The phenomena of quiet quitting has silently ballooned into quite a hot topic of debate. And no, it doesn’t take on its literal definition of quitting your job on the sly. Rather, the term quiet quitting plainly means not doing more work than your job scope stipulates.
Let’s paint a quiet quitting picture: Jen works as an account executive in a media agency. She was hired to handle accounts X, Y and Z. Over the months, her immediate boss continually ladles out more work to her while her salary stays the same. With no promotions on her horizon, Jen decides to quiet quit.
She tells her boss she isn’t able to cope with the extra work assigned to her, and turns down new challenges or assignments. She has made up her mind not to work over time, and pushes back deadlines, if she is unable to meet them within her strict “working hours”.
Now, at this juncture, the Baby Boomers and Gen X have already written Jen off as an entitled, lazy worker who won’t get far in life. The millennials and Gen Z on the other side of the fence, might empathise with Jen, and applaud her bravery. After all, your job =/= your life.
Generational attitude differences towards work
To first understand the difference in perspective, we have to tunnel into the past. Characteristically, Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964) are a hard working bunch with a seriously good work ethic. Stability was one thing they craved, and hard work and loyalty were a surefire means to get them climbing the ranks of the company they were in.
That pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Baby Boomers knew it would be within their reach if they only kept their heads down and weathered the storms that came with the journey. Most of them also were chasing the Singaporean dream of a family and the 5 infamous Cs: Car, Cash, Condo, Country Club, and a Credit Card.
Then enter Millennial’s and Gen Z. These generations crave purpose, fulfilment, and recognition in the workplace. No longer driven by the need to settle down and work hard for a family, many are instead choosing to focus on their own happiness first.
Add on the fact that work culture has evolved since the 1960s and some companies have grown to exploit hard work, a large portion of the younger generation has grown disillusioned by the promise of company loyalty.
This begs the question: Is there anything wrong with quiet quitting?
Let’s make one thing clear, quiet quitting doesn’t make you a horrible worker. The big difference here is that you’re giving your 100% to an organisation – nothing more, nothing less. A terrible worker is one who underperforms and doesn’t fulfil the scope he’s hired to do.
In fact, setting clear boundaries for yourself at work is a very healthy thing to do. For one, you won’t leave yourself open to being exploited for your good performance nor bearing the brunt of other people’s shortcomings. And two, it ensures that you’re not sucked into a black hole of overtime with no time for your real life.
But with all this said, there are still prevalent downsides to quiet quitting that can’t be ignored. For example, a quiet quitter will pale in comparison to an employee who is willing to go above and beyond. For every opportunity a quiet quitter forgoes, there is someone else who is being recognised for his or her positivity in the face of new challenges.
Not only will a quiet quitter potentially lose out in terms of career and salary progression, but they could also be painting themselves in a bad light to upper management and HR as someone lacks grit and doesn’t strive for excellence.
The invisible thread that ties quiet quitting to quiet firing
Some might argue here that the birth of quiet quitting comes from quiet firing – when you find yourself being “forgotten” in your workplace with no raises or progression in the pipeline. You’re not fired, but you’re not sure if your absence will make a difference. In cases like these, employees view quiet quitting as a short-term means to an end, with the end being subsisting.
Image for illustration only.
Image credit: Unsplash
There’s nothing criminal with employees just giving their 100% in their jobs. But the notion of quiet quitting is one that comes with negative connotations. Quiet quitting only exists because workplace inequity does – whether it is in the form of job scope promotions without commensurating pay raises or unreasonable expectations and working hours.
Rather than quiet quitting being solely a personal choice, upper management needs to also take a micro look at their organisational practices to see if the current culture and work processes are creating an environment that gives rise to quiet quitting.
Why? Quiet quitting inevitably breeds dissatisfaction, and the long-term repercussions of it include higher turnover rates and low employee morale. Productivity will drop as the sentiment towards the company degrades, and this will show up on profit and loss statements with time.
How companies can prevent quiet quitting
If you’re a company looking to nip quiet quitting in the bud, here are some preliminary steps to take:
1. Provide employees with a safe space to vocalise their opinions
Giving employees an outlet to voice their dissatisfaction is one way to better understand their needs and react to them. As quiet quitting often stems from a place of hopelessness, letting employees be heard will help them like they’re more than just a tiny cog in a big wheel.
A proactive HR team is a great start, but for employees who are a little more apprehensive about open, honest conversations; an anonymous feedback channel is a good addition for an inside peek into their psyche.
2. Understand your employees needs
Post-pandemic, we’ve seen a rise in the need for workplace flexibility with a greater number of employees highlighting remote working as something that’s increasingly more of a need than a want. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
There are many factors that influence an employees’ happiness in the workplace, but knowing and adapting to them is one way to show employees that the organisation is invested in creating a comfortable environment for them to thrive.
3. Recognise hard work with monetary rewards
No one likes to feel like they’re being taken for granted. It’s important to have a clear overview of your employees performance and have processes in place to give recognition and reward hard work where it’s due.
Quiet quitting in the workplace
We live in a country where baby boomers often look down on the lackadaisical attitudes that the younger generations have towards hard work, but quiet quitting is more than just a 2022 TikTok trend. It’s a symptom of greater underlying problems such as a toxic work environment, being undervalued, or even exploited at work.
Here’s a word of advice for employees feeling the need to quiet quit: if you’ve raised your issues multiple times to no avail, or your heart’s just not in it, you’re better off looking for another job that’s a better match for your expectations.
And for the organisations, quiet quitting is a wake-up for upper management to reevaluate the current company culture and look into employee satisfaction. In an organisation where over-performance is actively met with rewards, quiet quitting wouldn’t be an issue.
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