Why your staff might be quiet quitting

The summer break is a chance to unwind and spend time with loved ones, but four in five employees will also be reflecting on their career. This may leave them feeling unsatisfied with their current role, and employers might need to consider ways to engage them in the new year.

Nearly half of employees (45%) think about pay, promotions and opportunities to upskill over the holidays, according to research for SEEK. People may also be considering if their role or organisation aligns with their values, or ways to improve their work-life balance.

Some will kick off the new year on the hunt for new opportunities and they may start to coast — or "quiet quit" — in their current role.

Quiet quitting has become a popular term on social media platforms such as Tiktok in 2022 and for good reason: there's a lot of it about.

In fact, 19% of employees are likely to consider quiet quitting while 30% say they have quietly quit in the past.

Why do people quiet quit?

Some of the reasons why Australian employees may consider quiet quitting are:

  • a lack of job satisfaction
  • burnout
  • being unhappy in the workplace
  • a toxic work environment
  • wanting greater work-life balance.

Leadership mentor and founder of Third Space Hareta McMullin says employees are well aware that the power dynamic between employers and employees has shifted, which gives them more confidence to weigh up their options.

"Traditionally employers have asked a lot of employees because they could. But it's no longer reasonable when other employers are doing so much more for their people."

"The bar has been raised."

What does quiet quitting look like?

McMullin says it's important for employers to recognise when and why staff are checking out, and find ways to lure them back in and keep them motivated.

When people decide to quiet quit, they may display the following signs:

  • limiting tasks to those strictly in their job description
  • not taking on additional responsibilities
  • doing the bare minimum to get the job done.

What can I do about quiet quitting?

Connect with your people

If employers have a good relationship with their employees that involves communication and trust, it's easy to pick up on behaviour changes, McMullin says.

A poor relationship, on the other hand, makes it harder to know when your employees are coasting and easier for them to do it.

"If people don't trust or feel valued by their managers, their engagement and productivity drops."

Once employers have identified a quiet quitter, it's important to understand why.

"It might have absolutely nothing to do with work,” McMullin says, noting that they may be dealing with something difficult in their personal lives, for example.

"It's important to have conversations without judgment so you can find out what their concerns and challenges are, and then give them some autonomy to design their work in a way that works for them."

Be fair while boosting morale

There are various ways to maintain the respect of employees, even inspire them.

Firstly, employers should adhere to the "non-negotiables", McMullin says.

These include:

  • paying people what they're worth
  • paying people more if they’re promoted
  • ensuring their role is sufficiently resourced
  • ensuring managers have the skills and capacity to lead well.

For many people, flexibility and time off are also highly valued, often more so than a pay rise, McMullin says.

"This could mean letting your staff choose their hours as long as they get their work done."

"One of my clients has even introduced 'summer hours', where everyone knocks off at 1pm on a Friday. That's a great example of meeting your people halfway and you're going to get that four hours back through loyalty."

Other ways to boost morale may include wellbeing sessions such as massages or yoga, social activities and courses allowing staff to upskill.

But what may keeps people motivated will vary. Engagement surveys and focus groups as well as direct conversations between managers and staff are key to understanding this.

Celebrate achievement and bring staff on the journey

It's also important to celebrate achievements and plan the future alongside your staff, McMullin says.

"Recognising your people's contribution is huge and doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Heartfelt messages or handwritten cards can go a long way."

"At the same time, looking forward to the year ahead can make employees feel excited."

Quiet quitting is less of a concern if companies invest in managers and leaders to look after staff well, she adds. Most people care about the work they do and want to see themselves, their team and their company succeed.

They just need a reason to believe in that.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4800 Australians annually. Published February 2023.

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