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Understanding and managing Quiet Quitting

eye 382 Published on 03 Nov. 2022
tag #HR advice

After the Great Resignation, it is the Silent Resignation (also known as Quiet Quitting) that is unfolding in this post-pandemic world of work. 80% of individuals have a negative perspective about the Silent Resignation*, and it indeed reflects a reality with which we must now contend. As this is the case, we might as well embrace it and strive to benefit from it.

What is Quiet Quitting?

The Great Resignation has been characterised by a wave of massive resignations in companies since the pandemic. A phenomenon that was initiated in the United States swiftly took on global dimensions. We see a similar pattern for Quiet Quitting as well. However, instead of leaving the company, the employees are staying and undergoing a profound transformation in how they view their jobs. Some talk about it as doing the bare minimum and not striving to go above and beyond, but this outlook is limiting and not very constructive. 

In reality, these employees stick to the prescribed work; that is to say, they do what is indicated in the employment contract, in terms of deadlines, responsibilities, and goals. They carry out the requested work, without supplement, overload, or excessive involvement. Consequently, the boundaries between work and life become clearer, resulting in better work-life integration. As a result, they protect their mental health, maintain a balance with their personal lives, and reduce the risk of exhaustion at work through quiet quitting. 

This phenomenon is observed in mass among millennials but is, of course, present in other generational strata as well. Those who adhere to it, consciously or unconsciously, renounce in some way the culture of performance, ergomania, the insatiable need for professional recognition, the pursuit of promotion at all costs, and working without counting their hours by abandoning other aspects of their lives. In short, these employees re-evaluate their priorities in life and work no longer becomes their first priority.

What are the challenges of Quiet Quitting? 

Employers currently experiencing this phenomenon are undermined by a major concept in the working relationship: commitment. Previously, commitment, even dedication, was of little concern to employers, but quiet quitting is now posing a challenge to this. When an employee detaches themselves, professionally and emotionally, from their work, they no longer anticipate anything from the work world and act on their own behalf.

The employee thus disrupts the balance of their relationship to the job: by putting themselves first, they are able to think and speak for themselves and that is the challenge for employers: to find a new balance by redefining an employee’s role in relation to the concept of commitment.

Mesure your employees commitment with Motivation

How can organisations respond?

Companies seem all the more distraught by this phenomenon as it is legitimate in the eyes of the majority. Its suddenness, magnitude and novelty have further contributed to a loss of control. 

However, there is a way to respond to it. The objective is not to block or stifle this movement, but rather, to comprehend its underlying causes and engage with its "followers" in light of the fact that it is a response to a new reality and a reflection of a shifting workplace.

Understand the reasons for this movement
Is an employee behaving in this way to maintain a healthy relationship with work or is it more likely an indication of demotivation or even burnout? In the first instance, it is a way for them to create a boundary between their personal and professional life in order to find themselves. This is a positive reason since it enables the individual to disconnect from work and to invest in other spheres of life that provide fulfilment. However, the scope of work is more challenging for organisations in the second case because, if disengagement is the result, due to a lack of recognition or loss of meaning, then there is a reason for the individual to rethink their professional trajectory and boundaries.

Move to the rhythm of this movement
If Quiet Quitting represents a disengagement that disrupts the equilibrium of the working relationship, the employer, along with the employees, could think differently about this notion of commitment. In order to understand the employees’ experiences, aspirations and needs, the following questions can be asked: What does this new generation of employees want? What kinds of relationships do they want to establish at work? What level of involvement are they willing to provide? What form of commitment works for them? What fulfilment do they expect from work? How can their needs for recognition of their work and efforts be met? Several methods like group discussions, surveys, questionnaires or annual evaluations can make it possible to understand employees, listen to them and comprehend their needs in order to co-build a future of work that is beneficial to all.

Although Quiet Quitting in its post-pandemic form is in its infancy, it is a movement that will profoundly impact the relationship between work and an employee’s behaviour towards work. The main driver is disengagement, with the underlying need for people to be valued, to be recognised, to be in coherence with themselves and to have meaning. It does not seem to be a short-term sentiment but rather an evolution in the world of work.

* FastCompany - Data shared by the company Sprout Social - 2022

Helen Simard

Consultant psychologist

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