The Exceler8 HR Happenings Blog

Are You Quietly Quitting?

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Chances are good that either you or your team would answer yes. I read an article on this quietly quitting concept and it’s interesting how buzzwords are now being used for well-known phenomena.

It’s a ‘new’ TikTok trend that in my view, is simply regaining boundaries between work and life….or some may view it as slacking off…..but more on this later.

Essentially, quiet quitting is unsubscribing from the hustle culture; stopping the long hours and responding to emails outside of hours.  According to the viral video ‘Your worth as a person is not defined by your labour’.  

There are many aspects of this “movement” that need to be considered but I want to focus on four of these.

1. Mental health

No matter which social media platform you subscribe to, heartfelt awareness posts from people suffering ‘overwork’ litter the feed.  I read only 2 days ago of a 43 year old father of 3 who could no longer take the pressure of his role and took his own life. 

I have personally seen loved ones suffering from unrelenting deadlines and expectations of delivery. The way we are working is broken and the outcome does not lead to sustainable businesses.  Given our current talent war, employees will no longer stand for it…..enter quiet quitting.

2. Pay vs time

I believe this is the crux of the matter.

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Are we paying people for time or their skills? 

We all expect our time to be compensated but that all-inclusive condition of employment ‘reasonable additional overtime’ is used as an expectation that the 70+ hour work weeks is reasonable for the role.

I have seen many senior executives and high-level professionals who are highly skilled in their roles, being asked to execute their roles 24/7.  Are we paying them for their skills or the hours they work? 

I understand it’s not a simple formula but as pointed out by Aaron McEwen, Garter VP Advice and Research, ‘work is killing us’.  This requirement for hyper-efficiency and close margins does not lead to healthy humans and in turn, businesses.

3. Managing performance

I believe that when we look at the darker side of the ‘quiet quitting’ in retrospect, it will be viewed as not performing in the role. 

Or the brighter alternative could be people setting boundaries and realistic expectations of what performing in the role looks like.  If we don’t set healthy boundaries for our managers, leaders and people, we can not have sustainable growth. 

As the ‘performer’ in the role, employees have a part to play.  Have regular and effective conversations around expectations…and not just when you start the job.  This highlights a common sticking point for new employees and their managers.  Let’s look at a common scenario I’m faced with when working with clients.

New employee performing at unsustainable levels to make a good impression

Manager is really impressed and now regards this as their ‘normal’ performance level.

New employee can’t continue at this ‘hyper work’ state and starts to create healthy work boundaries.  For example, starting work at 8:30 and finishing at 6pm and enjoying their family on the weekends.

Manager now believes the employee is under-performing.

This could have been prevented by some targeted and purposeful conversations around expectations and giving two-way feedback. 

Oh, and don’t forget measuring what you manage.  If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.  If you don’t have clear KPIs and realistic timelines, are you assessing realistic performance?  Just because an employee achieved an unrealistic deadline this time does not mean that unrealistic deadlines will be reached every time.

4. Work life balance

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I want to make a call on this right now.  It’s not work life balance, it’s work life choice.  It’s a choice how you spend your time and energy.  I spoke about this in a recent podcast.

Some would argue that they would love to choose not to work.  The reality is, most of us have to work, and I think this is the core message here.  We have to make a choice as to whether we meet expectations or exceed them.

What does all this mean exactly?  It’s an opportunity to do better. 

The foundation of any business is its culture.  Can you define your culture?  Would we hear the same culture story from leaders, managers and employees? 

I’m not talking about your values written up on the wall or in a glossy brochure.  I’m talking about the day-to-day workplace experience your employees and people leaders have.

The most recent HR Coach research highlights the top 5 employee concerns for employees are:

  • Remuneration pay and bonuses
  • Efficient planning and decision making
  • Opportunities for advancement
  • Professional development for my job; and
  • Efficient workplace.

Given the prevalence of ‘quiet quitting’, it makes sense that people are fundamentally saying ‘I don’t get paid enough for this sh*t’ so I’m going to make my own boundaries.

So, what can be done?

As people leaders and business owners, here’s your immediate to-do list:

  1. Measure your culture to understand your current cultural drivers….and are they what you want.
  2. Make sure your expectations of your employee are realistic
  3. Assess your workplace efficiency so healthy boundaries can be set and business sustainability maintained.
  4. Don’t set and forget.  Keep reviewing your HR strategy in line with market changes and the ‘moving beast’ that our current business climate continues to be.

Remember, these trends are not a new phenomenon (sorry TicTok user zkchillin), we have been thrust into an environment that does not allow us to ignore it any more.

Melissa Langton - Exceler8

Hi! I'm Melissa

I'm a sought-after HR coach, advisor and strategist. I'm also the director of Exceler8. My clients call me their people paracetamol because I help them say 'goodbye' to HR headaches and 'hello' to the perfect people formula to support their business. If you're ready for HR help or transformation, please get in touch. 

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