What is 'Quiet Quitting' and what should HR be aware of? - XCD

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The new phenomenon, ‘quiet quitting’ has exploded over TikTok and LinkedIn this year. The so-called trend has polarised audiences, with the for and against arguments making headlines all around the world. But what is ‘quiet quitting’? And what do HR need to be aware of to mitigate it?

What is quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting is the circumstance when employees ‘quit’ working outside of their contracted hours, refusing to complete duties which are not explicitly stated in their contract. This includes ‘quitting’ any ad hoc duties, staying late to complete tasks, attending meetings outside of their day-to-day and coming into the office early. 

In essence, quiet quitting is simply an employee performing the duties of their role and putting firm boundaries in place. Yet, quiet quitting is often conflated with reduced employee engagement where workers psychologically ‘check out’ of their roles and refuse to go ‘above and beyond’ their duties. We should make clear, however, that quiet quitting is not the same as employee disengagement.  

Quiet quitting vs. employee disengagement

The name ‘quiet quitting’ is very misleading. If an employee decides to ‘quiet quit’, they have simply decided to do their job within the hours that they are paid to do so. Quiet quitting does not mean that during their working hours employees do less work, have low productivity and do the bare minimum: that’s employee disengagement. Employee disengagement is a serious issue for HR and employers to manage, as this is the process of a worker becoming increasingly dissatisfied in their work. Moreover, one employee’s disengagement can often influence other employees. 

Unfortunately, due to widespread corporate narratives of ‘hustle culture’, it can be difficult to distinguish between an employee setting firm boundaries and being disengaged from their work. Employers and management should not be apprehensive about quiet quitters if they are properly rewarding their employees for their time and work in an organisation. It is the job of Human Resources to instil a company culture which enables employees to achieve a positive work-life balance and remain engaged and productive in their work.   

What has caused the increase in quiet quitting?

In 2021, it was reported that workers around the world were regularly performing 9.2 hours of unpaid overtime per week, up from 7.3 hours per week in 2020. This was especially true for those working from home for the first time during the pandemic as the lack of routine caused many to work late into the evening. It’s no coincidence that the number of quiet quitters has risen in response to the increase of regular unpaid work outside of working hours.

As we all know, from 2021 to mid 2022, the ‘Great Resignation’ saw many employees leaving companies with toxic workplace cultures and beginning to demand more from their employers. Quiet quitting is often seen as a retaliation to toxic workplace cultures as employees ‘quit’ additional labour and working for more hours than they are contracted to do.

The statistics surrounding unpaid work should be particularly alarming for employers, management and Human Resources, as overworking undoubtedly leads to increased rates of presenteeism and burnout in the workforce. Quiet quitting may even encourage organisations which have grown reliant on employees taking on extra work to take stock and see where they need to invest in teams to improve workplace wellbeing and prevent burnout before it occurs. 

You may also be interested in: Developing retention strategies to combat the great resignation

What are the limitations of quiet quitting?

It is understandable that those who have not been properly rewarded for their extra work in an organisation are less inclined to do additional work in the future. However, it could become difficult for quiet quitters to achieve career progression as quickly without going ‘above and beyond’ their role and proving that they are ready for the next step in their career.

We must make it clear that a firm line should be drawn by management between performing a job well and exceeding in a role. Ongoing conversations between HR and the workforce around performance, progression and reward make it easier to keep employees engaged and ensure that career progression and self development is feasible. 

It is problematic for employers if their employees feel unappreciated or like their career or skills are stagnating by performing the duties specifically outlined in their job description. If this feeling of being unappreciated or a lack of progression is allowed to fester, it could lead to disengagement, resentment toward employers, and even resignations.

How can HR combat quiet quitting?

It’s clear to see that the rationale behind quiet quitting is an organisational issue, not an individual issue. When a workplace is consistently asking workers to stay late to meet deadlines, take on additional work or even absorb the responsibilities of another job role without reward, it’s a sign that investment needs to be made in that department.

There are two main elements that can help HR to minimise quiet quitting: minimising the amount that management rely on employees taking up extra work and communicating with employees on how to progress their careers or develop their skills within healthy boundaries. But how can HR implement these changes?

Employee Relationship Management

It’s no secret that having positive working relationships in an organisation boosts productivity and employee satisfaction. To combat quiet quitting, employee relationship management and open communication is key to promote satisfaction and recognition in the workforce.

When Human Resources staff are in open and honest conversation with the workforce, it enables employees to feel more comfortable expressing their concerns about their work life encroaching on their personal life. Employee relations can be quickly improved by implementing simple open-door policies or anonymous feedback, but larger impacts on company culture will come from implementing a comprehensive employee relationship strategy. 

You may also be interested in: How do workplace relationships impact employee experience?

Regular performance reviews

As we previously mentioned, employees that consistently put in unpaid overtime without recognition are more likely to become quiet quitters. When employees have to wait an entire year between performance reviews, it can contribute to the feeling of indefinite, unrecognised unpaid work. 

HR should introduce regular performance reviews to ensure that there is an ongoing conversation between HR and employees and the expectations of both parties are managed. Having positive relations between HR and team members makes it easier to have tough conversations, show appreciation and increase a sense of connectivity in an organisation. While it’s important for HR to appreciate everybody in the workforce, it’s also crucial for employees to understand how they contribute to the company and their performance expectations. 

You may also be interested in: What makes employees go above and beyond?

Setting clear career progression goals with employees

Management and HR should focus on building relationships with employees that centre around mutual trust. If employees are able to see a clear job progression, career path or personal development plan in place, they’re more likely to attribute their efforts to their own development plan. HR can then be assured that team members are motivated to go the extra mile in their job, whether that’s working on productivity, working on a side project or upskilling. 

Providing opportunities for workers to advance their careers or skills without having to consistently take on unpaid work is crucial for HR and management to build good relationships with workers. It is in the interests of both HR and workers to collaborate to achieve the common goal of employee development. Utilising performance modules within employee relationship management software enables both Human Resources and employees to monitor their performance and progression toward specific job milestones.

Outlining clear, specific development or progression plans with a combination of long term and short term goals within healthy working hours minimises the risk of your engaged employees becoming quiet quitters. 

Utilising software to automate time-consuming tasks

A large factor which contributes to quiet quitting is piling on the workload of your employees with no extra reward. Software with automation capabilities enables users to utilise workflows to streamline their workload and alleviate some of the time-consuming admin on their plates. Automating workloads through software also enables organisations to reduce bottom line costs as employees can use their time more effectively by eliminating repetitive admin. 

HR software with employee relationship management capabilities is also a great tool to connect Human Resources to the rest of the workplace. Utilising self-service software, the XCD platform enables employees to submit leave requests, overtime and expenses automatically, creating seamless connections between the workplace and HR and automating workflows to make expense request processing up to 50% quicker.

Re-engage employees using employee relationship management software

Employee relationship management software is a key tool to re-engage employees who have decided to quiet quit or those who may be showing signs of being disengaged from their work. Creating a sense of community within the workplace is key to ensure employees feel valued and seen. 

Company dashboards within employee relationship management software is a pivotal central hub for employee information in an organisation. Completely customisable, dashboards enable employees to access self-service portals alongside key company highlights, initiatives and even employee highlights to promote recognition.

Minimise quiet quitting before it starts

Quiet quitting is an unfortunate effect of management and organisational issues within a company. That’s why it is crucial for Human Resources to actively engage with employees to ensure their workload is feasible and their work is recognised. And this all begins with prevention, tackling the problem before it starts; incorporating appreciation software into a workplace to ensure that the team feels actively supported and valued in their position.

Employee experience is a key factor in quiet quitting. Click the button below to read the XCD Employee Experience Survey of 2022.