On the list of the COVID-19 pandemic’s lingering effects on the American workforce, there’s a new addition: “quiet quitting.”
Defined generally as performing only the specific job you were hired for – but no more – quiet quitting has gone viral on social media platforms such as TikTok.
On the one hand, “quiet quitting” might be thought of as a new name for the old concept of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Employees want to excel at their jobs but are unwilling to let those efforts interfere with their personal lives.
At the other end of the spectrum, some proponents of “quiet quitting” advocate doing as little as possible in one’s job, meeting only the minimum requirements – making no effort to go above the norm to climb the corporate ladder.
Whichever definition applies, companies must provide more obvious support for employee mental health and sense of wellbeing to attract and retain quality employees.
Impact on the Workforce
During the pandemic, boundaries between work and home were blurred. With many Americans suddenly working from home and under less than optimal circumstances, working odd hours and overtime became much more common.
Employee mental health was affected by the combined stress of isolation, worry over potential illness, family and financial pressures, extra time spent working or seeking work, and never feeling truly away from the job. Anxiety, depression, and burnout rates soared.
Everyone has heard about the Great Resignation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), American workers quit their jobs more than 102 million times between March 2020 and June 2022. People’s attitudes toward work underwent a monumental shift.
Partly due to the Great Resignation, the labor market is the tightest it has been in years, if not decades. Again using BLS figures, there were 10.7 million job openings in June 2022, but only 5.9 million people were among the ranks of the unemployed.
ResumeBuilder.com surveyed 1,000 working adults in August 2022 to ascertain the pervasiveness of “quiet quitting.” One in five (21%) said they purposely only do the bare minimum in their jobs due to feeling burned out. A third of those surveyed said they had reduced working hours by as much as 50% or more.
Employee engagement is also falling, especially across younger generations. According to Gallup workplace and well-being survey data from the first quarter of 2022, about a third of the American workforce is currently “not engaged.”
That number increases to more than half (54%) when considering only Gen Z and younger Millennials born after 1989. They don’t see a payoff for being more productive than necessary.
In the Gallup workplace and well-being survey, only 24% of workers felt that their managers had their best interests at heart.
One of the factors used by Gallup to measure engagement is whether an employee feels their work has a purpose. Those who don’t are more likely to look out for themselves over their employers and to work passively. In other words, workers who don’t feel like their job has a purpose are more likely to become “quiet quitters.’
Impact on Corporate Culture
In response to the pandemic, organizations often were unable or unwilling to revise job descriptions to address the realities of working from home. Some tasks became more difficult to complete, for example, if only due to the inefficiencies inherent in an abrupt change to remote working.
Many of these companies (and others) were equally unprepared for the Great Resignation. They pushed additional responsibilities on the still-employed workers to keep operations running as smoothly as possible.
Stirring the pot even more, once the pandemic began to ease, many companies insisted that employees quickly return to in-person work. This caused additional stress and frustration thanks to the widespread inability to find affordable childcare and concerns about personal health.
Actions to Take Now
The “quiet quitting” phenomenon is at least partly the result of a workforce that feels overextended and unappreciated.
As with most situations involving employee engagement and morale, managers are at the front lines. They must ramp up their efforts to give regular praise, provide constructive feedback, and help build positive employee relationships.
It’s essential to ensure employees feel supported in their respective roles. This may require talking with them about their boundaries. Employees need to feel that their needs are known and respected. With this knowledge, managers will be better positioned to help employees achieve a work-life balance that has positive results for both the employee and employer.
The effects of praise, no matter how potent, tend to wear off quickly. Credit needs to be given often, regularly, and sincerely.
In addition to managers, company leadership also needs to get involved. Gallup data reflects that the most memorable recognition comes from an employee’s manager (28%), followed by a high-level leader or CEO (24%), the manager’s manager (12%), a customer (10%), peers (9%), or someone else (17%).
Over four out of five (82%) of employees appreciate feedback, even if it’s negative because it shows that their work has a purpose and that their managers are paying attention to them. More than four out of 10 (43%) highly-engaged employees get feedback at least once weekly.
Managers should not be afraid to give constructive negative feedback. Just remember to do so in a manner that conveys empathy and reflects an understanding of employee roles.
Positive Employee Relationships
Researcher Helen Stockhult found that a person’s willingness to take on responsibilities beyond their formal job description results directly from having strong social relationships with colleagues.
Managers who want to build engaged employees will encourage cooperation among their team members. This can be more difficult to achieve with a hybrid or remote workforce, but it’s far from impossible.
Recognition and Incentive Program
There’s possibly never been a time when a well-conceived employee recognition and incentive program could have as much impact as now.
In addition to the actions listed above, the creation or expansion of recognition and incentives should be part of your company’s core response to the “quiet quitting” phenomenon.
When you make regular, constructive, positive recognition part of your company culture, you’ll create a more engaged workforce less likely to feel the urge to quit – either figuratively through “quiet quitting” or literally by joining the Great Resignation.
Contact Xceleration today to learn how our platform can equip your business with the tools you need for an effective, impactful employee recognition program.