastery, and belonging in the hearts of our people.
Even before “quiet quitting” entered the corporate lexicon, Fierce was at the forefront of developing those core values to empower team members and leaders.
If you are ready to build a culture of engagement, begin by scanning the Fierce catalog or talk to a Fierce specialist to create a custom program based on the needs of your organization.