Quiet Quitting

By Susan Leigh

Have you heard of quiet quitting? I’m sure many of us will have quietly quit on occasion, even if we’ve not identified it as such. We’ve mentally checked out, just doing what’s needed to be done, working as required. Recently, quiet quitting has become something of a phenomenon on social media and several mental health and human resource specialists claim it’s a good thing.

But is it? How do you cope if you or those you work with have changed their approach, after always being the first in and last out of the office? Interestingly, an August 2022 YouGov online poll revealed that no one in the workplace noticed any change in the performance of those who’d quietly quit. 47% of respondents supported the idea of doing their job without taking on additional responsibilities if they didn’t offer additional compensation, yet only their nearest and dearest were aware of any change in their attitude and application to work.

But what is quiet quitting and why’s it become a ‘thing’?

Traditional perceptions are that to progress at work we should display complete dedication to working long, relentless hours. Numerous surveys report that many staff feel compelled to work above and beyond their contracted hours, do unpaid overtime, not take their full holiday entitlement and work when unwell.

Then there are additional concerns; that things may fall apart, fear of letting other team members down and imposter syndrome. Stress can cause problems if sustained over time. In fact, nearly half the workers in Europe were identified by YouGov as being at high risk of mental health issues. When cases of stress and burnout escalate, staff eventually realise there’s more to life, even though working hard provides many benefits.

By releasing some of the pressure it’s possible to quietly disengage and still work efficiently. Zaiad Khan posted a video on social media in July 2022 in which he talked about ‘not outright quitting your job, but instead no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be our life’. This video quickly went viral.

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Upon quietly quitting, staff decide to implement better boundaries, do the bare minimum, not go above and beyond their specified roles and reject corporate hustle. They became more content with mediocrity and less invested in their roles at work. Doing this can sound passive-aggressive, even negative, but introduces a better work-life balance.

Is it possible to avoid this situation from developing and pre-empt staff from quietly quitting?

As a boss or manager, it’s important to have regular daily or weekly communications with staff to check in on their well-being, stress levels and workload. Maintaining good relationships and open, honest conversations allows staff to feel confident about broaching how they’re doing and raise any personal or work-related concerns they may have.

As a staff member, be aware of your boundaries and the scope of your job description. Being regularly asked to do more, work longer and harder than your remit, with too much to do in too little time can result in feeling resentful, overworked and undervalued. In some sectors it can be hard to stand your ground and resist; charity work, new fledgling companies, care work, and reviving a business post-pandemic can all result in staff feeling obligated to work longer and harder, but a positive work-life balance is important for staff health, performance and morale.

Good boundaries can include working the designated number of hours, refusing to undertake unnecessary travel or overnight stays, not taking calls or checking emails in the evenings or at weekends.

It’s also been found (the West University of Timisoara, 2022) that taking regular breaks, whatever the length, boosts energy and relieves fatigue. They interrupt the mental cycle and offer opportunities to recharge the batteries.

An alternative name for quiet quitting is rational living. This sounds less passive-aggressive and offers scope to only work to a reasonable level, to stop being constantly stressed and pressured and resist being pushed to the limit, even by ourselves.

Some people may quietly quit because they’re unhappy at work or no longer enjoy what they’re doing. As a manager or boss, it’s important to check if this is the case or if a good staff member is keen to redefine their boundaries and discuss their future role in the company. Actioning this can minimise the chance of losing a good staff member through burnout or resignation.

All members of staff need to feel that their employer values their contribution, that they’re being compensated fairly, are viewed as an individual and are treated with appropriate respect. A positive environment can inspire, without necessarily requiring a promotion or pay increase. Learning to prioritise better allows work to become more balanced, so avoiding the need to quit.

To live a healthy, balanced life, we need to include several important things; fun, exercise, a healthy nutritious diet, a sense of accomplishment both in and out of work, social relationships, areas of creativity and an investment of time and energy into other relationships, as well as into our health and wellbeing. Remember too to have appreciation and gratitude for what we have, so supporting a good quality of life.

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