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Over the past few months, a new trend has emerged in the workplace known as ‘Quiet Quitting’. The idea, originating on social media, is the practice of only doing the bare minimum required in your job description in order to achieve better work/life balance.
This new trend can involve anything from turning down additional projects to refusing to answer work messages outside of contracted hours. The concept is that an individual is not actually ‘quitting their job’ but instead they are quitting the notion of going above and beyond at work, with a view to reducing stress and burnout while still getting paid the same wages.
Why are people becoming quiet quitters?
Aside from the fashion to jump on the bandwagon of something trending online, there may very well actually be a valid reason behind this growing phenomenon.
During lockdown, many people suffered burnout as they tried to juggle the pressures of work, family commitments and the mental stress of being confined to home. Conversely, others enjoyed the benefits of lockdown in the form of hybrid or remote working and greater family and leisure time, giving them a taste of what they had been missing out on when they were working long and antisocial hours over and above their contracted role prior to Covid.
On returning to the office and more normal work routines, many individuals who had experienced either a preferable work/life balance during the pandemic or those who were trying to avoid burnout and protect their mental health, both acknowledged that perhaps they didn’t want to return to what they felt had been expected of them by their employers pre-Covid, such as volunteering for additional responsibilities or generally being available 24/7,and this is where the idea of quiet quitting was born.
As a result, many disengaged employees are now ‘working to rule’, which may sound harsh from an employer’s perspective, but could actually have some positive effects on the wellbeing and mental health of those who enjoy their work but just felt overly put-upon by their bosses and want to avoid burnout. However, there may be some individuals who are choosing quiet quitting when they should really be thinking about a career change, and this could lead to some negative consequences.
How to know whether to Quietly Quit or Change Jobs
It is important to understand that quiet quitting is not specifically about disliking your job. It can be thought of more as a reaction to what many companies expect from their employees when it comes to being available for communications, events and projects outside of your paid and agreed remit, and the realisation that perhaps work shouldn’t take over your whole life.
Surprisingly, while it may seem that taking this stance would make employees further disengaged, studies show that overworked employees are less likely to do their best work, whereas those who leave their work at the office and take time to relax can actually be more productive.
So quiet quitting can have some positive effects if it’s done for the right reasons. The issue comes when someone decides to quietly quit when in fact, they are really just very unhappy in their job.
According to research, the overriding factor which people now place importance on in their career is ‘workplace happiness’. While many quiet quitters are using the trend as a bit of a protest against employee expectations, ultimately, some quiet quitters are just not happy in their roles and quiet quitting (as opposed to actually quitting), could see people remain in jobs that they really dislike which can be highly detrimental to their mental health and wellbeing.
If an individual is feeling stuck or unmotivated because they are suffering from stress, burnout or other mental health issues, or because they are in a role where they don’t feel they can be their authentic self, reducing your engagement and commitment to your job could seem like the easiest option compared to the alternative and perhaps daunting task of embarking on a career review and subsequent job search. However, stepping back and disengaging from your role under these circumstances is likely to lead to poor performance, breakdown of work relationships and possibly even dismissal. So, rather than resolving the original problem, it can compound it, leading to further stress, depression and anxiety.
In such cases, it is vital to be self-aware. Being honest with yourself about why you are reducing the effort you give your role will help to determine whether you should be quietly quitting or actually seeking a new challenge. Individuals who decide they are actually unhappy in their role are likely to be better off seeking a job which engages them and is more aligned to their values and passions. Even the TikToker who posted the original video about quiet quitting commented that it 'works best if you can tolerate your job- if you're miserable, get outta there! Your peace of mind comes first.'
What if I am still unsure?
For anyone still struggling to determine their position, it may be worth considering the signs that it is time for a career change such as procrastinating, lacking energy, struggling to concentrate and feeling jealous of the careers of others. It can also be a good idea to undertake some career coaching. Discussing your feelings towards work with a career coach can help you gain some clarity and identify a way forward.
Depending on the organisation you work for, there may also be opportunities to discuss how you feel with your manager or HR team. Employers are often looking for ways to improve employee engagement and therefore be more open than you may expect to discussing how they can help improve your experience at work perhaps through flexible hours, mentoring or other forms of support.
Assuming that business leaders begin to acknowledge the growing trend for quiet quitting and demonstrate an understanding that people are seeking improved work/life balance by taking action (such as encouraging employees to ‘switch off’ after a certain time at night and at weekends, setting realistic targets and rewarding additional effort and achievements so that employees feel valued), it could be that quiet quitting disappears as quickly as it emerged. In the meantime, the key to workplace satisfaction is to be sure that if you become a quiet quitter, you are doing it for the right reasons and if you are unhappy in your work, take some time to consider if you should bethinking about a career change.
If you’re feeling stuck or uninspired at work and think that some career coaching could be helpful, get in touch with Careers in Depth today and find out how we can help you find a path to job satisfaction.
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