Quiet Quitting is the new dread of HR departments and managers and I can’t count the number of articles that, depending on the case, either explain how to fight against this phenomenon or stigmatize the behavior of these employees who are still there but are not really there anymore.
What is Quiet Quitting?
Quiet quitting can be defined as an employee doing his job and nothing more. Doing what is on the job description and no more. Arrive on time and leave on time, no more.
Why is this? There are many reasons, but we will highlight a certain disenchantment with the company, with promises not kept, with efforts never rewarded.
A behavior that shocks those who think that an employee must always do a little more than he is supposed to do.
When the exception becomes the norm
Is this behavior reprehensible? If so, it means that it is normal for an employee to always do more than he is supposed to do. Is this a normal expectation from companies? I would say yes and no.
Yes, because doing a little more, no matter what form it takes, is a sign of motivation and a way of demonstrating qualities and skills on a wider scope than those of one’s job. And in some cases, this is part of the rules of the game: when you join a startup or a fast-growing company, you have to expect to go beyond your duties and hours for a while at least.
No, because this can only be exceptional. I know managers who reward employees who do more, stay later, with bonuses and faster promotions and I find the deal rather fair. But be careful not to promise more than you can deliver: anyone who plays the game and gets nothing because there are not enough seats to promote everyone will be legitimately disappointed.
No, because for some companies this is part of the model: they know that the teams are understaffed, that everyone will have to work more to compensate, but there will never be any recruitments to compensate, overtime is not paid and since this is a behavior that is considered normal, efforts are not rewarded in any way.
So whether or not to stigmatize Quiet Quitting employees is a question of understanding the cause. This is not their normal attitude, they were initially invested and then turned back. The real problem is not Quiet Quitting but the fact that in some companies, in some corporate cultures, the exception has been allowed to become the norm.
Companies do Quiet Quitting well when it comes to their customers
Employees, who are no more stupid than their managers, have understood this and have adopted this behavior to protect themselves from a possible burnout, because they know they will never get anything in return and simply to ensure that the balance of their employment contract is respected.
Because even if it seems old-fashioned, it is important to remember one thing. When an employee joins a company he signs a contract that says what he will do, how long he will do it and how much he will be paid in exchange. Work for money. And if you change one side of the equation (work) it makes sense to balance the other.
I once asked a fairly high level manager who was scandalized by the fact that some employees were “only” doing their job if, when I went to one of his stores, I could buy 120 euros worth of products and only pay 100 euros. He told me “of course not”. That’s the whole problem.
In one way we find that the economic equation must be balanced, in the other way not. Maybe it’s a question of subordination?
I am surprised that some people only want to respect contracts when it suits them.
As far as I am concerned, rather than Quiet Quitting, I prefer to talk about conscious loyalty. They love their company, their work (otherwise they would leave) but they know that their investment will not be recognized nor rewarded.
So they stay knowingly and are just careful not to get caught.
Again, I come back to this excellent article from the BBC which brings part of the answer.
Do I want classes on meditation? Yes. But do they move the needle on the stuff that matters, that will actually change the way an employee feels? No
We have mental-health days, but everything’s reactive, not proactive. When you offer a mental-health day because you can see someone’s burnt out, but you don’t lighten the workload, it makes the stress worse
All you have to do is ask your employees what they need. And they’ll say, ‘I need to work less hours. I need to be compensated enough to pay for childcare and groceries and to meet my needs. I need more resources at work to do my job. I need to feel safe when I need time off. I need to not be afraid that I’ll fall behind
That changes the critical view of them a bit.
And when people ask me “why do they do this” my answer is “do you know when and how you let them down?”. We come back to more classic topics like engagement: companies that want employees to engage without trying to understand why the company are non engaging.
We want to make Quiet Quitting a responsibility of employees when it is the result of the company’s failures.
Quiet quitting, which some see as a problem caused by the employee, can be an opportunity for companies.
By staying and applying their work contracts to the letter, employees tell them “I love you, you disappointed me, but I’m giving you a chance. But until you regain my trust I will only give you what you pay for. Not less, but not more.
So rather than wondering why employees are “just” doing their jobs, let’s ask ourselves how we might have disappointed them and how to fix it.