According to The Washington Post, the term “quiet quitting” is a bit of a misnomer because those who choose to partake in the phenomenon don't actually quit their employment. Instead, what they’re doing is rejecting “hustle culture”.
A career coach with over 400 000 followers on TikTok, Allison Peck has described the idea of quiet quitting as workers opting to do the bare minimum in their professions. She says in her post that people are no longer willing to sacrifice their physical and emotional health to go above and beyond at work. One user says it is just one way of establishing a reasonable work/life balance.
The Collins Dictionary in 2022 identified "Quiet Quitting" as one of its Phrases of the Year. Having said that, more than half the globe still does not fully understand what quiet quitting refers to.
This new cultural behaviour, which has gradually permeated the workplace and the lives of an organisation’s employees, has been the subject of intense discussion among employers, managers and leaders throughout the country.
Some have defined "quiet quitting" as a person's low-key disengagement from their work obligations. They arrive at their place of employment physically, but have already mentally checked out.
Accordingly, most people regard a quiet quitter as an employee who is not an asset or a contributor to a business, and no more than a silent player who pitches up and pretends to perform.
“This understanding of 'quiet quitting’ is erroneous and has created a misconception amongst captains of industry,” says Kerry Morris, CEO of South African recruitment agency the Tower Group.
“The concept of the employee arriving at work and doing nothing is not the real meaning of quiet quitting, but rather another similar behaviour we observe in the market known as ‘presenteeism’. Similar to ‘absenteeism’, presenteeism refers to an employee who shows up at work but has disengaged and is not working. He or she performs only the bare minimum.
“However, quiet quitting is by no means a disengagement from performance, but rather, from excellence,” she says.
Similar sentiments are expressed in the Harvard Business Review, which asserts that what appears to be “the bare minimum” in the quiet quitting saga is the product of an unequal exchange of expectations between managers and employees. According to the Harvard Business Review, quiet quitting is more often caused by a misalignment of expectations than by employee apathy.
Morris explains how quiet quitters have developed a phobia of increased accountability, demands and sacrifices – all of which are unsustainable for any individual working for an organisation.
She claims that, to be effective business leaders, employers must get better at identifying their quiet quitters and have the maturity to take appropriate action.
“Responding to quiet quitting with our silence makes us, as leaders, culprits too. By not saying anything, we’re permitting our teams to quietly quit. Don’t. Don’t be the accomplice to a phrase that has little power, and don’t be responsible for harvesting a numb economy by remaining silent in your leadership.”
“It is a slow death to both the employer and the business, and if not addressed will start to filter through every part of what you do. Instead of staying stuck in a disillusioned state, look at it as an opportunity to re-evaluate output excellence,” says Morris.
As part of the efforts to deal with quiet quitting in 2023, the Tower Group offers four solutions to keep this behaviour at bay and ultimately save the culture of a company.
Call your people on their quiet-quitting behaviour
Offer your staff member a reason to check themselves and reassess their position. They’ll thank you for it no matter the outcome.
Manage the expectations of any project or core function
Always set out the goal map and a timeline, with clear outcomes and KPIs.
Reward and acknowledge your team member when necessary
Recognition feeds enthusiasm and boosts employee confidence. It’s always necessary.
Adopt a citizenship-crafting culture
Employees and managers should work together to identify critical capabilities and create projects that will produce the results they want in advance. According to the Harvard Business Review, creating expectations as “citizen crafting” entails both the employer and the employee focusing on employee satisfaction, rather than sacrifice.
This harvests an enthusiastic approach where “above and beyond” becomes an “I want to” culture, and not an “I have to” culture.
“The emotional and mental commitment of a company’s employees is crucial to its success, so we bear equal responsibility if we choose to give in to quiet quitting.
“Let’s remind ourselves in 2023 that business is a two-way exchange and it deserves honest conversation, recalibration, and perhaps a little less TikTok,” says Morris.