When You Stop & Listen, Quiet Quitting is Loud & Clear

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*Originally published by HR Morning


The latest phenomenon of Quiet Quitting has everyone’s ears perked. From TikTok to the Wall Street Journal, we’re hearing how employees are speaking their peace and employers are anxious about how it’s affecting them.

So Quiet Quitting is loud and clear.


Some see it as a cry of “I’ve had enough” or “I’ll just do what I can to get by,” while others see it as a generational excuse to not give it your all. But what if we were to take a more thoughtful approach to understand where the noise is coming from and if it’s truly a millennial or Gen Z phenomenon? 


Quiet Quitting, or “carefully coasting,” describes what people are doing to set boundaries for themselves but not going as far as joining the Great Resignation brigade. It’s the latest symptom of the world’s workforce going through major shifts in their work/life. 


According to Gallup, the state of the global workforce is still reeling from mounting stresses and uncertainty. This isn’t surprising given the last 2.5 years of significant personal and world events, rapidly changing socioeconomic conditions, and broken workplace systems coming into the spotlight. The reverb is in the rising call to remove stigmas around mental health, improve diversity and inclusion, and embed psychological safety in the workplace. 


Gallup also reports that life satisfaction is at its historic lowest since the 2008 Financial Crisis across every age group. LinkedIn found that overall employee happiness declined by 3.5% globally, and another recent Gallup poll discovered only 21% of employees are engaged at work. With Gen Xers and Baby Boomers in the mix of TikTok posts on Quiet Quitting, we can’t really cast this off as a Gen Z and millennial sensation anymore. 


Since the Great Resignation [and Great Resignation Regret, where 40% are still looking for another job after resigning], employees are more emboldened and intentional to express what work/life integration means to them for self-preservation against burnout and mental health concerns. People are revisiting what a worthwhile, if not meaningful, job means to them and getting vocal with it. And some may argue they’re doing it in not-so-quiet ways.


Employees Aren’t Alone in Quitting


Naturally, with a looming recession and open roles unfilled, employers are anxious about how this might be a silent and slow [if not quick] leak of productivity, engagement, and growth at a time they can’t afford it. But an opportunity to align employees and employers lies within this startling data point: 91% of CEOs think they prioritize their employee’s well-being, while only 56% of employees feel CEOs actually do it, a Deloitte study found. With a 35%-point gap in C-level/employee perception, it’s not a shock that people are quietly quitting.


The promising news is that both C-level execs and employees agree on something we’ve never admitted before — right now, personal well-being is a higher priority than career aspirations. In a 2022 survey by Deloitte Insights, CEOs are 13% more apt to quit than employees if their job isn’t supportive of their well-being.


Since 2020BC [Before COVID], the world’s workforce has had ample time to reconsider what matters most. The pressing questions have become whether they’re spending precious minutes meaningfully and if there’s alignment or disconnect between their purpose and values with colleagues, leadership, and organizations.


All Eyes – & Ears – on the Prize


The crescendo of Quiet Quitting is that our global workforce — regardless of role and responsibility — is asking ourselves why work matters [beyond the paycheck] and what it means to feel motivated, inspired and committed to our work. Habits of hustle culture are being questioned because, as humans, we have a psychologically innate desire to feel heard, understood, and valued. What’s the point in going above and beyond if these human needs aren’t being met?

Yet there’s another silver lining. The world’s workforce simultaneously experienced a reset on what it means to be human at work.


Mounting socioeconomic inequities made us pause and think about how people can survive without a living wage. Simone Biles said “no” to protect her mind and body, with subsequent fans and haters, in her workplace that happened to be on a global stage. If we can imagine what it means to barely survive each paycheck and someone taking a stand in a moment she worked her whole life for, maybe we can empathize with everyone that is contemplating [or actively] Quiet Quitting, too.


Risks of Keeping it Quiet


Gallup recently published that even engaged workers who aren’t thriving are much more vulnerable and add risk to organizations. These folks are more likely to experience burnout, daily stress, sadness, and anger, taking productivity down with it. This just reinforces the priority of addressing the root causes of Quiet Quitting and why leaders need to take a more active role to address the risks before the slow leak turns into a flat.


We can learn from organizations that chose to take on mental health and well-being in the most unpredictable conditions. Like most hospital systems in the world, our client Northwell Health was in triage every day when the first wave slammed New York. But since they did the foundational work of instilling purpose and values beforehand and pivoted to add mental health programs to support, they managed to rise from #93 on Fortune’s Best Place to Work For® to #19 during a pandemic across every industry


Northwell leadership had foresight, knowing purposeful employees increase retention three times, and the same employees will more likely recommend that place to work to their friends, according to Great Place to Work data. They adapted to their employee’s most urgent needs by prioritizing well-being and mental health. People felt seen and heard as a whole human, at a time, it was almost inconceivable how they didn’t unquietly quit from all the mental stress and physical strain.


Go from a Quit- to Growth-Mindset 


As leaders, we can intentionally factor well-being and mental health into the people equation. And, as we learned from Northwell Health when we operationalize purpose and well-being into our everyday values and behaviors, it ladders up to our days spent in healthier, more fulfilling ways. By making these systemic changes, people are inclined to do the opposite of quitting [from a scarcity mindset] because they know the leader’s intention is to grow together [with abundance] instead. 


And as individuals — or leaders of our own work/lives — we can engage in the simplest yet hardest thing we’ll ever do. To go out in today’s world, we need to start within. When we do the work on ourselves, for ourselves, that’s when we don’t have to “quit” anything. We can say no without guilt and yes with healthier boundaries. We can be confident we’re not being our best for employers and loved ones if we’re not at our best within. 


Whatever roles you have or hats you wear in life, when we prioritize what’s most important to ourselves first and align it to how we actively work/live, we’ll have healthier lives of greater impact because we’ll be growing them together.

Values are our North Star. They shape how we work. Do your organization's values still reflect the needs & priorities of your people? If not, it might be time for a refresh. 

Core values refresh workshop

About the Author

Jenn Lim

Jenn Lim is a global workplace expert, bestselling author, speaker, executive coach and the CEO and Cofounder of Delivering Happiness [DH], a company that grows purpose-driven organizations with more profitable and sustainable approaches to business. Jenn launched two bestselling books—Delivering Happiness in 2010 and authored Beyond Happiness: How Authentic Leaders Prioritize Purpose and People for Growth and Impact in 2021. Together they’ve sold over a million copies and have been translated into 30 languages, impacting people and workplaces worldwide.

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