Quiet Quitting – Is this really a problem?
I imagine most of us have seen the commentary about the latest scenario to take the world of work by storm.
Sounds bad, doesn’t it?
I’ve read a lot of different articles on this and I must admit I can’t really see the problem.
Now, this does of course depend on what definition we are going by.
Mostly I have seen are a version of the following:
“Turning up to work, completing the required tasks, in the required time and then signing off to go and enjoy their non-work relationships, activities etc”
I don’t see much wrong with this.
Now, if you are not completing your tasks to an acceptable standard, then this is a completely different story.
If you just want to do what is contractually agreed upon and then go and enjoy your time with your family and friends, then I would wish you the best of luck with this and in fact, actively encourage it.
The only people that will not be so happy about this are the ones, that have a business model that relies on their workers going above and beyond what they should be doing on a very regular basis.
These people may have a problem as recent events have severely shaken up how people look at their lives and what they do with their time.
This article from Sarah O’Connor at the Financial Times raises some really interesting points.
“Employers have been trying to get inside their employees’ heads for more than a century. In 1920, Whiting Williams, a former personnel director in a steel company, even went undercover as a labourer before penning a book called What’s on the worker’s mind: by one who put on overalls to find out.
This year, a popular video on TikTok about “quiet quitting” has sent employee motivation experts into overdrive. According to Gallup, about half of Americans are “quiet quitters”, which it defines as people who are “not going above and beyond at work and just meeting their job description”. HR specialists and consultants have been quick to jump in with advice on how to fix the problem.
An article in Harvard Business Review urged managers to ask themselves: “Is this a problem with my direct reports, or is this a problem with me and my leadership abilities?”
I don’t think it’s a problem at all. First, the Gallup survey data suggests this is neither new nor a trend. Just under a third of US workers were “engaged” and almost a fifth were “actively disengaged” in the second quarter of this year (Gallup defines “quiet quitters” as the group which is neither). The proportions have wobbled a little over time but are completely in line with the average since 2000.
Second, I would suggest that if your staff turn up every day and do exactly what you ask of them, they aren’t “quiet quitting”, they’re “working”. Some people will always be driven by ambition, enjoyment, perfectionism or insecurity to do more than is asked of them, but if you expect everyone to do that, by definition it isn’t “above and beyond” anymore.
Indeed, companies which have built their business model on people constantly going “above and beyond” their job descriptions are on dangerous ground. Some of the rail disruption in the UK this summer was a case in point: operators like Avanti relied for years on staff voluntarily working extra shifts on their days off; when staff withdrew their goodwill, the service fell over.
Similarly, many companies in the video games industry have relied on “crunch” (a period of very long working hours) to meet deadlines. Some in the industry say this has evolved into a permanent “crunch culture”. According to a survey by the International Game Developers Association in 2019, 42 per cent of developers said crunch time was expected at their workplace and only 8 per cent were paid for overtime.
Shaun Rutland, chief executive of games company Hutch, says there can be camaraderie in extreme hours when you’re young, but it also damages people’s health and relationships to the ultimate detriment of the firm. He remembers having to work from 8am to 8pm for months as a youngster. “I was so grateful to get the job working in games, I was like: ‘this is it, I’m going to do everything I can’, [but] it made me so ill.”
Nor is it productive to overwork people. A study by Erin Reed, a management professor at McMaster University in Canada, found managers could not tell the difference between those who worked 80-hour weeks, and those who just pretended to.”
I saw an interview recently with a tech CEO who had just made 20% of his workforce redundant.
He basically said that he and his team had hired too many people over the last year and that now there had been a dip in revenues they needed to cut the workforce in order to keep the investors happy.
Business is business, I get that you have to make hard decisions.
Not so good for those that had been sold the dream and had the rugged pulled out from under them. That’s a story for another time though!
One problem I see with this boom-and-bust way of staffing is that nowadays these big cuts are much more visible through social media etc.
When people see 20% of a company made redundant through no fault of their own, it makes them question whether the same could happen to them.
If they think that the answer is potentially yes, then you can’t blame people for looking at their relationship with work in a different manner.
Turning up, doing your job to the required standard and then enjoying your time seems a lot more appealing than killing yourself for a business that would soon cut your job if they experienced a dip in revenue.
As an employer, you can’t have it both ways.
You can’t expect people to go above and beyond if you are not prepared to do the same in return.
It’s not quiet quitting, it’s people doing the job they are contracted to do.