In early 2021, labour markets witnessed a huge wave of job quitting, which was termed ‘The Great Resignation’, and much has been written about it. Now, we are approaching the end of 2022 with a newly emerged term, ‘quiet quitting´. In contrast with the ‘loud quitting’ of the resignation wave, ‘quiet quitting’ seems to be an increasingly trendy alternative, where people stay on the job, yet decide to do the bare minimum of their tasks and get emotionally and/or cognitively detached from their jobs. In other words, quiet quitting means quiet disengagement from work. Gallup finds that quiet quitters make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce, and there is no good reason to believe it is better elsewhere, as data shows that only 21% of global employees are engaged at work. Social media also indicates that the ‘quiet quitting’ phenomenon is trending globally.
So, why is quiet quitting happening?
Given the palpable sense of employees’ generally high levels of stress, work overload, and burnout, which is also reflected in relevant data, the trend seems to be a logical response, a sort of way of reclaiming work-life balance. In such a view, quiet quitting is not as negative as it sounds, it receives a rather positive spin to it, encouraging employees to set boundaries, care for each others’ mental well-being, and take a more pragmatic approach to work. According to this Guardian article, quiet quitting should not be a thing at all, as it should be considered normal that people do only as much work as they are paid to do, and no one should feel bad or guilty about declining any extra tasks or work-related activities. That is one way of looking at it.
Another perspective, which I share, looks at quiet quitting as a problem of engagement, motivation, and purpose. Of course, I am in full support of setting adequate work hours, work-life balance, and mental self-care, yet I am also an advocate for meaningful work experiences. When quiet quitting turns into passive and disengaged physical presence at work, when the work hours become a so called ‘watching the clock tick’ experience, it stops sounding like a healthy approach to work for me. Martin Seligman’s PERMA model of well-being, alongside many other such approaches, highlights the importance of positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaningfulness, and achievement for us – all these components seem to have great relevance to our work lives. Looking through the lens of the PERMA model, quiet quitting might be a natural result of insufficiently serving these well-being components at work, which makes it also a failure of management. People might be quitting, either loudly or quietly, because they have lost connection to their work, don´t feel noticed or cared for by their company, feel isolated and lack social capital at work, feel tired and underachieving instead of content and capable… In a workplace where managers don’t check in with employees, work tasks and activities lack value and meaning, employees’ inputs and efforts are not recognized, and relationships in the office are not nourished, quiet quitting might become the unnoticed undercurrent. Echoing the current topic, I already wrote about the notion of ‘lost connections’ and the call for re-establishing these and the importance of high-quality relationships at work. Naturally, there is no silver-bullet or shortcut of solutions to these challenges. Creating the right intention and bringing the topic of employees’ well-being and engagement to the table (for good) is a starting point though. Thereof, I propose a call for the upcoming year – let’s invest more into our connectedness, into our well-being, and more into people!
Isn´t that a nice New Year’s resolution?! 🙂 Happy New Year!