One of the most talked about workplace trends over the past few months is "quiet quitting". This blog post explores the topic, looking at the drivers behind the trend and how performance management can be used to reinvigorate the workforce.
The last couple of years have acted as a catalyst for many people to re-evaluate their lives and their careers. Most have spent more time at home and with those closest to them, highlighting the importance of using time wisely and devoting it to those people and things important to you. Many are asking, “How much do I like my job?”
Some have used this as an opportunity to start a new career or take a break from work. The “Great Resignation”, a term coined in 2021, describes the record number of people leaving their jobs since the pandemic. This still seems to be continuing with a fifth of employees globally planning to quit in 2022.
This is just one of the workplace trends fuelled by the pandemic – hybrid working, the growing clamour for a four-day week and increased employee burnout are all issues employers need to recognise and react to. Another key one that has emerged this year is “quiet quitting”. This blog post explores what quiet quitters are, why they are an issue for employers and how your performance management process can be used to engage them.
What are quiet quitters?
Unlike the name suggests, quiet quitters aren’t employees who are silently leaving your organisation, without any fuss or warning. Instead, it is about just doing enough and no more. Rather than going above and beyond what is required, quiet quitters are doing the minimum, arriving and leaving work on time and shunning out-of-hours opportunities.
The term comes from a Tik Tok video created by Zaiad Khan, where he rejects the hustle culture and talks about reclaiming a healthier work/life balance. This has gone viral, with millions of views; the idea clearly resonates with many.
How many employees are quiet quitters?
According to research conducted by Gallup, quiet quitters make up at least half of the US workforce. Their global report found that only 9% of UK employees were engaged or enthusiastic about their work, indicating that large numbers are doing just enough. The rise in the number of quiet quitters has also been linked to a noticeable fall in job satisfaction, indicating that there is a change going on with how people relate to their jobs. Instead of being driven by their careers, they are choosing to focus on other things to find meaning in their lives.
Why are quiet quitters an issue for employers?
Employers want enthusiastic and energised employees. They are seen as the key to solving the “productivity puzzle” – the historically low productivity growth that the UK has been experiencing since the mid-2000s. If more employees are becoming quiet quitters, this indicates that productivity could fall still further.
Many jobs in the modern workforce require some level of extra effort, be that to collaborate with colleagues in different teams, departments or parts of the world or to offer customers an exceptional level of service. If employees are switching off, this could have serious consequences, damaging both a businesses brand and their reputation.
Perhaps for too long employers have been expecting their employees to go the extra mile, taking for granted that they will work late to meet a deadline or answer queries while on annual leave. The quiet quitter phenomena may force them to reevaluate what they are asking their employees to do and understand that goodwill only exists if employees feel they are being treated fairly and appreciated.
Is quiet quitting new?
While there is no doubt that the pandemic has been a catalyst for this trend, there are indications that this has been brewing for a while. There has been a reaction against the long-hours, hard partying culture of the city, particularly by tech firms offering employees relaxation areas in the office, free food and flexible working.
Increasingly employees are concerned with feeling valued in their jobs and working for an organisation they feel proud of being a part of, rather than solely being motivated by salary. In a recent US survey, 40% of respondents said they would quit their jobs if their employer took a stand on a political issue they didn’t agree with.
While receiving a fair wage is still a priority, employees want far more than that from their employers. They want flexibility in how and where they work, support for their wellbeing and their life outside of work and to feel what they are doing is making a difference. If these are lacking, employees are increasingly prepared to respond by doing just enough.
What role do managers play?
Research shows that managers have an enormous influence on employee behaviour. An employee’s lack of motivation is often down to a poor working environment, where they feel their efforts aren’t appreciated, they are being continually pushed to get results and there is little concern for them as an individual.
Yet managers are under a huge amount of pressure, juggling their own workload as well as getting used to a hybrid world, where employees are working away from the office more. They need a framework that helps them keep employees focused, aligned with the strategy of the business and offer support when it’s needed. An effective performance management process can provide exactly that
Webinar rebinar "Treading the tightrope -maximising performance in a hybrid world"
How to engage remote employees and prevent them from tuning out will be just one of the areas discussed on our hybrid working webinar recording.
Using performance management to address quiet quitting
What makes an employee want to go the extra mile? The answer is complex and depends on the individual, but most people are motivated by:
- Feeling what they are doing is useful and makes a difference
- Feeling appreciated for their efforts
- Feeling trusted to do their job well
- Feeling part of a team
- Feeling they know where they fit into an organisation
All of these can be achieved through an effective performance management process:
- Effective objective setting – goals created collaboratively between managers and employees that provide a focus and demonstrate how an employee’s efforts link to the overall goals of the organisation.
- Regular reviews – manager and employees building trust and understanding through frequent conversations where progress can be discussed and issues addressed quickly.
- Timely feedback – employees understand what aspects of their job they are performing well and where they could improve.
- Recognition – employees know they are appreciated when they’ve gone above and beyond what is expected of them.
- Personal development – managers and employees discuss learning and development requirements and a progression plan is created so employees can see where they fit into the organisation.
The relationship between managers and their employees has a key role to play in addressing this issue. Finding time to build trust and understanding should be a priority for all managers. Introducing regular check-ins where all these elements can be discussed ensures that there is an ongoing dialogue and employees don’t feel forgotten or overlooked. This is especially important in organisations embracing hybrid working, where physical distance can make people feel more detached.
Nobody sets out to be a bad manager and poor management is seldom the result of conscious actions. People management is difficult and takes time and effort that many, particularly middle managers, who are squeezed from above and below, simply don’t have. Organisations need to give managers the tools and support to do the people management side of their job well. Creating a performance management process that includes collaborative goal setting, regular reviews, timely feedback and recognition gives managers exactly the support they need to engage employees and prevent them becoming quiet quitters.
This article is spot on! We probably all know people who have reflected on their work-life balance and priorities and have ‘pulled back’ from the more extraneous demands of their employer. Many agree wholeheartedly with the idea of #WorkToLive, not #LiveToWork.
But you are also right that this leaves people managers in a tricky place, squeezed between demanding bosses and empowered employees. I appreciated an article in the Financial Times on 19 September “Middle Managers – on the new front line of office life”. It describes the intense pressure on managers to “juggle the expectations of employees and senior leaders' ' and quotes Elizabeth Gaito, Head of Talent Experience at Saleforce as saying she has seen “more change in the past two years than in the first 18”.
As an avid observer of these matters, I am excited to join Appraisd as Director of Performance and Change, to provide expertise and guidance to organisations, managers and employees as they tackle these thorny issues.
At Appraisd we love managers and we know they need help to be fully effective. We firmly believe it’s possible to equip managers with better guidance, tools and training. I shared our practical tips and suggestions at our latest webinar: “Treading the tightrope - maximising performance in a hybrid world”. Watch the webinar recording. <div class="author">Amira Kohler, Director of Performance and Change, Appraisd</div>