Slackers of the working world rejoice! Finally, there’s a better term for emotionally disengaging from your work duties. It’s called “quiet quitting” and it has become somewhat of a recent cultural phenomenon.
The concept has taken the world by storm recently with the phrase generating millions of views on TikTok showing young professionals labelling their lack of enthusiasm for work as “quiet quitting”. In this sense, many people have been “quitting” for a long, long time – it just used to be called “emotionally checking out and doing the bare minimum”.
But what exactly does today’s “quiet quitting” actually mean, and more importantly, what does it mean for the workplace of tomorrow?
Quiet quitting is the rejection of the idea that work has to take over your life and the expectation of employers that you should do more than what is outlined in your job description. This can take multiple forms, from refusing to answer work-related messages after hours to choosing projects based on your interest level. Generally, quiet quitting involves feeling less emotionally invested in your job role.
However, quiet quitting doesn’t mean leaving your job and salary entirely. It just encourages you to focus your energy on things you enjoy outside of the workplace while still technically honouring your work responsibilities outlined in your employment contract.
According to recent findings, “quiet quitters” make up almost 50% of the U.S. workforce and a measly 9% of UK workers are enthusiastic about their work. Additionally, it is reported that nearly 85% of employees worldwide are actively disengaged at work.
But what is causing this trend which follows the Great Resignation of 2021?
Experts attribute the existence of emotional detachment from work (quiet quitting) to the pandemic, which changed the working environment from offices to our homes. The shift blurred the lines between work and personal boundaries while people struggled to juggle home life with work commitments. Many workers felt overstretched and that the demands from their employers to be ‘always on’ increased due to the fact that people were working from home.
This led to many people suffering from burnout and depression and gave rise to the Great Resignation where people quit their jobs and pivoted their careers to create more meaning in their work life. People began prioritising mental health and creating healthy boundaries between their personal and professional lives. The result is that today many workers are less inclined to dedicate extra time and effort to work-related matters.
According to Gallup, the overall decline in people’s attitudes towards work is related to “clarity of expectations, opportunities to learn and grow, feeling cared about, and a connection to the organisation’s mission or purpose – signalling a growing disconnect between employees and their employers”.
Another contributing factor is the cultural and social differences between the older generations (Boomers, Gen X) and the younger generations (Millenials, Gen Z) regarding their relationship with their work-life balance.
Today’s workforce of young professionals is more focused on mental health, emotional self-development, and overall well-being. This is in stark contrast to previous generations where the regular 9-5 work model was regarded as virtuous and a healthy work-life balance was not a priority.
Many of today’s young workforce see the previous generation’s attitude toward work as a warning of what happens when you prioritise work over your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. It simply isn’t worth the stress and related illnesses caused by the ‘rat race’.
It’s true that today’s employers are demanding more from workers. There is an expectation for employees to go above and beyond their roles, work longer hours, and invest a lot of time and energy into their work. All in the name of progress.
Due to saturated job markets, employers feel they have leverage over workers for providing them with work, as competition is fierce. The result is that young professionals need to be grateful to have a job and accept the rigorous demands expected of them. Furthermore, workers need to be increasingly more qualified to secure work.
But young professionals are weighing up the risk of their mental health to the minor work rewards they could potentially enjoy and they are opting for well-being instead.
This goes against the hustle culture that is popular on social media, where people engage with content that promotes ideas of working hard to become successful, make tons of money, and climb the status ladder. What is interesting is that the same generation that made hustle culture so popular is the same one that is now calling for emotional detachment from work life. Did these competing philosophies arise independently, or did one come about as a result of the other?
Since the pandemic, the number of young workers worldwide has declined significantly. This is due to the fact that an overwhelming number of them do not feel that they are cared for in their jobs, have few opportunities to develop, and simply do not feel valued. According to Gallop, poor management is a direct result of this.
Therefore, it is up to managers and business owners to galvanise their workforce and foster a culture that focuses on employee well-being to reestablish their commitment to work.
It is not only general employees who are feeling disengaged from their work responsibilities, it is reported that roughly only 33% of managers are engaged at work. Business owners must address this first and reskill managers to lead effectively in today’s new hybrid work model.
Managers must build strong relationships with employees built upon trust. There might also be a need to regain the trust of experienced employees who have suffered long-term “quitting”. The best way to do this is to adopt a completely transparent approach to communication regarding the expectations of employees.
Managers must develop strong connections with their team members and have regular, meaningful conversations to check in with them to see how they are managing. Managers must be skilled in ways to help employees reduce their disengagement levels to combat potential burnout by understanding them as individuals.
Managers should create an environment that focuses on accountability for individual performance and team collaboration. Team members want to see how their work is valued and contributes to the business. Managers must recognise employee efforts and offer a rewards and recognition system that drives motivation and engagement.
Is “quiet quitting” the result of young people rejecting hustle culture, or vice versa? Or, is it a stark view of a generation coming to terms with what it means to be a professional in a new, competitive, and constantly changing working landscape?
In reality, it is perhaps the realisation – thrust into collective consciousness due to the pandemic – that our mental and emotional well-being is important, and that healthy boundaries are necessary (vital in fact) to lead a balanced life in a fast-paced working environment.
Every business is only as strong as its weakest link, and the rise in popularity of “quiet quitting” is creating a weak chain.
Luckily, the solution is simple: look after your employees, listen to their needs, provide ways for them to grow, and value their contribution.
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