The phenomenon of quiet quitting didn’t start with the global pandemic. Like everything else, the pandemic created the perfect storm for more employees to realize that they are in control of their health and well-being.
Imagine yourself as a dedicated employee doing all that you can to help the team, then a colleague leaves for another job and his tasks are divided among you and your colleagues, a year later, one of those colleagues goes off on stress leave, and you take on the part of that person’s job, then your boss goes on vacation and because you are so efficient, loyal, dependable, working late hours and skipping lunches to get things done, you were elected as the best and most reliable person to take on some of your bosses duties while he is on vacation.
By the end of year two, you suffer burnout, and exhaustion, and are unable to concentrate. You stop caring about work and are in survival mode because your body and mind demand rest. So, you decide to stop doing so much and only do the actual job duties you are being paid to do. Is this quiet quitting? I object.
Over the past twenty-five years of supporting employees in organizations to deal with a range of interpersonal issues in teams, the boardrooms, and in schools, something has been happening that laid the groundwork for quiet quitting.
The idea of self-care, rest, mental health days, and the like is a very recent phenomenon. Burnout was not something we discussed openly at work until about the last decade. It is not that burnout was not happening and was an issue; there just wasn’t an appetite to discuss it openly or to request it as a speaking topic.
The #MeToo movement in 2016 opened up some of the ugly things that happen at work as a discourse in our living rooms and the Gen Z’s grew up thinking these things are bad and should not be tolerated. Now they are in the workforce and will not accept it.
The pandemic didn’t cause the Great Resignation it just created an opportunity for people to leave what they considered hellish jobs, and create better quality life-styes that met their health and wellness needs. People did not quit their jobs at the onset of the pandemic, the majority left as they realized better opportunities that became evident during the pandemic. People had time to pause and reflect on their lives during the pandemic. They got to know their neighbours, children, spouses, store clerks, and clergies during the pandemic. They treasured fresh air and went for a walk. These were things we took for granted prior to the pandemic.
Studies showed that resignation rates were higher among employees who worked in fields that had experienced extreme increases in demand due to the pandemic, leading to increased workloads and burnout. There is little appetite for returning to the grind and working all day without a break, this no longer feels like a worthwhile life for people after the pandemic.
As I work with employees everyday in my role as a Coach and Workplace Wellness Consultant, I see the exhaustion on employees' and leaders' faces and in their voices. Some do too much work to the detriment of their health and wellness. I have had to send employees back to their leaders to ask for a second and third look at the priorities because they were so overwhelmed.
Some are being smart and setting boundaries to protect themselves and that is not quitting in my book. A certain client complained that he could not find time in his Leader’s calendar for a meeting, in a follow-up meeting with the leader I learned that this leader blocked off chunks of his calendar months in advance to prevent it from being booked for useless random meetings that took up his work time causing him to work late. This is not cool. He wants to spend quality time with his young family. His strategy is not quite quitting, it is smart to work. Anyone who wants to book a meeting must go through his assistant, and they decide if it is worth making time in his calendar for that meeting. He is now able to end work on time to be with his family.
I am glad that employees are taking the steps necessary to care for their well-being. There has always been a group of employees who showed up for the pay cheque. They are disengaged, and uninterested. These people will always be in the workforce. They continue to quit openly every day with little or no repercussions and it has been making the hardworking employees mad like hell. Those who are setting boundaries to protect their personal spaces should be encouraged and not lumped into the same category as the disengaged.
The way we worked before has changed. Here are ten tips, I have been using with my client organizations to improve employee retention, focus, performance, and well-being that you could also use:
Ten Tips to Address Quiet Quitting
- Review antiquated work policies and procedures to make them more relevant
- Ask employees how they are doing and if they feel their workload is manageable
- Do not expect employees to sacrifice family time for work except occasionally
- Check in with employees you notice who is working harder than the others, find out how mad they are and let them know you see them
- Offer to reward employees who are going the extra mile
- Money is not the only form of reward, ask employees how they would like to be rewarded
- Develop checks and balances to reprimand disengaged employees so your hard workers don’t get frustrated because they “get away with doing nothing”
- Help employees review priorities when you think of adding another task on their to-do list
- Encourage your diligent workers to take their vacation and discourage skipping lunch and putting off vacations.
- Be a good role model, yes, your employees will think you want them to work the same hours you do.
If you must choose one thing to work on, make sure that the imbalance in your workforce is addressed. Stop avoiding! Deal with those who are just showing up because it takes too much energy and dumping more work on those who are performing well. This has been making them mad for years and they will not take it anymore. The pandemic has revealed far more work opportunities than they would have considered before. I am hosting the Global Workplace Wellness Summit on September 28-29, 2022 and we will be taking a look at this topic more fully and have more minds weigh in on this discussion. See you there.
To Your Wellness