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Employee engagement · 

8 minutes

Quiet Quitting: The What, Why, and the Backlash

Cormac O'SullivanPiggy

Quiet quitting is a phenomenon that has taken the workforce by storm in recent months and years. But what is to blame? Employees or employers? Is it a product of laziness, the great resignation, failure to adjust to working life after years of the pandemic, or a product of poor employee engagement? On the other hand, are employers to blame for letting employee engagement slip? This article looks at the rise of quiet quitting, what it is, why it happens, and the backlash against it.

What is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting occurs when employees become disengaged and demotivated at work, leaving them less productive than when they were actively engaged. It means doing the bare minimum work while remaining in the company, and can be compared to a work-to-rule.

Employee Engagement

One possible cause of quiet quitting is a lack of employee engagement or motivation and commitment to one's work. This may be due to several factors, including a lack of recognition or appreciation from managers or superiors, difficult or unrewarding tasks, poor workplace culture & environment, or simply a general sense of dissatisfaction with one's job. Engaged workers are the foundation of a solid employee base, so prioritizing engagement in work tasks as well as office culture is essential.

Employee Recognition

Quiet quitting is not only the result of engagement factors. Employers may be to blame as a result of inadequate or unclear expectations for employees or failure to provide appropriate training and support. Employers who fail to acknowledge or address employee concerns or grievances are also likely contributing. Encouraging employees more often and providing constructive feedback can make a big difference in bringing actively disengaged employees back on board again.

Employee Compensation

Employee compensation is another element of the problem. Often, employees argue that they aren’t quiet quitters, but rather only doing the minimum required work they’re paid to do by their job description. With a large portion of employees feeling as though they’re underpaid and hence undervalued, the problem is growing to become a significant force in labor markets.

Employee Mental Health

A key argument for quiet quitting is employee mental health or employee well-being. Many employees argue that they invest too much time, energy, and mental health in their work. Getting ahead in the workplace is often only achievable by going above and beyond your contract and pay grade. This leaves employees caught up in a rat race of hustle culture that destroys work-life balance and impacts on employee mental health.

Is Quiet Quitting Sustainable?

As a new phenomenon, it’s difficult to predict how quiet quitting will affect both public and private labor markets and the employment landscape.

Rationally, the answer is no. Quiet quitting is unsustainable for several reasons, one of which is human ambition. Employees engaging in quiet quitting are equally sabotaging their own careers. There’s an evident trade-off when it comes to climbing the career ladder - performing above what’s expected for your position. From this perspective, it’s difficult to count on the longevity of this particular phenomenon.

Backlash Against Quiet Quitting

There has been significant backlash against quiet quitting, with leaders from multiple businesses condemning the sense, or lack thereof, behind it. Business leaders such as Kevin O’Leary have ridiculed the idea, saying that it’s essentially career sabotage.

Is the backlash justified? Yes and no. The definition of quiet quitting is varied and very much open to interpretation. Many people equate it to plain laziness and career sabotage, while others cite it as the first step towards self-preservation in toxic work culture.

Taking the definition of quiet-quitting as a work-to-rule, the backlash against it has been relatively fair. The main criticism is the fact that it inhibits progression in the workplace, which can’t be denied. However, some blame also has to rest on the company for not recognizing when a worker is disengaged. Companies have a responsibility to be aware of employee engagement and how to optimize it, just as employees are responsible for doing their job.

Quiet Firing

One approach that employers have taken in response to quiet quitting is 'quiet firing' - no prizes for guessing what that means. Quiet firing is the practice of firing an employee without officially firing them. Employers no longer involve them actively, they're overlooked when it comes to opportunities or extra work, and they're often given the most undesirable tasks until they eventually quit. Employers often cut the hours of these employees as well, in the hopes that they will get the message and leave for another job.

Dealing with Quiet Quitting

If you are facing quiet quitting in your workplace, there are steps that you can take to improve employee engagement and reduce quiet quitting. The first step is to listen to your employees - gather their feedback on what is working well in the company, and what could be improved.

Actively involve employees in decision-making processes, provide regular performance reviews and recognition when they meet or exceed expectations, and be understanding when employees encounter challenges or face obstacles.

Additionally, make sure that your workplace offers opportunities for growth and development so that employees feel like they have a future with your company. By taking these steps, you can combat quiet quitting and create a more engaged, productive workforce.

Your working culture also plays quite a role in the engagement, commitment, and loyalty of your employees. Ensuring that you have a rich organizational culture is a great step towards achieving an engaged workforce, and having employees buy into this minimizes your risk of falling victim to quiet quitting or other issues that arise as a result of employee disengagement.

Create a Rewarding Experience

Boost employee engagement, productivity, motivation, and loyalty with an on-brand employee recognition and rewards program. Giving employees recognition and rewards in a more structured format is not only a great way to get employees motivated and feeling more appreciated, but it can make a huge difference in getting your employees to buy into your organizational culture.

With our fully customizable employee loyalty software, you have the tools to create an on-brand employee recognition and rewards program that rewards what you want when you want. Celebrate employee milestones, reward based on hours worked, or base your rewards around shared values and initiatives. Maximize engagement with customization and personalized rewards, along with gamification to bring some friendly competition into play.

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