WITH THE Great Resignation beginning to fade into the background, a new kerfuffle is brewing and threatening workplace productivity.
Rather than moving onto another employer, some workers are choosing to stay put and “quietly quit” – putting in minimum effort while on the job so work does not take over their life.
While quiet quitting might offer relief to beleaguered bosses whose workplaces have become revolving doors in recent times, those who have decided to power down will deliver a new set of challenges.
The quiet quitting movement has sailed peacefully into our workplaces at a time when employers are doing everything possible to hold onto even the most average performers – and the chances of getting fired are lower than they have ever been.
The name might conjure up images of a worker shooting off a quick resignation email to the boss and silently slipping out the door.
Yet “quiet quitting” is best described as quitting a job without actually leaving.
Quiet quitters have made the conscious decision to dampen their enthusiasm for the job and instead take a bare-bones approach to getting their work done.
Quiet quitters leave the office right on time, refuse to play “catch-up” during the lunch break, avoid answering calls after hours and stay well away from their overflowing inboxes once they have clocked off.
While some are quick to accuse “quiet quitters” of being slack, those adopting a minimalist approach to their work argue they attend dutifully to all agreed tasks associated with their role.
What is missing are their attempts to excel, be innovative or extra helpful.
Being a quiet quitter means doing just enough work to pull your weight, justify a pay cheque, and remain employed.
While quiet quitting is nothing new, its recent surge in popularity is part of the broader pandemic fallout with many now wanting to live to work – and no longer work to live.
Quiet quitters are united by the belief that being too dedicated to work means they will miss out on other important things in their lives.
Many have become acutely aware that despite working long hours or overachieving, going above and beyond is not necessarily recognized or rewarded.
Some workers have already run themselves into the ground so being less committed forms part of their rehabilitation. Others have scaled back as a preventive strike against looming burnout.
Those in the process of seeking a new employer might also mentally check out since they do not see the need to give all of themselves to an organization they do not see a future with.
To some bosses, having a worker is better than having no worker at all – even if there is less commitment on display.
Others in charge recognize that quiet quitting will bring with it a raft of new challenges including high levels of job dissatisfaction, disengaged staff, uneven workloads across employees and declining productivity.
Those seeking to quietly quit should be aware that a move to achieve a better work-life balance will not go unnoticed, particularly if they are perceived to be in a downward spiral after previously over-extending themselves.
In that situation, quiet quitting might be viewed as the onset of serious laziness, disengagement or an extreme lack of commitment.
On top of that, the shift to becoming a quiet quitter is fraught with other hazards.
It is often difficult for quiet quitters to judge how far to downgrade to reach – but not undershoot – basic workplace expectations, they are likely to forgo promotional opportunities and those who are inherent people-pleasers will find it tough to say “no” when asked to do something extra.
This is not to say every worker should feel compelled to go above and beyond at work until they drop to the ground.
But the key to executing a successful quiet quitting manoeuvre is communication.
A discussion with the boss about the reasons for taking a backseat role might end up being the difference between keeping a job and being shown the door – particularly down the track when the employment market frees up again.
As for those who prefer to shy away from those types of conversations, it might be a sign they would actually be better off quitting.
After all, once you start a new job it is much easier to set up expectation from the get-go – removing any need to quietly quit down the track.
BY GARY MARTIN
Professor Gary Martin is Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Institute of Management WA