Quiet quitting reflects the zeitgeist: employees feel overworked and underpaid so they are “acting their wage” and doing only the bare minimum.
Is this latest workplace trend affecting you and your team?
Quiet quitting is a phrase that has been recently trending on socials after American TikTokker @zaidlepplin posted a video on it that went viral, saying “work is not your life”.
The trend might be new on TikTok, but the problem has been around for decades.
“Coasting”, “checking out” “disengagement”, “withdrawal” “presenteeism” or the recent Chinese version known as “tang ping” (meaning “lie flat”) are all just different names for the same phenomenon – staying on the job, and doing the bare minimum required not to get fired.
What is new in 2022 is that there is an entire cohort that is affected (Gen Z) and that this is becoming a movement of sorts which is quickly spreading.
And leaders had it coming.
Since the pandemic, an increasing number of young workers have grown tired of not getting the recognition and compensation for “going the extra mile”.
They’ve taken things into their own hands and are saying *no* to burnout, focusing on work-life balance instead. The movement is centred around self-preservation and “acting your wage”.
“You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond,” goes the original TikTok message. “You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that work has to be your life; the reality is it’s not, and your worth as a person is not defined by your labour.”
On the surface, it’s a totally normal statement and it’s hard to see where the tectonic rift is exactly until you start looking at what so many corporations keep doing. Because on the surface, corporations (or “corpo” as the quiet-quitters contemptuously call them) keep paying the lip service to the idea of work-life balance, but the reality is that most of them couldn’t care less if people work themselves into an illness or burnout as long as they get to squeeze them out like lemons.
I wish so much I could say that this *was* the attitude of the past. Unfortunately, it seems that even though many corporations are taking the employee well-being seriously, most are still stuck in the mentality where they believe that the employees should be grateful that they can work for them, and expect them to go the extra mile every day in return, no matter what personal cost to their private life and health.
Well, reality check.
Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and one of the world’s 10 most influential management thinkers didn’t mince words about it in his post from two weeks ago:
“Doing the bare minimum is a common response to bullshit jobs, abusive bosses, and low pay”.
Jim Harter, chief scientist for workplace management and wellbeing at analytics firm Gallup agrees with Grant’s sentiment, and adds that there is also the sense of a deepening disconnect between employees and managers.
He points to the June 2022 Gallup figures that showed that only 21% of US workers feel their organisation cares for their overall wellbeing – as opposed to half of employees during the peak of the pandemic. “We’re seeing a cultural rift that’s pulling workers away from their employers,” he said.
Quiet quitting simply reflects the zeitgeist: employees feel overworked and underpaid after the effort of keeping the business going in the pandemic, and amid the rising cost of living.
One of the quiet quitters interviewed recently by BBC said: “I think a lot of people are fed up. They’re realising they’ve put in a lot more effort than their salary shows: no one should be driving themselves to burnout for a wage that causes personal stress or worry.”
It looks like quiet quitting is not a rebellion against work in itself, but like its sister trend from the last two years, the Great Resignation, it’s a rejection of bad bosses, poor recognition, long workdays, unpaid overtime and “always-on” culture in service of an organisation that usually doesn’t care too much about the employees’ wellbeing.
Over to you: What do you think, who should take the responsibility for this trend? “Awful, exploitative “corpo-bosses”, or the “lazy, entitled employees”? Or is it the perfect storm between both of these factors and the recent world events?
With leadership greetings,