Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “quiet quitting”. I’ve heard it described as “renouncing the idea of going above and beyond at work.” I must admit, that makes me think of employee disengagement. Employee engagement has often been described as “when employees go ‘above and beyond’”. So, disengagement is the opposite of going above and beyond.
But as I’m reading more about this topic, one of the things I’m hearing is that quiet quitting is about employees setting boundaries. Healthier boundaries between their personal and professional lives. Meaning that employee are defining when they will – and will not – go above and beyond.
Quiet quitting is about employees not being respected. And organizations absolutely have the ability to fix that.Sharlyn Lauby – HR Bartender
Neither disengagement nor setting boundaries is actually quitting. There is some discussion that the term is used to make these employee actions sound more atrocious. But both concepts have been around for decades. Maybe what’s making quiet quitting a current conversation is that the two concepts are being linked together?
To me, quiet quitting sounds like what happens when organizations don’t plan and communicate then dump work on employees. Then employees push back against how they are treated. Remember that old saying, “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part.”? Employees are smart. They don’t want to be taken for granted or taken advantage of.
Organizations have a baseline for employee performance. It’s called the performance standard. If employees aren’t meeting the performance standard, then you coach and counsel them. I’m not under the impression that’s quiet quitting. The quiet quitting conversation about going above and beyond the established performance standard.
Employees aren’t required to go above and beyond. Organizations that want employees to regularly go above and beyond need to create the environment for that to happen. And businesses that are trying to say, “going above and beyond is the performance standard”, well, let me dish out some tough love and say good luck trying to sell that to employees.
If organizations genuinely want to address quiet quitting, there are a few things they can do.
Plan better. Managers need to think ahead regarding workload. If they believe there’s a chance that they will need extra work from employees, discuss it with them in advance.
Communicate earlier. Managers don’t want employees making requests at the last minute. Managers need to do the same. Talk to employees about workload and schedules early.
Ask for help. If it looks like the department needs an extra person, see if there’s a freelancer or contractor that can help out. Or maybe an employee from another department is willing to assist.
Be flexible. If employees are working extra hours, is there an opportunity to give them some flexibility with their schedule?
Say thanks and mean it. Sometimes we just have a lot of work and there’s very little we can do about it. But one thing we can do is tell employees we appreciate them and thank them for the work they do.
I understand this doesn’t completely resolve the issue of employee disengagement. But I do believe if managers did some of these things, it’s a proactive step in improving the employee experience. That would allow the organization to address the real cause. It sounds like that’s what quiet quitting is all about. It’s about things getting so bad that employees feel their only option is to push back.
Employees should be allowed to have lives. Let me say that again. Employees should be allowed to have a life. I don’t believe that quiet quitting is about asking an employee to work a couple of extra hours. Or maybe come in on a day off. Or take some work home to help meet a big deadline. I believe employees know when it’s crunch time and are prepared to contribute. I think quiet quitting is about employees not being respected. And organizations absolutely have the ability to fix that.
Organizations cannot simply ignore quiet quitting as the latest business buzzword. The business impact is too great and there’s no reason for it.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby at the 34th Street graffiti wall in Gainesville, FL30
Thank you so much for this article. So true and so needed for organizations to hear – “I think quiet quitting is about employees not being respected. And organizations absolutely have the ability to fix that.” Let’s not keep blaming the employees, or “this generation.” Organizations need to be out of denial.
Sharlyn Lauby says
Thanks for the comment Tabitha. Totally agree – this isn’t a generational issue. Everyone wants to be treated with respect.