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Quiet quitting: the employer’s response

First “The Great Resignation”, now “Quiet quitting”. What’s next? And what can you do if have a quiet quitter in your business?

Quiet quitting is when a worker does only the bare minimum of their job, rather than going above and beyond. The term was first coined by TikTok creator @zkchillin and his short form video has already clocked up 2.6 million views.

“You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond,” the online content creator explains in the video. “You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.”

Quiet quitting can take many forms, including:

  • being more withdrawn at work
  • turning down projects in the person’s field of expertise or interest
  • not responding to messages outside of working hours
  • taking sick leave as soon as the entitlement falls due

We’ve written previously about the Great Resignation and our opinion that whether or not you consider the concept a reality or media clickbait, smart employers put in place strategies so their best people aren’t tempted to look outside the organisation for a brighter career path.

For as long as there have been people working for employers, one thing remains constant: good managers know their people. A sudden decline in performance or engagement (particularly if it stretches out over an extended period) is always noticeable to a competent manager and should be the trigger for some type of discussion to identify the core issue. A core issue may be something as simple as a personal matter encroaching on work performance (and this happens a LOT), the worker being less interested in career progression, or even a matter of the worker feeling burnt out. And the last few years has a lot to do with employee burnout.

Ultimately, if an employee elects to do just the bare minimum, this is their decision. As an employer, your decision has to be whether the employee’s version of “bare minimum” is acceptable. Should you feel the person has jumped aboard the “quiet quitting” bandwagon you might consider reminding the employee of the risks associated with this approach to work:

  • the perception from the person’s co-workers that they have to pick up the slack from those who do the bare minimum
  • being overlooked for a promotion or better role if management feels the individual is intentionally “not going above and beyond”
  • the consequences of such an approach should the economy contract: the quiet quitters might later be the first considered for layoffs
  • should the quiet quitting extend to performance below the inherent requirements of the role, the employee being at risk of being placed on a performance management process.

Your best solution? Invest time in talking to your team members on a regular basis. Connect with your employees regularly and identify their engagement triggers. Not everyone wants to be a career climber and, assuming they’re adding to value to your business, not everyone has to be. But you do have the employer’s right to set clear goals and expectations for individuals, provide them the resources to meet those goals and hold people to account when they don’t. Bring on the next viral TikTok trend!

Many of us put off the difficult conversations with team members because we think there’ll be conflict…and no one likes conflict, right?  But there are simple techniques any manager can learn to get things back on track with a minimum of drama. Bare Bones Consulting can show you how to take the emotion out of the difficult conversations; focusing on the performance, not the person. Give us a call.

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Note: Bare Bones Consulting provides HR services for employers. Employees seeking advice on workplace concerns should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.