Alongside the great resignation another workplace trend has been making waves on social media — quiet quitting. What does it mean and how can leaders combat it within their own workplaces? Work-life balance and behavioural change expert Dr. Lisa Bélanger weighs in.
Along the same vein as presenteeism, “quiet quitting” refers to employees doing the bare minimum in their jobs, without going above and beyond.
Lisa actually hates the term “quiet quitting” because no one is actually quitting in this scenario. Speaking to Canadian HR Reporter, she said the term is papering over what the real issue is — people are burnt out and for too long have worked in a culture that treated them like machines instead of humans.
Causes of “Quiet Quitting”
A recent survey conducted by Resume Builder found that 26% of adults in the US are only doing the required amount of work or less, with 80% of them saying that they are burned out.
“I work with a lot of medical teachers, engineers, and lawyers. When I go into a room and ask who has experienced burnout, without hesitation, every single person in the room raises their hand; that would have never happened before COVID,” Lisa said.
“People wouldn’t have admitted it before,” she continued. “Even if they were, they wouldn’t have said it. Now they’re like, ‘I’m on fire. I’m exhausted. I’m bringing the cynicism to everything I do.’ So [quiet quitting] is absolutely inspired by burnout, and a re-evaluation of what work and life means.”
The pandemic sped up this discontent in the workplace. “We were never designed to spend eight hours in a chair,” Lisa said. “That’s not how the human body works or the brain.”
By engaging in quiet quitting, she continued, employees are taking back their autonomy. They’re saying, “This isn’t working for me so I’m going to do it my way,” instead of doing it the organization’s way. This is what should have been happening in the first place, Lisa said, but it took a pandemic to really tip that scale.
How to Combat Quiet Quitting in Your Workplace
Lisa says it’s not up to the employees to fix this problem, it’s up to HR professionals and leaders to redefine exactly what is expected of their employees. “If they’re like, ‘You’re just doing your job description,’ then write better job descriptions… we’ve come to a culture that is expected to own people’s time and that’s not good for anybody,” Lisa said.
It starts with prioritizing culture over policy. Leaders need to learn empathy. “You hire a whole person,” Lisa said. So, skills such as empathy; emotional intelligence; how to manage distress, notice it in somebody else, and reprioritize it for them are all fundamental skills.
While having policy documents is a good first step, it’s more important to take action on them, Lisa continued. It’s up to leaders to model healthy behaviour and cultivate a culture that respects the fact that people should have time during the day when they don’t work.
Limit when emails can be received, Lisa said, and promote time off for mental health by actually taking the time off yourself. This is how leaders can de-stigmatize that in the office.
“These are not common practices. They should be, but they’re not,” Lisa said. If you clearly define expectations and success markers, then it won’t matter how the work is being done just that it is being done.
In addition, Lisa said it’s important for human resources to think about “strategic non-work”. This is time spent outside of day-to-day work. Lisa has never met a company that actually does this because it can be terrifying for leaders to contemplate, she said. But this is key to protecting people’s work-life balance, which is a fundamental step towards engaging people in their work during the time you have them.
Dr. Lisa Bélanger believes an organization’s greatest asset is its people. She shows leaders and teams how insights from psychology, neuroscience, and behavioural science can be applied in the workplace to optimize performance, productivity, and innovation.
Contact us to learn more about Lisa and to book her for your next event.