Culture and Connection

The new pandemic! Quiet quitting

Emily Lawson
April 26, 2024
min read
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Amidst the chaos of the Great Resignation, a subtler form of departure from the workforce has surfaced.

Rather than overtly expressing frustration over lack of support, toxic environments, heavy workloads, or wage disputes, employees, tethered to their jobs by the necessity of a stable income amidst rising living costs, are now opting for a minimalist approach known as 'Quiet Quitting'. These individuals, though not disruptive, find their needs unmet and consequently refrain from going the extra mile, engaging in company culture, or taking on additional tasks.

So...what is quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting, also referred to as the silent resignation or 'acting your wage', manifests as a phenomenon where employees limit their efforts to the bare minimum outlined in their job descriptions.

These workers opt to reciprocate the same level of energy they receive from their employers, thereby gradually disengaging from their roles without explicitly resigning or vocalising dissatisfaction.

Following the COVID pandemic the concept of ‘working to live’ has never resonated more with Australian workers. Spending lockdowns at home has caused many to re-evaluate the impact of the daily commute, working hours and lack of personal time. With a staggering 59% of workers quietly quitting, it is up to workplaces to find solutions to the costly new pandemic stealing productivity and culture.  

Signs your team is quiet quitting  

It can be challenging to recognise a quiet quitter, given they are usually discrete and still doing the minimum requirements of their job description. It’s not a case of confrontation or discipline needed, more so support and conversation to get them re-engaged.  

Here are some signs your employees have withdrawn:  

  • Bad communication: Team members may not reply promptly to emails and slack messages, avoid in-office conversations or take on less collaborative tasks. They might be less likely to ask for help, call out bad behaviour or involve themselves in meetings.  
  • Lack of enthusiasm: Employee may seem emotionally distant or lacking passion for work they used to be excited about. They will not be jumping at opportunities or offering to take on additional responsibilities.  
  • Increased absenteeism: Unexplained absences, increase in sick days and regular un-documented appointments hints at an employee quiet quitting. They will take appointments with disregard of deadlines and notice periods.  
  • Minimal participation: The employee may take more work from home days, sit back in meetings, not offer solutions to problems and stop volunteering for promotional activities.  
  • Out by 5pm on the dot: Notice if your employees are watching the clock, packing up from 4pm and out of their workplace as soon as their contract dictates. They will not hang around for chats, stay back to finish a pressing task or get involved in post work activities.  

How to stop it  

Luckily, managers and HR are in a great position to cure this ‘quiet quitting’ pandemic.

Poor management practices (lack of recognition and support, excessive workload, unclear objectives, etc.) increase the probability of "quiet quitting" and make work and uncomfortable environment. Identifying where your business lacks in support, whether it be wellness initiatives, recognition practices, overbearing workloads or bad management, you’ll be able to show these employees that they are valued and their contribution to your business matters.

Prioritise wellbeing  

It’s no secret that having wellbeing initiatives does wonders for workplace culture. By going above and beyond with your employee it encourages them to return the favour.  

To prioritise wellbeing; try:  

  • Speaking openly about mental health.
  • Scheduling regular check ins.
  • Incorporate a wellbeing initiative such as mental health training or an online wellbeing portal.
  • Encourage taking regular breaks and using personal leave.
  • Recognise and celebrate employee contributions.

Set clear expectations

The reason quiet quitters are successful in doing the bare minimum is that they are not closely monitored or managed.

In larger teams, these employees can easily blend in with the masses and rely on the leadership and over working of others. In smaller ones, they can set the expectation of the quality of work and deadlines to protect themselves from detection.

Regular meetings with employees and team members for progress check-ins, feedback sessions, and performance evaluations can be effective in making employees feel acknowledged and responsible for their productivity.

Be mindful of workload

When employees feel like their personal time or workload isn’t being respected, it is likely they will become burnt out and withdrawn. The hustle culture of staying late isn’t celebrated like it used to be, spreading work amongst the team avoids employees quiet quitting to protect themselves from overworking and exhaustion.

When one employee quiet quits, it then adds more workload to the rest of their team, creating a cycle of burnout and work being done at a lower standard. Be mindful that as a manager, your behaviour sets the tone and expectations of your workplace.

If employees see you working overtime, through the weekends and constantly replying and messaging on slack or teams, your employees may feel that this behaviour is expected of them. Model behaviours such as boundaries, check in with employees that seem to be overwhelmed and show that you too also have a life outside of work that you value and make time for.

Re-evaluate salaries

Employees who feel like they are being underpaid and undervalued for their work are more likely to quiet quit.

Reverting back to the fine print of their job description, these employees will abandon additional tasks they are given that fall outside these parameters. It is important to acknowledge workers who go above and beyond and are taking on work outside of what is expected of them. Consider re-defining their role, providing more authority and providing a pay rise to match.  

Communicate with your team  

When management and HR act like big brother, sending instructions through emails, teams or company announcements it takes the personality out of your communication. Make a habit of progress checking face to face, team meetings or video announcements to reach remote employees.

Create procedures on how managers should appropriately respond when workplace issues arise and that disputes are addressed promptly with care.  

Other ways to communicate:

  • Push health initiatives by sending email reminders to utilise these resources.  
  • Create a notice board in your office with restaurant recommendations, photos of the team, ‘what’s on this week’ section where you detail company initiatives etc  
  • Do one on one walking check ins. Take your employee for a short walk around the block to see how they are doing.  
  • Leave sticky notes on employees desks with a note saying they're doing well or something more specific to a project they’re working on. It’s best to leave these notes so that they are the first thing they see when they come in to work.

Your employees aren’t quiet quitting to punish you, they are doing it out of necessity to create a balanced lifestyle that isn’t currently accessible for them.

By treating your employees with care, respect and support, you should find that these qualities will be valued and reciprocated. Though slang terms and trendy phrases may attempt to label such employees, it's crucial to recognise the underlying issues at play. Poor workplace culture and management serve as the root causes, and without addressing them, your workplace will fall victim to the next trend.  

The new pandemic! Quiet quitting
Emily Lawson