How the ‘quiet quitting’ trend is empowering employees

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If you’ve been following the news or social media lately, there’s a high chance you may have stumbled across a new trend that’s sweeping across the world – quiet quitting.

Despite its name, quiet quitting has nothing to do with handing in your resignation or resigning from your current post. Instead, it’s the idea of employees doing what their job requires them to do, and nothing more.

No more working late hours, responding to work emails over weekends, or taking on projects that are outside of your pay grade; quiet quitting has become a subtle way for employees to loudly say no to burnout and instead focus on having a healthy work-life balance.

Over the last few years of the pandemic, our understanding of work has been turned completely upside down.

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Younger staffers have become tired of not receiving recognition and compensation for going the extra mile. So instead of being part of what was dubbed The Great Resignation, which saw employees quitting their jobs in droves, many are now simply “acting their wage” by doing the bare minimum.

But this workplace trend is nothing new, and we’ve already seen similar concepts catch fire among employees who are overworked, underpaid, and undervalued. At the start of this year, a Gallup study revealed that nearly half of employees claim to be neither engaged nor disengaged at the workplace.

Coasting – a facet that’s been part of the workplace environment for years. The term suggests employees simply clock in and clock-out, out while only doing what is needed of them.

The pandemic, which brought a slew of new challenges to the modern workplace has only intensified coasting even more. A survey of more than 11,000 American employees found that 39% of them were coasting their jobs.

While the trend has caught on quickly, after receiving massive media coverage on the popular social media platform TikTok, employers are now starting to notice this trend in some of their workers. This is where lines start to become relatively blurred, as employees are feeling dissatisfied with their superiors, but are hinging on their jobs amid the severe cost of living crisis.

With so many unanswered questions, what’s leading employees to quit their jobs, and what can be done to address the issue? Even more, with quiet quitting spreading like wildfire, what can employees do to set more healthy boundaries with their work to help establish a better work-life balance?

What’s causing employees to quit?

“It’s the quitting trend that just won’t quit,” a Mckinsey report on employee retention starts, and according to this report, data suggests that 40% of people in the workforce are still highly unhappy in their current jobs, actively looking for better opportunities.

In the very same Mckinsey report, there are three key nuances that researchers pinpoint as the main reasons why employees are quitting.

Reshuffling

Around 48% of those who left the labor market in the last year have cited changing industries as their main reason for leaving their jobs. This major employee reshuffle has caused some industries to see a mass loss of talent and struggle to attract the appropriate workers.

Reinventing

A large portion of employees used the pandemic and prolonged lockdowns as a way to reinvent themselves, either looking to start a business, take on freelancing work, or join the gig economy. Only 47% of those who left the workforce without a new job later on returned.

Reassessing

Remote work, work-from-home roles, and more schedule flexibility led to some employees realizing the need to reassess their roles as a caregiver and caretakers at home. Those who resigned over the last year left due to personal demands.

The last few years of the pandemic allowed employees to reevaluate their current position, and how this has been affecting their personal life and well-being.

Why are employees feeling burnout?

For many employers and hiring managers, it’s been difficult for them to attract and retain employees. Many are now starting to seek alternatives, automating roles, or simply jumping in to get the work done themselves.

Although we see how several nuances have played a part in employees leaving the labor market, there’s still an underlying issue that many employers and managers have overlooked – employee burnout.

In a Deloitte report, roughly 40% of Gen Z and 24% of millennial employees cited burnout as the number one of the top three reasons why they are leaving their jobs. Interestingly enough, back in 2018, way before the pandemic and The Great Resignation, HR consulting firm Randstad US found that 40% of employees were ready to quit their jobs because they were feeling burnt out.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Scott, a wellness coach, author, and health educator, employees are experiencing high levels of burnout due to an overwhelming sense of stress due to either personal or job-related factors.

Depending on the industry employees are working in, some managers may notice higher levels of burnout among staffers who endure long periods of low stress or shorter periods of high stress. The feeling of being powerless, overwhelmed, and a sense of hopelessness are why many employees have left their jobs in recent years.

Factors such as unclear job requirements, major consequences of failure, lack of recognition, lack of personal control, poor leadership, and poor communication have only increased the levels of stress and anxiety among employees.

The overwhelming sense of stress that’s been taking a toll on millions of employees has left employers, business owners, and hiring managers scattering to look for talent that can fill open positions, but has mass employee burnout gone unnoticed by employers?

By the end of May 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were more than 11.3 million job openings, and the number of quits had slightly changed, with more than 4.3 million or 2.8% of the American workforce leaving the labor market at the time.

What’s Driving Employees To Quietly Quit?

In a recent Harvard Business Review study titled, “Quiet Quitting Is About Bad Bosses, Not Bad Employees” researchers found remarkable insights into why employees are choosing to quietly quit, rather than resigning.

Data revealed that employees who worked under competent, and highly engaging managers were less likely (3%) to quiet quit, and were also seen to go the extra mile. On the other side, the least effective managers, those with a lower score rating had roughly 14% of their direct reports quietly quitting. In this category, employees are also less likely to go the extra mile (20%), or willing to complete or take on tasks outside of their job specifications.

The study concludes that although employees do receive the necessary recognition for their work, and have a feeling of being valued – consistent and balanced relationships with their superiors were among the main reasons some felt either satisfied or dissatisfied with their jobs.

The study managed to give a more polarizing view on the behaviors needed to help build better relationships with their team members and employees. These behaviors included honesty, trust, and expertise. These common traits often missed in the fast-paced workplace, are the building blocks that can help companies and managers mitigate the negativity surrounding employee morale and the threat of quiet quitting.

The Impact Of Quiet Quitting On Employee Health

Just as with other work-related health conditions – anxiety, burnout, depression, and stress – quiet quitting is taking a toll on employees who aren’t properly addressing the issue with their superiors.

In a recent Healthline interview psychologist Lee Chambers commented on the negative impact quiet quitting can have on employees’ mental health and work-related productivity. He says that “quiet quitting is often a coping mechanism used to address the likelihood of burnout and chronic overworking. Quiet quitting has the potential to improve boundary setting, as well as helping people step away from toxic productivity.”

What does bring to the table is the fact that employees should take more control and power over their rest and growth time. Allowing employees more space and freedom to reflect on their work and their work-life balance will give them a better opportunity To acknowledge their shortcomings and how they can instill healthy boundaries.

The near-term effects of quiet quitting in employees Result in Lower levels of Personal fulfillment and job satisfaction. This ultimately means that employees are less engaged with their work, their colleagues, and their superiors, while at the same time lacking a sense of purpose and feeling their roles are meaningless, pointless, or boring.

And as we’ve seen by now, these factors can have a detrimental effect on our mental and physical well-being. Additionally an attitude of quiet quitting and feeling less motivated to engage with work results in higher levels of depression and some employees feeling burnt out.

In some instances, workers aren’t burnt out because they’re not being paid enough or have enough employee benefits, but rather a lack of positive work affirmation, being valued, and having a sense that they are contributing to the company.

Having a person-to-person conversation about the workplace conditions, and getting their take on the situation will also help employers better understand why employees are feeling the need to quit.

Addressing The Situation

Both employers and employees need to address the situation of both burnt out and quiet quitting sooner rather than later. Having open conversations with employees regarding their work and the feeling of being disconnected can help address the issue at hand while at the same time looking for ways to improve job-specific requirements, work environment, and relationships employees have with their managers.

For employees, it’s important to take the time to set up boundaries that can help acknowledge and promote a healthy work-life balance. Furthermore, employees can consider taking a mental break by re-evaluating their purpose within the company. This should also include the job roles and the work that they do to ensure they engage in tasks that offer feeling creative and motivational.

For employers, there should always be a time and place to review employee performance and give the necessary recognition where needed. This should also include valuing the time and effort employees are bringing to the company, and the leads they are generating and looking to address a negative and toxic work environment.

Finishing Off

Quiet quitting and burnout are two of the largest indicators that employees are unhappy with Not just their jobs but also their colleagues, and can share disloyalty towards the company. Ultimately, to have an open and healthy relationship with employees, companies should look to instill a fluid communication channel between staffers and managers.

The implications of quiet quitting speak of the broader pandemic fuelled trained employees are having towards their jobs, their employers, and most likely themselves as well. Both employers and employees should move to pass the idea that constantly being connected and available for work is slowly but surely driving at the wind within the workplace and make it increasingly hard for many to set boundaries between work and personal life.

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