What is quiet quitting? The quiet trend with a lot of noise

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What is quiet quitting?

On the surface, ‘quiet quitting’ may seem to be an overplayed talking point in the echo chamber of social media, but it’s clearly struck a nerve with a lot of people, and so needs to be taken seriously.

To make sense of the phenomenon it’s important to understand where the recent upsurge originated from. Quiet quitting has been thought to be a descendant of the 2021 counterculture protest in China called ‘Tang Ping’, which translates to ‘lie flat’.

Tang ping was a resistant movement to the overworking pressures and rat race culture influenced by the 996 model, where employees were working 9am-9pm six days a week. The 72 hour a week pattern, although illegal in China, was largely normalised in the workplace.

Quiet quitting, the successor of the tang ping revolt, has been widely featured in an outbreak of news across many publications, with TikTok at the heart of the noise. Part of the escalation of this trend no doubt comes from the catchy, provocative phrase, but the name quiet quitting is very misleading – as it’s not about employees quitting their jobs.

Quiet quitting is to remain in one’s job without performing above and beyond, while avoiding duties that potentially exceed the realms of their position or job description. Some people, weighing in on the debate around the term, have compared quiet quitting to simply just doing one’s job, while others have correlated quiet quitting with doing the bare minimum.

Hustle culture backlash

The exploitation of employees through overwork and unrealistic expectations is a very real problem, and one that should be tackled head-on. Since the pandemic, workers from all industries have been far more vocal against hustle culture. This has led to some fantastic progress in terms of work-life balance, mental health, and workplace benefits. Such positive change was possible thanks to employees speaking frankly and honestly with their employers, setting boundaries they could both agree on. So why go quiet now?

The silent resistance has opened the gateways on think-piece publications, with many associating quiet quitting with the term ‘acting your wage’. The idea is that people are rejecting the notion to improve their performance or the scope of their role if that exceeds their wage bracket. This turn of phrase has encouraged further conversations around the generation pay gap, where historically those on minimum wage were able to afford a better lifestyle in relation to the cost of living compared to now. With inflation and the current cost of living crisis reaching crisis-level for those on lower wages, the movement has gained more traction and, what appears to be, more followers.

We urge people who feel financially stretched by their current wage to do their research into salaries in similar job positions and to arrange a pay review with their employer. There are several ways you can prepare to ask for a pay rise confidently, easing the fear many associate with this process.

Of course, for some self-confessed quiet quitters, it’s not so much their wage that’s pushed them to reduce their efforts. Rather, they feel burnt out or underappreciated, which has led them to become disconnected from the role itself, no longer feeling engaged or driven to do more than required.

Burnout is a very legitimate issue that often goes unnoticed in the lens of everyday life. Having the available knowledge to prevent burnout is an important part of managing your work-life balance, and is something that you should be mindful of if you work in, or employ those, in high-pressure positions.

There is often an unspoken expectation, particularly for employees in entry to mid-level roles, where exposure to experience and learning somehow negates an increase in pay or overtime. Many have been outspoken on how this ‘something for nothing’ behaviour is an outdated system and no longer puts staff in good stead of a promotion and better salary. With evidence of less promotions and slowed career progression in recent years, due to an unpredictable economic climate, it is not necessarily a shock that some employees might be growing dissatisfied at work.

If you feel like it’s time for a change and new opportunities for growth, it could be time to reignite your career as, after all, being engaged in the workplace makes for much better mental health than battling through an unsatisfying and unstimulating 9-5.

Work-life balance

A healthy work-life balance is something we encourage everyone to seek, but if you do this ‘quietly’, i.e., you don’t express to your employer the boundaries you’ve set for yourself, all they will see is an employee that seems distant or unengaged. They may even believe that this contained approach reflects your maximum output, which puts your job, and any later jobs you may apply for, in a precarious position. For how could a previous employer give a strong reference if they’ve never seen your peak performance?

The rise of quiet quitting has coincided with a wave of ‘self-worth’ information on TikTok. The consensus from these types of posts is that the lines are often blurred between the value you attribute to yourself in your professional life and your personal one. It suggests that by detaching these two identities, you will allow yourself to become content with a mediocre performance in your work life. Even with the strategic aid of mental separation, embracing a lacklustre attitude could be a hinderance to your own progression and self-esteem outside of the office.

Yes, you may give yourself more time for your family, friends and passions, but being apathetic at work is likely to upset your mental wellbeing, and sometimes ease can be a greater threat than hardship. Why not strive for a career that truly engages you and inspires your best work?

Our specialist consultants are experts in matching your skills, experience and interests to your next position. So, if you’re ready to find a job that rekindles your love for work, and leaves you energised for your down-time, submit your details today.

How to retain talent

With the ‘great resignation’ still an ongoing issue, many businesses are rightly concerned by the clamour around quiet quitting. They may be looking at employee productivity, trying to work out if any of their staff have been caught up in the trend, and how they can put a stop to it.

For these employers, it’s crucial that you don’t point fingers or call it laziness, but instead look at how you could improve conditions for your employees. Rise and grind culture is so prevalent that even the most progressive companies can suffer from overworked staff, just by trying to stay competitive.

Disengaged employees tend to be the victim of being overworked without company support and benefits. Benefits don’t have to be a financial strain on the company, and when it comes to retaining employees, they could very well be a deal breaker. You can keep employees happy without spending money with simple techniques that may even improve productivity at work.

That being said, promotions and employee incentives can’t be undervalued. Recognising when an employee is deserving of a promotion is just as paramount to whether an employee decides to quietly quit or quit altogether. Loosing valuable employees may feel like something that can’t be avoided, but by implementing a considered retention strategy you are likely to move closer to a more stable team.

Furthermore, paving the way for positive morale in the workplace not only makes for loyal and committed staff, but also a rise in productivity, as workers feel better connected to colleagues and what they’re collaboratively trying to achieve. As an employer steering the ship in a fast-paced workforce, it can be overwhelming to say the least, but making time for morale boosting exercises is possible without financial implications to the business.

Communication is of course, central to all of these strategies and approaches. By creating an environment where employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns and desires, a business can continually adjust benefits and office conditions to create the perfect culture for top performance. This show of good faith to a workforce is highly likely to be reciprocated, and you’ll find that employees will go above and beyond without even being asked. After all, a happy workforce is a productive one!

It’s always been seen as an implicit rule that to hold a steady job, you’ll need to go the extra mile, often without recognition or increased salary. But as reiterated above, employees are increasingly getting impatient with this concept and are simply calling it outdated and not ‘good enough’. Setting competitive salaries that match industry standards should be your first point of call. You can pre-order Tiger’s 2023 Salary and Benefits Review here.

Quiet quitting is an understandable attempt by some to fight back against what they see as unfair expectations, but by being equally unspoken, they could miss the chance to affect real change. Employers must encourage their employees to engage in conversations about the state of the workplace, without the fear of consequences.

Quiet firing and quiet quitting, which came first?

‘Quiet firing’ is just as misleading as quiet quitting. Employers are not outright firing their staff, just like quiet quitters are not actually quitting their jobs. Instead, employers are intentionally creating a work environment that is hostile enough for an employee to resign.

We strongly discourage employers to quiet fire their staff, as it risks professional reputation and creates a toxic work atmosphere. But unfortunately, it’s more common than people care to admit. It begs the question, why are employers quiet firing?

There are a multitude of possible causes to the problem, but when it comes to quiet firing, it all starts with the hiring process. At Tiger, we emphasise the importance of hiring the right candidate who is not only capable of excelling within the job, but is also the right character and fit for the team and values of the business. Read our employer’s guide to interview and selection.

After you’ve hired a suitable candidate, it’s essential to set realistic expectations of what they can accomplish, which may be heavily reliant on the handover and training process. For those selected for a role with less experience, finding what their interests are and nurturing their talent is just as important as capitalising on their strengths.

Why you shouldn’t stay silent about quiet quitting

With the heavy opinions from all angles around quiet quitting, it can be difficult to break through the noise and to reach a conclusion on how to tackle the issue in the workplace. Although quiet quitting is a new buzzword with varying definitions, it is clear that disengaged or unhappy employees should not remain stagnant in a situation that may be damaging to their own mental health, and which could have a knock-on effect on several levels.

It is clear that the quiet quitting trend is encouraging a divide in the workplace. In fact, the use of the term highlights one of the biggest roadblocks to a good relationship between both employers and employees – communication.

As a bridge between both sides, we’ve seen first-hand, the importance of communication at work from the earliest stages of the hiring process. We’ve seen how open, transparent discussion can lead to excellent workplace cultures and boosted productivity. This latest trend shouldn’t be an excuse for both sides to be at loggerheads, but should be an opportunity to work together towards meaningful change.

Author Rebecca Siciliano Tiger Recruitment Team

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