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Anne-Marie Boyle gives her take on quiet quitting and why it might not necessarily be a bad thing
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At our recent annual national conference, UK employment lawyers enjoyed an excellent opening plenary session on mental health at work. Here we...
I love a new buzzword so I was delighted to see ‘quiet quitting’ emerge from TikTok this Summer. A TikTok user kicked it off, describing it in relation to their working life as: ‘“not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond,”
He went on to explain; “You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that work has to be your life; the reality is it’s not, and your worth as a person is not defined by your labour.”
Quiet quitting – nothing new really?
For us pre-TikTokers, I think we recognised this concept. It has been given different, mostly negative names in the past like ‘clock-watching’ or ‘coasting’. An employee who didn’t go above an beyond might be accused of ‘treating it as a job not a career’. A more professional description might be ‘disengaged’ or even ‘withdrawn’. These are not new concepts, they’ve been studied rigorously and from these has emerged a huge employee engagement industry.
Either way, the phrase ‘quiet quitting’ has definitely grabbed the attention. But is it merely a re-package of a familiar concept or is it actually a more fundamental workplace shift?
Whilst I don’t want to bring the pandemic into every blog I write, it is quite hard to avoid the impact that it has had on all aspects of working life. Post-pandemic we have been busy coming to terms with hybrid working and what that’s going to look like now and in the future. As a result have we failed to notice (or ignored) those employees who’ve become quietly disengaged from work?
‘Quiet Quitters’ could well be doing everything listed in their job description but maybe they are no longer answering emails at 9pm or offering to take on that extra project or task. As an organisation, do you rely on your employees going the extra mile. Is this a culture that is actively promoted or behaviour expected explicitly or otherwise?
Why you don’t need to fear quiet quitting
In many ways this trend may not be bad thing long-term. The pandemic has highlighted the need for good mental health and ‘quiet quitting’ can be a way of ensuring that mental health is not damaged by work and that people don’t ‘burn out’. Doing the ‘job’ and no more is a way of ensuring you still have time for yourself, your family and your friends. It’s a way for employees to say ‘I am not quitting my job, but I am quitting the idea of going above and beyond’. It’s definitely rejecting presenteeism.
Inevitably, another buzz word will be along soon but it’s still worth taking a moment to consider the culture in your organization. Do you overly rely on employees going beyond their job? Is that creating a positive or negative culture? What does it say about how you view your employees’ mental health? ‘Burn out’ is often cited as a reason for leaving an organisation.
Maybe now is the time for organisations to re-evaluate what they expect from their employees and how they are treated. Employees with the right work balance are far less likely to take sick leave, bring grievances or ultimately to leave you. How can that be a bad thing for businesses?
By Anne-Marie Boyle, Senior Employment Lawyer