A Gen Z Take on Quiet Quitting

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By Jacob Drouin

Employee engagement in work-from-home environments has been a hot topic on the internet recently. The increased workplace flexibility has given way to the term “quiet-quitting”, characterized as doing the bare minimum to keep a job. The discourse around this issue is split into two camps, with some believing it stems from a lack of effort and others a lack of opportunity and recognition in the workplace.

Where does quiet quitting come from?

Quiet quitting is a symptom of the COVID-19 pandemic. Where in the past traditional work models had been well-ingrained, the rapid change to online work uprooted normal routines and forced people to reevaluate their relationships with work. This change also allowed workers more autonomy in deciding how they spend time during the day and made it easier to disconnect from their jobs. Much of the media around quiet quitting portrays quiet quitting as employees taking advantage of the increased workplace flexibility to waste company time. It’s easy to see where employers’ frustration is coming from, as the term does put a lazy spin on the issue.

A younger definition of quiet quitting 

Workers are pushing back on this definition for a reason. Young employees in particular are finding that remote work environments have led to decreasing in recognition and compensation for the work they put in.  Beyond that, many don’t see how their own work contributes to the organization’s larger mission, which further disconnects them from what they are doing. For these workers, quiet quitting is less about quitting, and more about finding a balance where the effort they put in reflects the pay they get out of their jobs.

The discrepancy between these two definitions of quiet quitting has stirred up a lot of tension around the issue online. Going forward, managers and employees will need to work together to find a solution that will work for everyone.

What can managers do?

1. Start with communication—Research from Gallup indicates that managers should have one meaningful 15-30 minute conversation with each team member per week.

2. Acknowledge accomplishments—An organization can’t function without its employees. Make a conscious effort to recognize and reward the work employees are doing, especially when it does go above and beyond.

3. Be flexible—Times are changing fast, and so are employees’ lives. Make sure your employees know that their job won’t be put on the line when something comes up in their personal life.

What can employees do?

1. Advocate for yourself— Managers aren’t mind readers. If you want more clarity on the expectations of your job or more opportunities for professional development, be vocal about it.

2. Hold yourself accountable—There is a difference between not doing your job and doing what you are compensated for. If you aren’t getting enough done, find ways to keep yourself on track and productive during work hours.

3. Be reasonable— Your organization doesn’t work for you. Finding a fair balance between work and compensation doesn’t mean getting whatever you want, but rather finding a middle ground where you can perform well at your job without burning out.

In the end, employee engagement is not something that can be sorted out through online discourse. Companies need to redefine their expectations and strategies for worker productivity internally, and on an individual basis if possible. The problem of quiet quitting requires a quiet solution, and most of the online arguments on either side of the issue just add to the noise and put more pressure on everyone.