'Quiet quitting': How to spot the subtle signs – before it's too late

Do companies need to adapt to a 'change in attitude to life'?

'Quiet quitting': How to spot the subtle signs – before it's too late

‘Quietly quitting’ is a revolution under way in Australia – and other parts of the world – as disengaged employees no longer see the value or have the desire, to spend a minute longer doing their work than they have to and would rather spend any extra time on family and/or personal interests.

“Some employees are feeling that they’ve lost their work/life balance and as a result, are pushing back by ‘quiet quitting’,” Luisa Golgini, director customer success APAC, Skillsoft, told HRD. “Those who may have gone above and beyond in the past are reverting to performing the minimum duties they were hired to do to restore balance and shed stress from taxing work environments.”

Quietly quitting will only increase in 2023

This attitude is unlikely to change with Generation Y and Z spending less than two years with the one company and a push for employees to work four days a week and get paid for five. The pandemic has swung the balance of power back to the employee and unless a worldwide recession hits, it is doubtful it will swing back the other way.

“I think we are seeing a change in attitude to life, and companies need to adapt accordingly, much the same way many have needed to embrace flexible working conditions as part of the future,” Golgini said. “Employees are increasingly loyal to organisations that invest in professional development, provide opportunities to expand skillsets, and align with their values centered around areas like climate change. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that companies need to put the wellbeing of their people first.”

In one sense it is hardly surprising that employees in the corporate world have begun to fight back. For decades, big corporations have manipulated hungry executives into working long hours, even weekends, to get ahead. It is still expected in industries such as law, finance, banking and architecture, amongst others.

People are becoming sick of it and the carrot at the end of stick mentality no longer holds the same appeal.

“It’s possible the definition of ‘success in life’ has shifted between Gen Y and Z,” Megan Twine, talent acquisition manager at Fluent Commerce, said. “Being able to have a healthy balance outside of work and being mindful of mental health is more important than climbing the corporate ladder.

“The pandemic has made people question what is important and if they’ve had more time with the family, based at home, they’re going to be unwilling to sacrifice that and return to commuting to an office again.”

The signs

It’s obvious when employees start to show disinterest in their job and the company. They start to make medical appointments when they know they have regular meetings – such as when status update meetings are on – they will take a sick day in the middle of the week, to break up the mundane routine of their job, and will log in at irregular hours of the morning and night to check for email correspondence that they need to respond to, having taking a few hours off intermittently during the normal working day.

“It may force a mindset shift in leaders and cause them to reset expectations of their people,” Golgini said. “If your people feel that you respect their right to switch off on weekends/after hours, it shows you care about their wellbeing, and they will be more focused when they are at work and will go above and beyond when required.

“Managers and leadership should be acutely aware of how employees are feeling and be on the lookout for signs of quiet quitting – which could include previously strong employees opting to take a backseat on projects, decreased engagement, and poorer job performance. If detected, they can work with the specific individual to get to the root of their reason for ‘quiet quitting’ and create a plan – together – to get things back on track.”

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