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Elizabeth

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What is Quiet Quitting? Addressing the Real Issue

You don't even have to be on TikTok to have heard of 'quiet quitting' by now. What started as a viral video posted by Zaid Khan, a 24 year old engineer from New York, back in July -- has amassed nearly half a million likes on the original video, and is making headlines across the globe as both employees and employers speak on the issue.

In the video, Zaid says: "I recently learned about this term called 'quiet quitting' where you're not outright quitting your job, you're quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work. You're still performing your duties, but you're not subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life." The video finishes with the message, "The reality is, it's not. And your worth as a person is not defined by your labor."

With the work sphere still reeling from the Great Resignation -- quiet quitting is slowly taking its place as a new 'challenge' for leadership to resolve. But what if instead, the narrative became an opportunity to address the long-term concerns that brought this issue to a head? 

In this post we're going to take a look at what quiet quitting is, why this message so deeply resonates with today's workforce, and how leadership can pave a better work-life for everyone. 

What is quiet quitting? 

First things first, what exactly is 'quiet quitting'? As a bit of a misnomer -- you might at first think it refers to silent resignations, when ironically, the concept has little to do with quitting at all. Quiet quitting is the mentality of working enough to stay on top of your position's duties, but not going above and beyond your bandwidth or pay grade. 

Since there's not much in the way of official definitions for the term, quiet quitting can look different for individual professionals. For some, that means signing off right at the end of the workday without offering a minute of unpaid overtime and, for others, it could look like starting to say 'no' to projects or meetings they don't have time for -- but there are many more examples of quiet quitting.

Popular examples of quiet quitting:

  • Starting and ending the workday at set business hours. 
  • Accomplishing only what is feasible with the time they have. 
  • Not taking on new duties they are not being compensated for. 
  • Saying "no" to tasks and/or meetings outside of their bandwidth. 
  • Taking advantage of PTO with less guilt.
  • Prioritizing personal commitments and healthy habits.
  • Not sacrificing mental wellbeing for their job. 
  • Separating personal value from professional success.

A recent Gallup survey found that *at least *50% of the US workforce considers themselves 'quiet quitters'. And while these employees are not actually leaving their jobs, there has been a huge shift in workplace engagement -- with the lowest ratio of engaged vs. actively disengaged employees in almost a decade at 1.8 to 1. 

And while leadership might see this kind of disengagement as a red flag, or even interpret employees as being "noncompliant or unprofessional" -- Natalie Baumgartner, a chief workforce scientist specializing in employee engagement, suggests it's actually a sign of workers trying to "feel less burnt out, more motivated and more engaged." 

The real issues behind the trend

While the term 'quiet quitting' is currently trending, the concept is not revolutionary. Ultimately, this buzzword sheds light on the underlying issue as old as employment itself -- employee disengagement. And when workers are constantly overextending themselves in today's fast-paced professional world -- motivation drops, productivity is stunted, and job satisfaction suffers. Can we really be surprised by that?

Many people are arguing that this wave of quiet quitting was an inevitable outcome of an unsustainable hustle culture mentality -- where professionals were encouraged to push beyond their bandwidth to succeed. The problem is employees simply cannot run on fumes forever, especially when they're also not recognized or under-compensated for all their efforts. 

Beyond undermining productivity, the hustle work culture becomes a job burnout pipeline -- causing more resignations across busy teams, putting more pressure on the workforce, and perpetuating very real health consequences like mental exhaustion in overworked individuals.

So what are the specific causes that are bringing this overall decline in engagement? 

Top 5 causes of quiet quitting

  1. Unclear expectations of workers who don't feel they have a clear role on the team.
  2. Lack of opportunities to learn or grow within the company.
  3. Feeling under-appreciated and uncared for by their team or leadership. 
  4. Uninspiring work culture that disconnects employees from the company mission.
  5. Burnout due to too many meetings and a lack of time for focused task work.

The shift to fully remote and hybrid model teams over the past two years, can also be attributed to exacerbating these issues as companies have struggled to adjust to the new normal and facilitate work environments in which their teams can thrive. So how can leadership step up to quiet quitting - not as a standalone issue, or even a management challenge - but to actually address the underlying issues that are leaving their employees exhausted and disengaged?

How we really need to address quiet quitting

Of course, managers and employers don't want their team members disengaged and not focused on productivity. But recognizing that quiet quitting is not disorderly behavior, but rather an attempt to fix the result of a toxic work culture that has left countless professionals feeling drained and overrun, is the first step towards meaningful and lasting change.

The reality is, quiet quitters are actively trying to create better boundaries around their work-life balance and feel more motivated and engaged overall. 

Want to 'fix' quiet quitting in your workplace? Start by supporting this mission for your team! Positive workplace satisfaction boosts productivity by 31% on average, and when employees actually feel engaged at work and aligned with their team, they naturally *want *to work hard for the intrinsic reward of feeling accomplished, proud, and like a true contributor. 

Ok great, so how do you do that? Here are some tips to foster a more engaged workplace.

6 Tips to combat quiet quitting at work

  1. Maintain boundaries: Respect working hours, limit communications during their personal-time, and offer flexibility for employees' personal priorities.
  2. Better plan capacity: Give your team workloads they can realistically stay on top of.
  3. Compensate your employees properly: Offer appropriate market-rates, paid overtime when appropriate, and keep their responsibilities focused on the scope of their role.
  4. Check in with your direct reports: With regular 1:1 meetings and check-in questions, you can stay connected and build rapport for more aligned relationships. 
  5. Recognize hard work: Directly thank team members, or setting up a reward system like Bonsuly for coworkers to shout-out each other for exceptional performance.
  6. Limit time in unproductive meetingsInstead, encourage independent deep work on priority task work that increases productivity and job satisfaction.

At Reclaim.ai, this is a mission that is close to heart as we work to revolutionize the way busy teams maximize their limited time and changing schedules. Features like syncing multiple calendars to defend time for personal commitments, setting boundaries around scheduling hours, better communicating availability with their coworkers, and automatically scheduling time for healthy habits so they don't always get pushed to the backburner -- all foster better engagement by protecting employees' time and true priorities every week.

Creating a better work culture for everyone ⚖️

As workers around the world stand up to toxic hustle culture beliefs and realign with their goals and wellbeing by setting better boundaries around work -- the conversation needs to shift from "how to we stop quiet quitting?" to "how do we create a work culture where workers don't* need* to quiet quit?". 

The rise in quiet quitting is challenging companies to address how they support their employees' long-term success. In prioritizing more engagement in the workplace, maintaining healthy work-life boundaries, and supporting employee wellness in and outside of work -- organizations can begin to build systems that sustainably keep their teams happier and, as a result, more productive. A win-win for everyone in the workplace. 

Have a hot take on quiet quitting? Tips we missed for a more engaged work culture? Tweet us @reclaimai! We love hearing from you. 👋

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