Quiet quitting in the post-pandemic workplace: what is it and how can we avoid it?

By Dalya Ketz, Managing Director at Gcubed Boutique Recruitment

A new term for an old concept, “quiet quitting” describes an employee that exists in the state between “actively engaged” and “actively disengaged.” Remote workers and hybrid workplace dynamics, coupled with a recent back-to-the-office mandate from many organisations has resulted in a reignition of this trend. Quiet quitting does not mean resigning from a job – it means doing exactly what is required (and no more) to meet the job description so as to prioritise a work-life balance that places less emphasis on work. The main cause of today’s workplace trends is burn out, particularly with younger Gen Z professionals in their 20s. According to a survey of 30,000 workers by Microsoft, 54%  of Gen Z workers are considering resigning from their job. However, quiet quitting is a symptom of a much larger problem, the root of which can be traced back to not recruiting the right individual in the first place to fill a position. Accordingly, for an organisation to properly thrive without being plagued by quiet quitters it is essential to team up with a recruitment partner who understands the business requirements and the importance of placing candidates who will be actively engaged in the company culture.

Quiet quitting results in quiet firing

On the flip side of the quiet quitting trend, managers have had a mixed reaction. As more Millennials (and their successor generations) unsubscribe from hustle culture, some managers have been tolerant (likely due to a tight labour market) while others have cleared the decks by retrenching employees who have slacked off. Called “quiet firing”, it generally involves making a job so unrewarding that the individual feels compelled to resign. This situation of quiet quitting and firing in the workplace is obviously less than ideal. This is where the right recruitment partner can help mitigate quiet quitting (and consequently the need for quiet firing) by helping their client companies to find the right candidates from the start. Matching the right employees with the right business culture is also an effective preventative step against employee burnout that can create a win-win situation for both the employee and the employer.

Addressing the problem at recruitment level

This comes down to the recruitment partner being able to understand and manage the company’s business requirements, and balance this against the emotional intelligence (EQ) of an individual candidate. This is important not only from a working perspective, but from a wellness point of view. The individual chosen to fill a particular role at a company must not just tick the boxes from a job description angle, but also from a personal and company culture view. This means focusing on the individual is as important as focusing on the work they will be required to perform. To achieve this, the recruiting partner needs to take the time to understand their client’s unique business requirements, and to develop an affinity for its brand and culture.

Addressing the problem at a company level

In the same vein, it’s critical for companies who are hiring to understand the importance of culture and that the employment relationship needs to be based on more than a salary. This means they need to ensure that they are offering more than just money. There needs to be employee wellness, a strong, unified company culture that provides a place for individuals to come and feel a sense of belonging and engagement. This requires brands to think about their bigger purpose, and to find ways in which to foster individual career development while focusing on the wellness of the business as a whole. It means companies need to do more to make their employees feel valued, which is one of the most effective ways to guard against quiet quitting. A culture of employee appreciation leads to a culture of quality. An individual who feels valued will always do more than expected, because it feels worth their while. As such, it’s important for companies to create work environments of reciprocation.

What steps can employers take to create environments of reciprocation?

  1. Establish a culture that retains talent: Take the time to re-evaluate company culture. Consider how best to accommodate hybrid/remote working arrangements. Implement ways to engage remote workers, such as scheduling virtual hangouts or finding ways to gamify and reward teams.
  2. Prioritise employee recognition: This goes to show people their efforts are appreciated and boosts morale. Recognition should be timely, specific, and public, and should align to the company’s core values.
  3. Ask for and act on employee feedback: Giving everyone a voice is an incredibly powerful tool to ensure that individuals feel invested on a personal level and engaged. Acting on their feedback is an important sign that the company values their input.
  4. Promote peer connections: This is the ideal way to ensure that there are opportunities for growth and mentorship for junior staff, and fosters a greater sense of community and engagement between teams or departments.

Lastly, (and most importantly) companies need to join forces with the right recruitment partner. Matching the right candidate with the right role is more important than ever. Finding the right recruitment partner is an essential step in fulfilling company values to meet business requirements in order to ensure productivity and profitability.

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