“Quiet quitting” has, in just a few short weeks, infiltrated pretty much every medium that talks about work, from social media channels to prestigious national media like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
There is not a lot of agreement about what “quiet quitting” means. By some accounts, it’s just doing the job from 9 to 5, setting clear work-life boundaries. For most, though, it goes far beyond that. It’s a matter of just barely meeting the requirements of the job, doing just the bare minimum to keep getting the paycheck.
The Definition of Quiet Quitting
While the “quiet quitting” label had its origins (according to most reports) on TikTok, the concept has been a long time in the making. The forces at play range from long-standing employer expectations that employees will give their all to the company to more recent pandemic-induced expectations about work-life balance and a historically tight labor market.
For internal communicators, the question is simple: Is there anything we can do to minimize “quiet quitting” in our organizations?
Assuming that “quiet quitting” does, indeed, involve doing just enough to get by, you don’t have to connect too many dots to get to engagement. Engaged employees, based on some definitions, are those who make discretionary efforts on behalf of the organization. That is, they routinely go above and beyond their job requirements.
Disengaged employees, on the other hand, are those who are “psychologically unattached to their work and company,” according to Gallup. (Gallup originated the whole engagement concept and continues to measure it worldwide.) “Because their engagement needs are not being fully met, they’re putting time — but not energy or passion — into their work.”
That sounds like “quiet quitting” to me.
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Tips to Manage Quiet Quitting
Some might argue that employee engagement is a poor use of a communicator’s time. Engagement, after all, is an outcome based on metrics over which communicators can wield little control. Research from the British Engage for Success initiative, however, found four engagement “enablers,” all of which should be part of any internal communicator’s efforts. These include the following:
- A strategic narrative – Your employees need to know where the organization came from, where it’s going, and where they fit in the narrative. A strong narrative should make it easy for employees to want to join the company on its journey.
- Engaging managers – For many communicators, managers are already a focus of significant communication efforts. It is often said that people don’t quit their companies; they quit their bosses. Engaging managers treat their people as individuals, coach them, and stretch them. Their management style also influences perceptions of work-life balance, with benevolent managers producing greater satisfaction among both employees and their spouses. Managers can also raise the enthusiasm bar through recognition, a highly motivating intrinsic reward that everyone craves.
- Employee voice – Communication is a two-way process. If you’re not listening to employees, you’re not communicating; you’re just messaging. Employees who believe they’re being heard and their ideas, issues, and concerns acted upon, are far more likely to tackle their job with the “gung-ho” attitude that “quiet quitters” have shed.
- Organizational integrity – There is no say-do gap in organizations with integrity. The values printed on posters and enshrined on intranets are reflected in decision-making processes and day-to-day activities.
Ensuring communication supports these enablers can have a profound impact on whether employees just put in the time or give discretionary effort. There will always be some “quiet quitters” — it has been suggested that we used to call it “slacking.” But it needn’t become a trend in your organization if communication supports the genuine efforts by leadership that catalyze employees into a force to be reckoned with.