Quiet Quitting | Reality or Fake News?

Article contributed by Allison Ebner

Well, it’s everywhere now. If you haven’t heard the phrase ‘Quiet Quitting’ yet, you may be living under a rock! Or avoiding any national news. It’s the HR Buzz Word for the end of summer but is this really a new workplace thing?

Most HR people that I’ve talked with are taking this big new buzz with a grain of salt . . . And maybe a shot of tequila. After all, they have been dealing with some form of ‘quiet quitters’ for their entire career in HR. We have always had a mix of overachievers, middle achievers and lower achievers in our workplaces. For a variety of reasons, people decide how much effort they want to put into their job, and these results usually play out in end-of-the-year performance reviews – when managers have to give an assessment of effort and ability. But thanks to a viral TikTok video in July by @zaidleppelin (over 8.2 millions views and counting), Quiet Quitting has been thrust into the national spotlight and is creating a lot of water cooler talk across industry lines. So what exactly does it mean to be a quiet quitter? There is lots of confusion on this simple question. I’ve seen it described as the following:

  • ‘People choosing not to go above and beyond in the workplace – seeking greater work/life balance’
  • ‘People creating health-related boundaries – Doing what you are paid to do and nothing more’
  • ‘People cutting back on volunteer work committees, extra projects or working more hours than  you are paid for’
  • ‘The natural evolution and demise of hustle culture. Prioritizing life outside of work over your job’
  • ‘The Millennial and Gen Z’s are done going above and beyond in the workplace’

In a recent survey done by ResumeBuilder.com, 21% of workers said that they do the bare minimum to keep their job and 5% do even less than what they are paid to do. A third of these workers more than halved the hours they are working. 52% of those working less said that their employer has definitely or probably noticed their lack of effort but they don’t care. The risk of getting fired is not motivating them to change their behavior. WOW.

OK, that’s a lot to unpack. As we consider this new ‘trend’ and what it means for HR and businesses in general, it’s important to outline a few other facts as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that productivity fell at a 4.6% annualized rate during Q2 of 2022. And that’s on top of Q1’s drop of 7.4%. OUCH. Employers are paying between 6 and 9% more in labor costs than they were pre-pandemic. So for many CEO’s, their viewpoint is that they are paying more for labor and getting less production. In fact, there are many economists that predict there will be huge ramifications in the inflation rate if productivity continues to decline. Not to mention when labor costs reach a breaking point, many organizations may have to turn to layoffs or automation (robots instead of humans) in order to meet customer demands.

So where do we go with all of the trendy tidbits? Back to the basics . . . with a twist.

The Baby Boomers are still at the helm of many organizations. Their autocratic leadership style built around predictable patterns and heavy delegation (which made sense many years ago) are in direct conflict with the way the Millennials and Gen Y’s want to be led (Hint: INSPIRED) and motivated. Many Boomer leaders have taken some cues from the up-and-coming leaders (Gen X and Millennials). They have incorporated traits like communication, collaboration and connection in the way that they lead.

These are the organizations that have successfully transformed their organizational leadership structures and created RESILIENCE throughout their companies. Building a foundation of trust and transparency allows your senior leadership and your managers and supervisors to establish close 1:1 relationships with your employees in order to combat some of the work/life balance concerns that are driving the Quiet Quitting movement.

Let’s be honest – the ‘work first, family second’ mantra of the Baby Boomer generation could use a little tweaking! My parents were Boomers and I’m a Gen X’er. I watched my Mom and Dad hustle and work extremely hard to get ahead and they instilled that same philosophy in me. But in today’s working world, especially after the pandemic, we need to allow for more balance between our work and home lives. And a LOT of employers have embraced this middle ground and created flexible schedules, health & wellness benefits and are building employee well-being into the fabric of their employee value propositions. Many studies have shown that this will not only help your employee retention numbers, but will also enhance your production AND profitability numbers as well.

The three core pillars critical to organizational success and resilience today are:

Integrity | Ethical leadership and open, transparent communication

Innovation | Collaborative creativity with a fearless mindset

Inclusion | Authentic respect and belonging

If you can build these into your corporate DNA and your employee value proposition, you will create the ‘currency’ you need with your employees to achieve the right mix of accountability and empathy in your employee relationships. This will allow you to have those courageous conversations with your employees where you outline expectations and work together to establish productivity outcomes that make sense for both the employer and employee. Human Resources is at the epicenter of helping employers build this infrastructure and then disseminating it throughout the organization. We know it’s a BIG job – Here are things you can consider doing to help you on the journey:

  • Think about coaching for your senior leadership team – Open minds win hearts!
  • Explore leadership training for your managers and supervisors. They are critical to your success in achieving integrity and inclusion. They need to be able to have courageous conversations!
  • Conduct employee surveys – How are your employees feeling today? What would inspire them to do more or empower them to work more effectively?
  • Create ‘lunch with leadership’ sessions. Listening and learning
  • Conduct stay interviews with your employees. Revamp your performance review process to include more frequent communication where you review benchmarks. No surprises!
  • Make sure every employee knows how their job is tied to your overall mission!

Let us know if our team here at EANE can support you in this critical mission