Quiet Quitting is Bad for Business Productivity – Communication – Corporate Culture – Mental Health

Quiet quitting and the state of unproductivity associated with it costs American businesses $ 500 billion every year. It is estimated that 70% employees feel disengaged with their work. With the recent jobs report, tech layoffs, and stunning employment rates, you’d think that people would be showing up for work and demonstrating to their boss and co-workers how productive they are. Not so.

“Quiet quitting”, as some people may wrongly assume, does not mean quitting quietly. That may be called ghosting – or fading away slowly where people show up less and less until they don’t anymore. Previously, we’ve covered the differences between ghosting and quiet quitting so we won’t rehash all that here.

Studies do show, however, that quiet quitting eventually leads to people leaving their jobs. There’s a whole other conversation about how they leave those jobs with respect to an arc of professionalism. On average it takes 6 to 9 months of an employee’s salary to hire a new employee when the original employee leaves. According to current rates, it costs anywhere between $30,000 and $45,000 to recruit and train a mid-level manager.

Lost productivity costs due to miscommunication and employees not giving their best at the workplace cost businesses nearly $1.8 trillion annually. Let that sink in for a moment. Do you know how many zeros that is?!


What is quiet quitting?

In Japan, there is a practice called shokunin, which refers to the act of completely immersing and dedicating oneself to the craft or the profession they have undertaken. People strive for perfection in whatever job they have committed to. There are no boundaries. The work is not viewed as a job. Employees see it as a full-fledged commitment to their craft and hold themselves to the goal of making it a body of work they can be proud of. They don’t work within the boundaries of office hours. The work is important, delivering quality and delivering on time is important – the amount of effort and time being spent on it is not a factor.

Quiet quitting is totally the opposite of shokunin.

The employee scrapes by doing “just enough” work to not be fired. On many occasions they don’t even work at all; they just appear to be working. The central philosophy is to make others think that you are working so that you don’t lose your job, but at the same time, you don’t offer an extra ounce of work or even an extra minute of your day, ultimately impacting productivity. Forget about the fact that you’re not even putting in the hours that you’re being paid to work …

There are different takes on the concept of quiet quitting, and it depends on your ideology when it comes to how you interpret it. Some people attribute quiet quitting to the extraordinary burden companies put on their employees and this results in a total disconnect from jobs. Work-from-home has blurred the lines between office life and home life and some people find themselves working all the time. All legitimate points. People are going to feel how they feel and we all know the current rates of burnout, stress, anxiety, and so on are staggering.


What are the reasons behind this productivity killer?

Some view this behavior as a form of retaliation. The leadership is unable to communicate with and inspire their team. Managers put the entire burden of performance on the people working under them, never leading from the front lines. People are not given tasks that align best with their core skills and work interests.

The trend is quite common among Gen Z that wants to maintain a certain lifestyle, but on their own terms. People want to work according to their personal definitions of “working hard” and “dedication.” Loyalty is a whole other subject. How can employers expect loyalty when even long-term workers get “Dear Jane” emails in the middle of the night advising them that they’ve been let go?

Some blame Gen Z for being plain lazy and ungrateful. They are too demanding. They want to succeed without working hard. They are distracted. They spend more time on social media and less time doing the work assigned to them. They don’t want to be questioned. They don’t listen. They detest learning and adapting. These are all negative stereotypes that fuel the narrative and do NOTHING to address the ongoing challenge of low productivity in the workplace.

And here’s another important point. Boomers and Gen X started the whole “quiet quitting” game decades ago. It’s just that nobody called it that. People used the term “slackers.” Same phenomenon. Same arguments. Same outcomes.

The problem is somewhere in between. The blame game, although momentarily satisfying, does not solve the problem. Instead of pointing fingers, it is important to determine the cause of quiet quitting and then find a solution that serves all the stakeholders. Employees need to understand that if their organizations don’t survive, they won’t have jobs. On the flipside, organizations must realize that their inability to provide a stimulating environment conducive to collaboration and productivity will chase employees away along with customers, revenues, and the likelihood of remaining viable.


Is employee training the answer to improved productivity and corporate culture?

More targeted learning is needed. Guidance is required. Understanding needs to be cultivated. Empathy, instead of antagonism, is the need of the hour. It’s all about conscious leadership.

As an attitudinal concept, quiet quitting has always existed in one form or another. There is always a percentage of employees that perform the bare minimum when they come to the office. They don’t have strong career goals. They are demotivated. Their aspirations are not contiguous with those of the needs of their job. They don’t feel connected with their work. They don’t relate to the overall goals of the organization. Their managers and the leadership don’t inspire them. Many are in the wrong jobs without realizing or even if they realize, they cannot muster up enough effort to find the right job.

Such employees lived on the fringes. Now they are fast entering the realms of mainstream. 70% employees are not happy with their jobs. Alarm bells should be going off everywhere!

Successive lockdowns forced many employees to either stay at home while businesses closed or to work from home. The family became more important than the responsibilities of the job. Many moved to new locations. Many “rediscovered” themselves and found their previous work environment to be oppressive and exploitative. Ditto for their former bosses – former being the key word there as people exited stage left when they realized that they didn’t have to put up with that kind of crap from their management team.

Many believe that their current job profiles don’t make good use of their skills and abilities. Bingo! People get hired into a job title – not into the work that they are going to be doing. And that’s where HR, recruiting, and retention get it all wrong.

Quiet quitting leads to disenchantment with the job and this leads to job turnover. A Gallup study says that voluntary job turnover costs US businesses close to $1 trillion annually. Insert mind-blowing emoji!

A side hustle is also one of the major reasons behind the quiet quitting culture. Recent studies have shown that 41% employees in America are doing extra gigs to meet rapidly rising costs of living. When an employee is juggling between multiple jobs, it is natural that they find it difficult to give their full attention to a single job. Forget about going the extra mile, even meeting the bare essentials becomes a challenge because people are fragmented and not fully invested in any single thing. In such situations, even if employees don’t intend to, they unconsciously become a part of the quiet quitting culture.


You must go to the root cause of quiet quitting

We’ve covered this – quiet quitting is a symptom. It is a manifestation of a bigger problem that afflicts your organization. The problem may lie with individual employees, and it may also lie with the overall work culture, the lack of communication, or simple people skills.

First of all, you need to recognize that your business is suffering from quiet quitting. Then you need to figure out what is causing this problem.  In most cases, it is about a lack of communication and the employees not being able to synchronize their personal aspirations with their business goals. This problem can be solved with employee training, particularly emotional intelligence, social skills, soft skills,  change management, and communication in particular. Professional development is an essential key to sustained business success as the Millennials rise up through the ranks and need training – and support – to excel in their new roles as they navigate tricky workplace challenges.

Quiet quitting is not an unresolvable problem. In most cases, it is just an employee reacting to a situation they are not comfortable with. They may not talk to you because they may think that you are the source of the problem. But they may be more inclined to speak with an unbiased third party – like STEERus.  Or, consider leadership training and employee training so that everyone can boost their communication skills and interpersonal skills to better enable people to understand each other and to vocalize what it is that they want from each other.



Photo by mauro savoca: https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-of-woman-with-closed-eyes-and-finger-on-lips-5348341/

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