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Quiet Quitting: and What it Could Actually Mean in Your Workplace

Quiet Quitting: and What it Could Actually Mean in Your Workplace

May 24, 2023

5 minute Read

By Paige McAllister, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Quiet quitting started as a TikTok video describing how one employee was finding work-life balance by changing how they approached their job without actually quitting.

The now-viral video has generated numerous articles and news stories, many with different takes on what quiet quitting actually means.

THEORIES BEHIND THE MOVEMENT

Employees are setting boundaries.

The initial TikTok video defined quiet quitting as employees doing their jobs — no more, no less. They are good employees who do their jobs satisfactorily and maybe even above satisfactory. They work their scheduled hours, complete their job duties, fulfill work demands, attend meetings, and meet their goals and numbers. However, they do not do more than what is necessary to meet those expectations.

For them it’s about setting boundaries and not getting caught up in the unacceptable conditions some workplaces demand. It’s about doing their jobs but not taking on or feeling obligated to take on more duties. It’s about working the scheduled hours but not working nights, weekends or over vacation. It’s about pursuing their own interests and development without confining themselves to only career or industry advancement. It’s about being satisfied in their current role and not striving to advance.

This is the next phase of the Great Resignation.

Quiet quitting is seen by some as an alternative to joining the Great Resignation. According to EDsmart, an estimated 48 million employees quit their jobs in 2021 due to various reasons: repercussions from the pandemic; wanting or needing to spend more time with family; looking for personal or professional growth opportunities; choosing to switch careers or start their own business; or searching for more flexibility, remote work, higher pay and/or better benefits. The trend has not ended in 2022 as more than 4 million people are resigning from their jobs each month with 40% of employees considering quitting their jobs in the next 3-6 months, according to a report from McKinsey and Co.

Instead of searching for a new company to provide the changes they want and need, these employees are staying in their current jobs while also taking opportunities outside of the workplace to meet these wants and needs. They may stop working extended hours or performing extra job duties to have the flexibility to spend more time with their family, focus on their health, take development courses, or, if they need more income, they may use the time to get a second job.

These employees are disengaged.

Some see it as employees being disengaged at work, meaning they come in late and leave early, have numerous absences, work slowly, lack interest in work are easily distracted, do not communicate, and produce minimal or unacceptable results.

According to Gallup, at least 50% of the workforce consists of quiet quitters. The percentage of employees who are actively disengaged sits at 18% and the actively engaged percentage is at 32%, dropping notably since 2020. The significant drop in engagement post-pandemic, especially for those younger than 35, has been attributed by some to a lack of having someone at work to care about them and their development, especially from their manager; the lack of opportunities to learn and grow; and the lack of a clear understanding of what is expected of them, especially in remote or hybrid work arrangements.

To back this up, the Harvard Business Review analyzed several surveys and responses about employee engagement and found that the managers who were the most willing to go the extra mile for their employees had 62% of their employees giving extra effort on the job while only 3% are quietly quitting.

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

If quiet quitting is impacting your workplace, there are some actions to take and points to consider.

>> Review job descriptions and work expectations

What do you really need your employees to do? What are you paying them to do? What did you hire them to do? Ensure employees know the expectations but also that you are not expecting more than what they were hired to do. Changing workforce size and operational demands requires employees to grow and stretch but, if they are not compensated for it or need to work more hours to get the job done without acknowledgment or balance, they may push back or leave.

>> Review compensation

Pay employees fairly for the job you want and need them to do. While not everything comes down to money, compensation and benefits are a motivating factor behind employee commitment and engagement. Recent market factors have increased pay ranges and inflation has increased employee pay needs.

>> Develop effective communication and ways to connect

A key component of an effective working relationship is communication, especially between employees and their managers. The evolving needs of both company and employee along with the changing workplace arrangements mean that ways employees and managers communicate need to change. Whether holding regular meetings (virtual or in-person) or frequent touch-base conversations or regular performance management conversations, employees need to know what is expected of them, how their contribution is valued, and that their concerns are being heard.

>> Encourage employees to learn and grow inside and outside the company

Along with offering employees opportunities to develop within the company and their roles, consider also encouraging employees to pursue personal interests. Bring in outside resources during work or give them time off to take classes or give them a stipend to pay for outside courses.

>> Avoid quiet firing

Constructive discharge is a term to describe when employers make the workplace hostile or unsupportive in order to drive employees away. Quiet firing may be less aggressive but have the same impact. Employees may be denied raises, development opportunities or time off. Or perhaps they face intended or unintended bias. Whatever the situation, if employers are not giving employees what they need to thrive at work, then employees will not give the extra effort companies may want.

>> Encourage trust between employees and managers

Trust is important in the employee-manager relationship. According to HBR, when managers create trust with their employees to make them feel valued, they are more engaged and less likely to quietly quit. Start this by having a positive relationship, showing consistency and having expertise in your role. HBR also encourages employers to work to deserve employee enthusiasm; by doing more for employees, employees are more likely to do more for them.

One Final Thought

Not every employee will have the 24/7 commitment that owners and executives need to make the business successful; nor should they be expected to. In fact, if you expect employees to hustle and do more to help grow your business, they may realize they can put in the same effort to grow their own business pursuing their passion while creating the work-life balance they want.

Paige McAllister is a contributor for Affinity HR Group, Inc., ICA’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as ICA and their member companies. To learn more, visit www.affinityHRgroup.com.

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