Quiet quitting is a new approach that’s been making headlines in the past few weeks. Some people say that it’s a result of Gen Z culture where “noone wants to work anymore” and some say that it’s a result of massive burnout and a sign of moving towards the proverbial work-life balance. Here is a story on how quiet quitting affects a collective.
*Note: all characters are fictional, all coincidences with real-life events are not real but can be very illustrative
Signs of Quiet Quitting
Meet Brian. Brian has recently exited his first successful start-up, and now he decided to change paths and work in a corporation for once. Brian is now the head of an R&D department at a technological company with over 100 years of history and 10,000+ employees. When getting hired, Brian was full of optimism. The goals for his department were huge for the following year. But when he started his first day at work, he noticed something very different to what he was used to in the start-up culture:
- His new employees were very strict about timing on meetings – even if problems weren’t solved during a call, people insisted on ending it on time;
- Everyone showed up strictly at the beginning of the workday and left as soon as (if not sooner) than the day ended. There was no check-in system but white collars checked in and out just like blue collars do;
- The score on everyone’s yearly evaluation was “meets expectations”. Literally, no one exceeded them.
Brian was a bit confused: the goals for the department were ambitious but the people didn’t seem to have energy to achieve them. More than that, they seemed passive aggressive and laid back. Brian went online to look up what’s wrong and came across the term “quiet quitting”. And it seems like that was exactly it.
Causes of Quiet Quitting in Corporate Culture
First off, what is quiet quitting? It’s a term that recently went viral on social media and it stands for refusing to exceed any expectations at the workplace and getting by by doing the bare minimum. The term appeared when the labor market became much more diverse and lots of people started looking for new jobs without quitting their old ones – but they stopped caring about the results of their work in the long run. Why bother if they are about to quit anyways? But the problem is, many people have taken this approach and made it into a long-term strategy.
When the term went viral, the internet exploded. Some people like Ariana Huffington called quiet quitting a sign of “quitting on life” (ouch), while others stated that it’s a step away from the hustle culture and a huge step towards mental health.
Since Brian has always worked in start-up cultures and small teams, it’s no surprise that he hasn’t seen such behavior: quiet quitting is typical for corporate culture and not tolerated in the start-up hustle world. Why? Because start-ups are short on resources and huge on tasks and need to gain traction fast. So, if anyone on the team is slacking – it will show immediately and result in a very unpleasant conversation with the managers.
In the corporate culture, the processes are slower and the responsibility is shared between several people (if not departments). Thus, if one person is not going above and beyond, it doesn’t show immediately. In fact, whole departments can exist with this strategy – but the results of their work won’t be outstanding.
Not Everyone Can Afford to Quiet Quit
Surprisingly, as Brian noticed, mostly young people are subjected to quiet quitting and there can be several reasons for this:
- When the pandemic hit, thousands of people were laid off regardless of their performance. The new wave of job layoffs did the same, so young people made a conclusion: whether or not you keep your workplace doesn’t depend on you – it depends on the bosses. So, why bother?
- The rate of changing jobs is much higher than it was a few years ago. Therefore, many people are indeed looking for new jobs (or learning new crafts) while working their 9-to-5.
- Mental health awareness is now significantly higher than it was and many people are consciously making a decision of stepping back and focusing more on their private lives rather than on their careers.
However, quiet quitting is a risky strategy in the long term and not everyone can afford it. For instance, what Brian noticed in his department is that the people who were still willing to take on additional responsibility and go above and beyond were the underprivileged categories of workers, such as women, LGBTQIA+ persons and POC. Brian talked to some of them in private and they said that under any circumstances they have to work harder to get noticed and they are in an inferior position in the job market. Thus, quiet quitting is more of a risky strategy for those who are sure they can withstand the consequences.
How To Battle Quiet Quitting
Research shows that over 50% of America’s corporate workers are not fully engaged in the workplace – and they can be called a quiet quitter. Of course, this has a huge negative impact on the company’s revenue and overall performance of teams. After talking with the company’s CEO and COO and doing lots of research, Brian has come up with a few ideas to try to encourage more people to work harder – if they wish. Here they are:
- In case employees are fully aware of how the compensation system works, they may be willing to put in the extra effort. People have to know their KPIs well to know how they affect their potential growth in the company. So, Brian introduced a more transparent compensation system in his department.
- Open communication is key in the workplace. Brian made sure that he spent at least 25-30 minutes per week talking to each of his team members. It helps to know people better, find out about their concerns and see what motivates them. It also helps to spot the people who are burnt out or destructive for the whole team and take measures.
- Taking the time and thinking through the career tracks for each team member is also helpful to battle quiet quitting. Showing the people what kind of possibilities they have (with timelines) helps them to see the bigger picture and decide whether or not they want to pursue such goals.
Being the start-up founder at heart, Brian decided that he will try his best to motivate his employees for the sake of their own future. Motivated people are more likely to get promoted because they show results and bring in revenue, while quiet quitters are most likely to get stuck in one position for years, which is not safe in the current labor market. However, it is always a personal choice for each employee – whether or not they want to put in additional effort to get ahead in their careers.
Quiet quitting has been quite the buzzword in the past few weeks and for good reason. If employees are not willing to go above and beyond in their jobs, that means that companies they work for will not show impressive profits – and that’s a huge issue for the whole market. Some people consider it a sign of laziness (and blame everything on the Gen Z), while others say that quiet quitting might be a warning sign of the overall mental state in the workforce. Overall, Brian decided that everything can be solved in open communication. If the employee’s values match with the company’s values and the company provides all the instruments for growth and development, people should be motivated to perform. And if the values and goals are not aligned, it will eventually come to quitting – and it can be either quiet or loud.
What do you personally think about quiet quitting? Is it a healthy way to find balance or a way to slack off from work? Share your opinion here in the comments and check out Business Talks on Intch where you can discuss it with other start-up owners, investors and employers!