‘Quiet-quitting’ – What is it? Why does it happen? And how do we manage it in the years and decades ahead?

Right now, the business world appears to be scrambling to find a ‘solution’ for ‘quiet-quitting’.

Right now, the business world appears to be scrambling to find a ‘solution’ for ‘quiet-quitting’.

Joanna Swash believes the best way to combat this feeling is for bosses to develop a genuine culture of trust and authenticity among its workforce.

Right now, the business world appears to be scrambling to find a ‘solution’ for ‘quiet-quitting’. This is not a new concept but has certainly gained momentum in recent years. The concept of working to rule, by doing the bare minimum – as stated in your contract – is nothing new. And, may I add, there is nothing wrong with it. 

Everyone has their own motivation for working. Not everyone wants to climb the ladder or become chief executive. Some simply want to earn the money to pay the bills or perhaps earn that little bit extra to pay for next year’s holiday. 

My point is that we are all built differently. We all have different needs and we all add value to any business because of this. This diversity of thought is powerful. In valuing individuals, and ensuring that everyone is heard without judgment and discrimination, leads to an environment where people want to work.

Why the ‘quiet quitting’?

First, we must address the elephant in the room. Why is this happening? ‘Quiet-quitting’ is less about the quiet quitters and more about their managers and leaders. Yes, there has been a lot going on since the world reached 2020. There’s been a global pandemic, which has led to a general re-evaluation of careers and how people want to be treated at work and by their bosses. 

‘Burn-out’ and ‘stress’ have been cited as the major cause of this phenomenon. However, if we peel back another layer, I suspect that in the majority of cases, this well-publicised ‘stress and burn-out’ will be inextricably linked to the culture and leadership of an organisation. And I will argue this reasoning with anyone.

We are therefore in the midst of a work-place revolution. Finally, those buzzwords of ‘work-life balance’ have actually come to the fore. Put simply, there is more to life than just work.

How to combat ‘quiet-quitting’

Whatever the type of work we do and whatever our rank within a company, we’ve all counted down the minutes to the end of our ‘shift.’

We all have our reasons and everyone needs a break. Hopefully, all leaders recognise that every member of staff has a life outside the workplace. However, it is only when employees start to experience the desire to ‘count minutes’ on a daily basis that this issue becomes a serious problem. 

This may be caused by a whole raft of reasons, such as feeling under-appreciated, under-valued or unheard. And this comes down to you, the manager or leader.

So what’s the answer?

This might sound obvious, but an open, honest conversation is always a good starting point. The first question could be: ‘How can I help’? Then always listen carefully to the response.

What are your and their expectations? And do they match? Fundamental to any discussion is a sense of safety and trust. With any workplace culture, it should place people at its centre. Everything else is built around it. If you build trust, then you build a positive relationship. 

Part of that relationship is caring about the wellbeing of other members of staff – both in the workplace and outside of it. Trust is one of the hardest things to build up, yet one of the easiest to knock down. To develop genuine trust there needs to be an openness between management and staff at all levels. 

Companies and their leaders also need authenticity and consistency. There is no point saying one thing and then doing something else. Does anyone recall ‘Partygate’ at No 10 Downing Street? And if you follow a certain rule today, only to contradict it tomorrow, then this simply confuses everyone and perhaps leaves a bad taste in the mouth. 

If you want your people to commit to you, then you need to commit to them. Get to know them as individuals, build a positive relationship, and understand what makes them tick. 

It’s often the little things that show you care. Remember key dates and celebrate personal milestones. Provide your staff with the tools they need to grow personally and professionally. This could mean offering online courses. Equip them with the tools to build mental resilience and encourage collaboration. Develop a system of rewards and always listen to their opinions.

Some organisations have been stuck in the past. It’s almost as though they operate an archaic ‘work to live’ culture. That attitude and culture is no longer sustainable – and should never have been in existence in the first place. The business of today and tomorrow is one with people at its core. And the most successful ones are those that have a happy, engaged workforce.

Joanna Swash
Joanna Swash

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