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The concern

Quiet quitting is all the buzz on social media. Originating from Tik Tok creator @zaidleppelin, it's made the rounds on every platform from Tik Tok to LinkedIn. Coined by the fresh new faces of the workforce, quiet quitting subscribes to the idea of only doing what's specified in your job description. Nothing more, nothing less. 

Leaders from top companies have been quick to vocalize their concerns over this growing workplace trend. While employers have been quick to point their finger at their employees, their employees have been quick to point it right back. So, who is to blame for quiet quitting? Is the onus on the employer or the employee?

We sat down with Associate Teaching Professor Curtis Odom EdD to understand the nuances of this new workplace phenomenon. Odom is an expert in organizational and management development. Professor Odom's recent article with Forbes Magazine speaks directly to the work leaders need to do to tap into the engagement and motivation of their employees as a way to combat quiet quitting.

Answers to this Question and Answer segment have been modified for clarity. 

Question and Answer

What are your general thoughts and/or reactions to this new workplace trend?

Quiet quitting is a misnomer, and not a new concept. Rather than signifying that an employee is actually quitting, quiet quitting means you are physically present but are mentally and emotionally absent from work. This behavior has been around for decades. It was previously regarded as “RIP” or “retired/rest in place.” It is a misnomer, in my opinion, because this behavior isn't “quiet.” Good management should be able to detect dissociative behavior rather quickly. It is only quiet for those who have poor management skills – and for those who are not paying attention.

Why is this concept gaining traction now? 

The pandemic has reimagined the workplace and the expectations and norms that exist inside of it. Employees now expect management to meet them where they are, rather than the opposite being true. Whether it's flexibility, higher wages, or more meaningful work, employees are expecting, and in some cases demanding, more from their organizations. When their needs are not being met, they engage in dissociative behaviors such as “quiet quitting.”

How can managers get the most from their employees?

In my research I have found that employees are most satisfied with their work life when these four factors exist in the affirmative:

  1. Do I feel welcomed at work?
  2. Do I feel valued?
  3. Do I feel like I am meaningfully contributing to the company?
  4. Can I be my authentic self at work?

When these aspects of a person's work life are true, managers can expect their workers to be engaged, productive, and satisfied. A 2021 study performed by Human Capital Institute, underscores this concept, finding that engaged employees can give a 1.5 return on investment. 

How can managers prevent this from occurring or stopping it in its tracks?

Management should have a pulse on their people. Leaders should understand where each of their people are at and meet them there. Quiet quitting chips away at this notion commonly held by leadership: Every worker wants to be at the top. This false notion creates an unrealistic projection and expectation that every worker will conduct themselves in sync with this “be the boss one day” desire. The reality is, not everyone wants to be at the top, therefore not everyone will go above and beyond their specified job duties and work responsibilities. 

There is not a uniform approach to management. It is critical to regard each employee as the unique individual that they are. Each person is motivated by a unique set of needs and desires. As a result, managers should specifically tailor their engagement approaches for each of their people. 

Looking ahead

Quiet quitting is indicative of a collective failure of business leaders' ability to engage their employees in meaningful ways. This trend however can be rectified. When management meets people where they are, take the time to focus on the engagement and motivation of each employee, organizations and their people will thrive.

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