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Quiet Quitting - Cutting Through The Noise

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

by Jenny Tucker


There’s a new work-related term that’s currently being brandished about after finding its feet on TikTok. It’s ‘Quiet Quitting’ - and relates to employees who do just enough in their role but never push way and beyond expectations. Like, if you want someone to stay late to tidy the meeting room, they’re not interested. Or if you expect a team member to come up with a detailed plan for the office away day, don’t hold your breath. It’s all about the bare minimum.


It seems that post pandemic, when employees got a taste for working from home and started to analyse the meaning of life (also realising that work often gets in the way), this trend for quiet quitting stirred the “great re-think”. In other words, “What do I want from my work/life balance?” and “Does my manager really appreciate what I do?” The answers to these questions can make uncomfortable reading. And it’s the responsibility of organisations to address what’s going on. In a recent Guardian article on the topic: Maria Kordowicz, an associate professor in organisational behaviour at the University of Nottingham and director of its centre for interprofessional education and learning, said that “the rise in quiet quitting is linked to a noticeable fall in job satisfaction.”


Quiet Quitting sparked a lot of controversy and debate, but we're not so interested in whether it's a "real" phenomenon or not. We're interested in what's underneath it all, and how organisations can begin thinking about what Quiet Quitting is really trying to tell us about the employee experience of today. Keep reading for more insights into what causes Quiet Quitting and what to do...





Managers need to speak up


If a boss isn’t being transparent about what is going on, or speaking up, then how can employees be expected to take ownership of their role or commit fully to the business? Especially in these times of hybrid working and a physical disconnect from the office, teams look to their manager to pave the way. If there are few open conversations about engagement, focus and what could be done better (by both parties) then the situation stagnates. Managers need to lead on developing relationships, creating interest and building support.


A recent report in the Harvard Business Review stated that “employees lack of motivation was a reaction to the actions of the manager”. Our Untapped AI digital coaching platform provides one-on-one interaction with a highly expert coach; someone who will encourage leaders to think about what is really going on with their people. And by leaders engaging in regular open conversations with their coach, they develop the self-awareness, insight and confidence required to tackle these difficult interactions with their own teams. When trusting human connections are built, an environment for speaking up thrives, inviting deeper commitment and collaboration to follow.


Building Trust and Respect are Crucial


Reports based around business psychology have shown that trust in the workplace is the number one trait that impacts behaviour. Yet trust is an elusive commodity, and there are many factors which influence its credence. Workers need to feel they are valued, respected, supported; that they have a voice, and their grievances are heard and handled. They may have a boss who they consider to be reliable - but this isn’t quite the same thing as a deep-rooted conviction that someone completely has your back.


Research shows that when trust is in place, employees believe their manager has a real interest in their wellbeing. At Untapped AI, we believe in the accountability loop of networked coaching to join up the process that builds positive behaviour and encourages wider systemic change. So, if a leader takes ownership of their own actions, they can go on to have extensive internal influence on their teams and, ultimately, the culture of the organisation. We encourage leaders to act as a coach, feeding the expertise they have gleaned from our resources to those who connect with them.


Accountability is a two-way thing


You could argue that while TikTok dragged the term Quiet Quitting into the limelight, this behaviour has been happening for decades. Because, if an employee isn’t satisfied with the way they are being treated, they will disengage – and eventually move on. Some managers may breathe a sigh of relief at this outcome, but the right pre-resignation interaction could save a whole load of recruitment expense and loss of unrealised talent.


Reports reveal that, while money is the main driver for some employees, many people say that an emotional bond with their boss is the most important factor for satisfaction at work. Accountability plays a crucial role. On both sides. And if a worker is giving ‘just enough’, it can be very tricky to highlight exactly what’s going wrong. After all, they are doing their job – but not a smidgeon more. For an employee to be held accountable for their actions, they need to feel their boss is accountable for their input too. It might be uncomfortable for a leader to look honestly at themselves and dig into difficult questions like, ‘Do my team truly respect my ability?’ ‘Do I make them feel valued?’ ‘Do I show enough appreciation on a regular basis?’ But, if a leader continues to be blinkered and blocked, the situation can never positively evolve.



With our EMCC globally accredited methodology and the ‘third eye’ of our self-awareness AI to reveal personalised insights, we help leaders to deeply explore what is really going on with themselves, their people and the working world around them. Only then can significant and positive behavioural and culture change happen.

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