Quietly Making a Statement

November 07, 2022
MRA Edge
Engagement & Retention
Strategic Planning
Read time: 3 mins

The latest workplace trend has had many titles: Coasting, checking out, cruising, sailing, and now, quiet quitting. Depending on your generation, there was probably a term your co-workers used when they were just “skating by” (circa 1987). Today it is referred to as quiet quitting. The result of a TikTok video that went viral and has been seen by nearly 3 million people, quiet quitting has shown up in several business periodicals, and newspapers, and is now part of the everyday lexicon.

Although this is a newer, catchier phrase, the real debate is whether this is truly a new phenomenon or if it is an attitude that is as old as the workplace itself. The simplest definition may come from the viral video itself: “You are still performing your duties but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.” Some take it a bit further by saying it is “limiting exposure to toxic capitalistic norms” and “declining to be exploited.”

Like other terms that came before it, the definition matters. Is a person who has a crisp job description with clear objectives, and is accomplishing goals within mutually understood parameters quietly quitting? Or is QQ status achieved when the manager assigns five additional projects and then limits the amount of time dedicated to the additional work?

Granted, the past two years have thrown more curve balls than an extra-inning baseball game. Employers have done their best to adjust, but many factors are in place to add stress to the work environment— remote workers who want to be in the office, office workers who want to be remote, hybrid policies that leave everyone unhappy, inflation, labor shortages—and the list goes on. Trying to make it all sync inevitably creates overlap. A lot is going on and work time can easily bleed into living time. In fact, the two are inseparable for many. The concept of quiet quitting attempts to create separation when the lines become blurred.

You could throw out a hundred scenarios and debate whether or not they qualify as quiet quitting, but that is not the point. The more important question examines your employees’ engagement, satisfaction, and motivation. Is your culture one that values input, practices transparency, and treats people fairly? Or, is it one that requires all hands on deck to do whatever it takes to get the job done?

Your employees’ response to the workplace environment may be in the timing. Timing is everything. Some employees entered the workplace during an economic boom, others during a time when people were being laid off. The current generation, Generation Z, entered during a time of incredible labor shortages and an employee market like many of us have never seen. They are in demand, they are empowered, and they hold all the cards. On the other hand, they are the low person on the job ladder, so they may feel they don’t have much voice to make requests about work-life balance.

In today’s labor market, employees are certainly in a position to do the bare minimum because they know what employers are up against. And some employees will. The challenge, and the solution for employers, is to create a culture where employees enjoy coming to work, like what they are doing and the people they are doing it with, and take pride in the company they work for.

But back to the basics. The keys to employee engagement and job satisfaction are timeless—job security, good benefits, competitive pay, opportunities to grow, safety, good management, recognition, open communication and transparency, autonomy, and meaningful work. Those are the factors that will reduce the risk of quiet quitting.

For more information on strategies to combat quiet quitting or other workplace culture issues, contact Jim Morgan, Vice President, Business Development and Workforce Strategies, at 262.696.3309 or [email protected].