The pandemic caused a foundational shift in the prevalent work model seemingly overnight.
Companies from across the different industry sectors found themselves forced to switch vast portions of the workforce to remote work, necessitating the establishment of an entirely online work environment. Remote work provides numerous benefits to workers, with two of the most crucial being a better work-life balance and the opportunity to look for job opportunities without being restricted by their geographic location. As a result, the established employer-employee power dynamic also underwent a significant transformation.
Workers reorganized their priorities and regained some of their agency in the workplace. Many were no longer willing to tolerate exploitative work conditions and decided to look for better job opportunities, fueling what is now being called the Great Resignation. The new processes impacting the workplace, however, are still ongoing, and one of the emerging trends is known as quiet quitting. Despite the name, this time workers are not quitting their current jobs; they are simply refusing to go above and beyond without being adequately compensated for their efforts. Quiet quitting has definite benefits in the short term but what its long-term consequences will be for job seekers and applicants is a topic of debate.
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Quiet Quitting vs. Disengaged Employees
At first glance, it may seem that quit quitting is just a new way to describe what was previously known as disengaged employees. In both cases, the workers do only the bare minimum of their job requirements without taking on additional work assignments or any unpaid work-related activities, such as organizing social events or office birthday parties.
However, the underlying causes of these seemingly identical conditions couldn’t be more different. Disengaged employees are mentally checked-out from their workplace, colleagues, the company’s values, and mission. They do not see themselves as part of a common culture. Typically, this leads to burnout, lack of enthusiasm, absenteeism, etc.
Quiet quitting, on the other hand, is an active decision by employees to further take back their agency. They show deliberate efforts to perform only their specific job requirements while pushing back against employers encroaching on their free time and personal lives.
Employers view negatively this process as their workers are no longer willing to perform extra tasks for free and on their own time. Effectively, quit quitting is a pushback against the engrained expectations from workers to prioritize their jobs and not their own wellbeing.
Quiet quitting can help with two of the most widespread problems observed in the workplace – burnout and maintaining your mental health. Establishing appropriate work-life boundaries allows workers to spend more time on themselves, resulting in a more energetic and positive attitude towards their work duties. It also allows employees to exercise a degree of control over the exact amount and type of work they are willing to do. It is also a way to deal with managers setting unrealistic time frames and demanding far too ambitious results.
The concept of quiet quitting has already caught on in some of the most competitive industries, such as law and medicine. Young lawyers, in particular, are increasingly likely to only bill their clients for the time spent working on their cases and nothing else. This way, they avoid working long hours for free in the hope of being promoted or earning a bonus. The same is true for medical residents who are far more likely to down-tools and leave the hospital once their shifts are over.
One of the major problems of quiet quitting is the perception it may create of the worker and their performance. It applies not only to their managers but to team members and colleagues as well. It may not be the best look to seem detached and uninterested while all the others are making sacrifices to deliver the best product possible. In addition, problems may arise in positions where the job requirements are not exactly specified and clear.
Failure to do certain activities that you may not consider to be within your duties while the contract states otherwise could lead to dismissal with cause. Such drastic outcomes could be easily avoided via constructive communication between the employees and their employer.
In the best-case scenario, it should lead to a renegotiation of the duties and responsibilities.
In any case, workers need to be mindful of their decision to quiet quit and always weigh the pros and cons before taking such a step.