September 8, 2022

Quiet Quitting: How to Prevent & Combat it at Work

Quiet quitting is the new “trend” in the ongoing employees-vs-management battle. Is known as workers doing only as much as they’re paid for. The phrase, which gained popularity on TikTok, refers to a phenomenon when overwhelmed and overworked employees stop going above and beyond and do the bare minimum to get by at work. These team members may be in the process of job-searching or might have no intention of quitting yet or no longer have the motivation to exceed expectations.

While the employee is still fulfilling job responsibilities and is not necessarily insubordinate, they resist new responsibilities and often employ methods of avoiding extra effort beyond the standard job description.

These employees may turn down new projects, stop volunteering for tasks, only take on easy assignments, or claim to be too busy to help coworkers or managers, signaling a disconnect between the employer and employee regarding expectations. The root of the issue is not that the employee refuses to do more work than necessary.

Rather, the employee does not trust their employer to moderate their workload or adequately reward them for their efforts, which can erode the manager-employee relationship, cause or deepen dissatisfaction among the team member, and create conflict and a toxic work environment for other employees. Thus, it is in a manager’s best interest to recognize and correct the problem as soon as possible.

How can you prevent quiet quitting within your organization?

Try to maintain boundaries. The first thing to think about is how to maintain boundaries, keep increases in workload short-term, and properly compensate employees. In a perfect world, employees would have predictable and steady workloads. The business world is chaotic, and sometimes overtime is necessary. However, there is a difference between clocking in extra hours during the busy season or waiting for a new hire to start and constant overwork.

If you ask employees to step up and assume extra responsibilities, understand that you are changing the operating agreement. The workload increase should be short-term and ideally optional. If the employee must assume these new duties indefinitely, then the new workload should be an official promotion or carry extra incentives. Otherwise, you remove employees’ autonomy and force them into an arrangement that differs from the role they agreed to when starting the job.

Pay discrepancies are one of the leading causes of quiet quitting. The issue is not necessarily that employees are unwilling to do extra work but that they feel the likely rewards are not worth the extra effort.

It is vital to keep pay competitive with market rates and current living standards and to boost compensation in response to extraordinary effort or results. Keep in mind that compensation can be non-monetary and take the form of recognition, perks, benefits, and flexibility.

Advocating for employees. This can be a highly effective method of preventing quiet quitting. The more vocal you as a leader are about employees’ right to private time, the less likely team members will be to overstep those bounds. Employees will be thankful for you for being in their corner, and you speaking on their behalf will save them the stress of confrontation.

You can reinforce those boundaries on employees’ behalf.

For example:

- Emphasize that answering after-hours calls or emails is optional

- Introduce an on-call system

- Develop a way to mark messages as urgent and define the guidelines of what constitutes an appropriate after-hours emergency

- Reward employees for staying late by allowing them to leave early another day

- Intervene when coworkers pressure each other to overwork and create a way for staff to safely report this occurrence

- Give employees random paid personal days

Employee recognition strategies. Quiet quitters tend to feel under-appreciated. When the work goes unnoticed and un-praised, employees feel they could stop without leadership catching wise or caring, and they are often correct. By acknowledging and rewarding employees for standout work, you show your staff that what they do matters to you and the organization.

Build rapport and relationships. Quiet quitting is the result of a disconnect between employees and employers. Building rapport and relationships with employees are one way to bridge this gap. Team members who feel like their bosses are human beings, and not merely authority figures or faceless entities, tend to feel a stronger sense of commitment to the job.

Monitor mood and behavior changes. Quiet quitters are not chronic under-performers but tend to be disillusioned high-performers. If your superstars pull back, take note. A sudden drop in productivity or enthusiasm can be a red flag that trouble is brewing. This behavior may not indicate quiet quitting, as the employee might simply need a break to recharge or may be facing personal difficulties. Regardless, it is important to be aware of the state of your employees and keep a watch for team members acting out of character.

Support employee wellbeing. Many employees frame quiet quitting as an essential part of mental health. However, this step is unnecessary if employers proactively address workers’ needs. When you prioritize employees’ mental, physical, and emotional health, employees feel less need to defend themselves against potential harm by pulling back professionally. Ideally, you should be an ally to your employees, not a danger to their well-being.

Encourage breaks and sustainable growth. Work ebbs and flows, and employees need breaks and the chance to recharge. A slight dip in productivity is no need for alarm. It is only when complacency becomes the norm that a problem arises. There is a middle ground between constant hustling and quiet quitting. Similarly, there is a happy medium between a rockstar and a burnout.

To prevent employees from contemplating quiet quitting, encourage breaks and sustainable growth. You can set reasonable goals that challenge employees without overwhelming them, and you can empower your staff to take time to recharge and regroup instead of giving up.

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