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“Quiet quitting” is an emerging trend where workers only do what their job description entails without going above and beyond. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees shifted their views on their work lives, and this has been reflected in movements such as the Great Reshuffle—a mass movement of workers to jobs that meet their demands for things such as more flexibility and better benefits—the shift to remote work and, now, the quiet quitting trend.
Employees who solely complete their job description and no more could continue to be valuable workers. However, employers can consider steps to engage employees and prevent quiet quitting from happening in the first place. To help eliminate the trend’s presence in their organizations, employers should focus on effective communication with their employees and methods to enhance employee engagement.
Signs of Quiet Quitting
Research conducted by Gallup found that only 32% of employees are engaged, and 17% are actively disengaged. Employees who are not engaged could be at risk for doing only their job and not going above and beyond. Further, 53% of workers reported they feel burnt out, according to Talkspace’s Employee Stress Check 2022 Report. To improve employee engagement and prevent these issues from turning from quiet quitting into actual quitting, employers need to know what signs to look for. Employers should pay attention to employees who are consistently doing the following:
- Not attending meetings that are not mandatory
- Not being as productive as they once were
- Contributing to team projects less
- Not participating in meetings
- Displaying a lack of enthusiasm
It is important to know that there a several reasons an employee may choose to quiet quit. For example, they may simply refuse to do work outside their job description because they feel they are not being compensated for it. While it may not be clear why an employee is choosing to quiet quit, these signs are a good indicator that an employee may be thinking about it or trying to do so.
What Employers Can Do
Quiet quitting is often the result of decreased motivation and burnout. Further, a lack of effective communication between leaders and employees and a general failure of management and organizations can play a role. For example, failures may include a lack of honesty with employees and not delivering on promises. Consider the following ideas to help improve employee engagement and decrease the odds of quiet quitting among employees:
- Provide clear job descriptions. Job descriptions let employees know exactly what is expected of them. Employers should review job descriptions to ensure they accurately reflect the duties they expect their employees to perform.
- Conduct performance reviews. Performance reviews are opportunities to reward employees for the positive things they have done and inspire them to continue working hard. Without this feedback and indications of appreciation for hard work, such as title adjustments and salary raises, employees could lack motivation and start to feel burnt out and consider quiet quitting. Further, it is important to recognize employees who go above and beyond because they are likely to feel discouraged and decrease their performance if their contributions go unnoticed. Conversely, performance reviews are just as important for underperforming employees because they are opportunities to clearly communicate expectations and work together to correct the behavior.
- Educate employees on employee handbooks. Employee handbooks are another tool employers can use to clearly communicate expectations to employees, but they are only truly effective if employees understand them. Employers should take time to educate employees on their handbook and its policies so they can ensure employee understanding. The handbook should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that expectations are up to date and that organizations are in compliance with current laws.
- Provide learning and development opportunities. High employee engagement is crucial to preventing quiet quitting. One effective way to increase engagement is through learning and development initiatives. According to Zywave’s 2022 Attraction and Retention Benchmarking Overview, 29% of employers found career development opportunities to be a top priority of workers during the hiring process. Employees who have these opportunities are more likely to remain engaged and stay motivated to try their best at their jobs.
- Focus on good management strategies. Effective management is essential to having efficient, happy employees, so it is important to focus on the techniques managers use. Provide resources to managers about effective strategies and meet with them to discuss ways they can improve. Further, consider conducting skip reviews, where employees talk with their manager’s manager to discuss feedback or concerns they may have. This will allow the manager to receive helpful feedback that can be mutually beneficial and improve their employees’ experiences.
Quiet quitting is the new term for the trend of employees doing only what their job requires without exceeding expectations. Employers should be aware of the trend and that it will impact every workplace differently. Employers should monitor for signs that employees may be disengaging and utilize different strategies to help prevent quiet quitting. In cases where quiet quitting may be negatively impacting the employer and they cannot seem to resolve the issue, employers should ensure compliance with federal and local employment laws before pursuing any termination action. For specific guidance about disciplining employees, employers are encouraged to seek local legal counsel.
Contact RISQ Consulting today for more information on workplace trends, employee retention and employment laws.
By Andrew Kupperman, Employer Services and Workforce Technology Consultant
When an Employee starts working with an Employer, there are a variety of different expectations that go into forming that Employee/Employer relationship. For example, the Employer is going to expect the Employee to show up to their job and do the work asked of them. Correspondingly, the Employee is going to expect to be compensated for the work that was asked of them. These are the basic expectations at the heart of every Employee/Employer relationship, but they set a very important tone for all other expectations derived from this ongoing relationship.
Additional relationship building expectations include the Employer providing the Employee the tools, resources, and training to be able to do the work that is asked of them. In many organizations, one tool in particular – technology – often creates friction in the Employee/Employer relationship. There are a lot of reasons why this occurs.
Workplace technologies don’t typically have comparable capabilities to the technology we all use daily in our personal lives. In fact, when looking at some capabilities in workplace technology, you could probably go back 5, 10, or even 15 years to see those capabilities being released for personal use. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are thousands (yes thousands) of technology vendors trying to close this gap for workplace technology, but because these gaps still exist, there is a gap that exists in what the Employee expects from their Employer, which can strain the relationship. This is especially true for younger workers just entering the workforce.
BRIGHT SHINY OBJECT SYNDROME
More often than I’d personally like to see, organizations decide to purchase and implement new technology just because of a cool demo someone saw. A word to the wise: the demo isn’t how your organization is going to receive that technology out of the gate – it needs to be built and implemented in order to eventually get there.
If you’ve ever seen Jason Averbook speak (the CEO and Founder of Leapgen, an organization that consults around workforce technology with Fortune 500 and very large global organizations as well as a thought leader in workforce technology space), he often discusses the difference between implementing technology and an organization successfully digitizing its processes. He uses a formula to describe that the digital equation for success includes 20% organizational mindset about digitizing, 25% of the people (ie: Employees) involved in using technology, 45% of understanding and aligning processes, and only 10% of the actual technology system, which is just the tool being used.
I know organizations want to be able to adopt and use technology like we do in our personal lives. But most organizations are big, clunky, and slow moving, so it’s hard to just try out a new technology tool and then scrap it a few days later because you don’t like it (like we do with apps on our phone). In most organizations, operating in such a manner would be fiscally irresponsible and cost them tens of thousands of dollars annually, if not more.
Lastly, an organization leadership often owns the technology selection, implementation, and workflow processes. Again, there is an expectation in the Employee/Employer relationship here, as the Employer provides the Employee with the technology. There will be times that the leadership delegates these components to different areas of the business (for example when looking at finance, HR, or operational technologies). However, in doing so, they unknowingly create silos within the organization and don’t strategically think about how adopting these new technologies can impact other areas of a business.
An even more unfortunate scenario is when only one or two of those components are delegated (maybe the implementation or workflow processes). By not including key stakeholders in the selection process, an organization opens itself up in failing to meet the goals set out for adopting that technology. I understand and agree that the leadership often needs to be involved from a budgetary standpoint, but by not looping in those stakeholders to help select the technology they’ll be working in, it can be like forcing people to use those bloatware apps that come preinstalled on your new smartphone… but that no one ever end up using. This too can strain in the Employee/Employer relationship.
There are definitely other reasons why the expectations around workplace technology can create friction, but the crux of the issue (at least as I see it), involves Employers not being strategic enough in considering the people and processes currently involved when they first set out to adopt new technology. They naively expect an instant and miraculous return on investment from their Employees who are using that technology. Employers need to remember that most people are innately change adverse, and not considering them when forcing change upon them is more likely to end in poor experiences for everyone.
The solution seems simple. Employers should find ways to involve and empower their Employees when it comes to providing technology to them. If Employers can find a way to give Employees the opportunity to be involved in selection and allow them to experiment with technology like they do in their personal lives (if the Employer’s budgetary needs are considered), this will create buy in and will lead to success when meeting organizational goals relative to adopting new technology. It is a bit of a mind shift based on the expectations as part of the predicated Employee/Employer relationship, but by creating the ownership and accountability for Employees, you’re also creating more ENGAGED Employees.