October 20, 2022

What Managers Should Know About Quiet Quitting

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The topic of “quiet quitting” has sparked debates about the relationship that employees have with their work and what motivates them to perform at their jobs. The conversation has also put a spotlight on managers’ expectations and how employee performance is measured. 

Quiet quitting is essentially a new name for a longstanding problem in an evolving work landscape. 

What Is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting has nothing to do with actually quitting. Rather, it describes when an employee does exactly what their job description states without taking on extra tasks. Some of these above-and-beyond actions might include:

  • Joining a task force or committee
  • Covering someone else’s assignments while that person is on leave
  • Pitching a new idea and leading its implementation

Quiet quitting can be an employee’s way of responding to a concurrent phenomenon dubbed “quiet firing.” Quiet firing describes when an employee is continuously and unfairly passed up for an earned promotion or raise that would be commensurate with their contribution to the company. 

How Managers Can Address Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting may be the most prominent HR discussion right now, but the phenomenon holds lasting, relevant implications for manager-employee relationships. Quiet quitting invites managers to examine the company culture, have honest conversations with their employees about job expectations, respect employee boundaries, and provide room for employee growth.

1. Examine company culture

Company culture is a north star for employees’ attitude toward work. In fact, 60% of surveyed HR professionals who indicated that their organizations are experiencing quiet quitting trace it back to company culture. Company leadership should examine a number of areas in the company that affect employee morale, including company values, rewards and recognition, and management styles.

Company leadership should be clear and consistent with how they articulate company values and make those values apparent at every stage of recruiting, onboarding, and talent management.

Executives, managers, and HR should also assess the ways they recognize, promote, and evaluate employees for their employees to ensure a more equitable workplace. It’s unfair to assume let alone expect that an employee will go above and beyond their job responsibilities. Managers should celebrate employees who do exactly what their job asks of them and do it well consistently. 

Employee engagement tools, such as Assembly, include ways to give employees praise for what they do. 

Read more: Improving Company Culture During Periods of High Turnover

2. Respect employee boundaries

Employees also value work-life balance now more than ever. So, it’s no wonder that employees — whether they are burnt out, enforcing their boundaries, or both — are sticking to the tasks in their job description to stay happy and healthy.

Despite this, the current hiring crisis in certain sectors has meant that staff is often stretched thin. Employees are frequently asked to do more with fewer resources or perform work-related activities outside of normal work hours. 

As a result, employees are experiencing burnout at a higher rate than pre-pandemic times. In fact, a McKinsey Health Institute report states that 28% of U.S. employees are experiencing burnout

Analytics can reveal inequities among team members in terms of workload and time and help prevent employee burnout. Project management software tools, for instance, indicate which tasks are assigned to whom and how much time each task takes to complete. 

In addition, most software and apps include notification and timezone visibility settings to ensure employees don’t receive messages outside of regular business hours. Even with these settings, it never hurts to remind employees to respect each other’s time by refraining from sending emails or messages late at night.

3 . Have honest conversations about job expectations

A solid understanding of job expectations — on both the employee’s and the manager’s end — goes a long way in assessing how an employee is performing, be it over, under, or at the expected level.   

A manager should have an open conversation with an employee who consistently underperforms against their job requirements. Furthermore, the goal of this conversation should be a better understanding of what resources or support the employee needs in order to succeed at their job.

Forms of support might include extended leave, flexible work hours, training, or a role switch within the company. Analytics dashboards in performance management software can tip off managers to an employee that may need some assistance.

In the opposite scenario, if the employee consistently does more than what is asked of them, and they do it well, there are a number of things the manager could do besides praising them for their hustle:

  • Adjust the employee’s title and pay to fit the range of duties they perform
  • Delegate the over-and-above tasks to the appropriate staff
  • Outsource those tasks to freelancers or contract workers

Employee engagement software helps facilitate honest conversations between managers and their employees. 

4. Provide room for employee growth

Regardless of how an employee is performing, managers should prioritize short-term performance discussions in addition to regular check-ins with their employees. These meetings are a chance to discuss employees’ goals and identify opportunities for growth. 

In fact, growth opportunity factors into employee satisfaction and can help reduce turnover. A 2021 report reveals that 45% of employees are more likely to stay with employers that offer professional development opportunities. 

Charting out career pathways for employees can make the promotion process more transparent and equitable. Career pathways should contain specific goals an employee can work toward if they want to move up in the company.

Performance management software such as Workday’s talent and performance management product helps managers and employees establish baseline metrics for performance and removes a lot of bias from promotion and raise decisions. 

Replace Fear and Assumptions with Trust and Transparency

As many employees continue to work remotely in a distributed workforce, it’s easy to wonder what employees are really up to during the workday. Quiet quitting, which is a scary way of saying someone is setting firm boundaries with their work, has become the new scapegoat for managers who already grapple with remote and hybrid work structures.

However, it’s important for managers to shape a company culture that prevents quiet quitting from becoming an issue to begin with — one that respects employee boundaries, promotes honesty, and provides room for equitable growth. 

Managers should utilize a variety of HR software that help support a healthy, engaging company culture. These include employee engagement software, performance management software, and project management software.

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