Quiet Quitting: Not a Problem, But a Project

Written by:

Kit Malvar Llamas, Conscious Alchemy

Quiet Quitting: Not a Problem, But a Project

If you’ve been on the Internet for a while now, you’ve probably come across the term “hustle culture.” Essentially, hustle culture promotes a mindset in which productivity, especially during weekends or after-work hours, is worn as a badge of honor.

Recently, however, a new phenomenon seems to be taking center stage in the conversation surrounding productivity in the workplace. Introduced to millions by engineer Zaid Khan on TikTok, “quiet quitting” calls employees to “quit the idea of going above and beyond.” It bids goodbye to replying to work emails past 6 P.M., saying “yes” to tasks outside of your job description, or agreeing to take on extra shifts. 

For some, it’s a way to enforce boundaries between work and other facets of their lives. For others, it’s a result of feelings of demotivation. In short, regardless of the reasons behind it, quiet quitting is the subversion of hustle culture.

But with work taking up a huge portion of our limited time on Earth, co-creating an environment that addresses any concerns in the workplace is still essential to our well-being. 

What do employers get wrong about quiet quitting? 

Though “quiet quitting” is a relatively new term, this pre-existing issue of disengagement has only been magnified and catalyzed by the pandemic. 

A 2022 study conducted by MindNation, a mental health and well-being company, revealed that 53% of Filipino employees aged 25 to 55 feel stressed, worried, and anxious due to a variety of reasons, from the COVID-19 pandemic to work performance pressures to personal issues. Among the 6,000 employees surveyed between September 2020 to April 2021, 61% claimed to be stressed, 53% worried or anxious, 34% depressed, and 32% feeling empty. 

A glance at these numbers suggests that quiet quitting in the Philippines is not always an employee’s attempt to strike a healthy work-life balance. More importantly, as opposed to a sign of laziness or complacency, this gradual detachment from work may actually be a symptom of unvoiced mental health concerns, and lack of a support system or an environment of psychological safety in the workplace.  

Thus, the trending term can be seen as an opportunity. Instead of employers dismissing it as just another clash between the different generations’ perceptions on work, the phenomenon of quiet quitting can serve as an entry point into a deeper understanding of the changing workforce landscape, through mindful conversations about employer-employee dynamics, effective leadership, and what version of the “new normal” would most benefit both sides of the equation. 

How can “quiet quitting” be addressed in the workplace?

On the side of employees 

At first glance, “quiet quitting” may seem like an issue in and of itself, pitting employers and their employees against each other, with employees benefiting and leaders on the losing end. But placing this phenomenon under a microscope may reveal a diagnosis of a deeper problem, of which the failure to acknowledge may only aggravate in the long run. 

In some cases, quiet quitting is an attempt to have a healthy form of boundary-setting. It is a way to recognize that our lives go beyond our work; that other priorities, such as our hobbies or loved ones, deserve our time and attention too. For other people, quiet quitting is a result of feeling hopeless or stuck in their job. 

But whether this detachment is rooted in well-being or indifference, the issue remains that there is zero communication taking place between employees and their employers. That employees are taking it upon themselves to place these boundaries and simply expecting others to respect it without the necessary prior discussion. 

“Quietly” setting these boundaries may initially seem like putting ourselves first. But unlike employees who “actively” leave their jobs, quiet quitting provides no real sense of relief, as the shifts in work dynamics and behavior are one-sided and thus unsupported. Whether employees are aware of it or not, being “quiet” about an important concern exacerbates the problem it intended to solve in the first place, as unexpressed emotions will always come out and, often, in even uglier ways, posing repercussions to the employees’ own physical, mental, emotional, and social health.

To effectively address quiet quitting, employees must be able to safely communicate important matters such as the value placed in their career or any concern that hinders motivation. 

On the side of leaders and managers

Quiet quitting is not always and one hundred percent a sign of poor management. However, it is important to note that employers carry the bigger responsibility when it comes to addressing quiet quitting in the workplace, with Gallup revealing that for 70% of the time, employees leave their job because of their managers. 

The crucial distinction to make, then, is that quiet quitters are not a lost cause. Using Gallup’s 2022 study as a starting point, which found that the drop in employee engagement is “especially related to clarity of expectations, opportunities to learn and grow, feeling cared about, and a connection to the organizations’ mission or purpose,” employers can initiate conversations that address the aforementioned areas of concern. Additionally, the analytics company finds that the best practice is to conduct weekly 15-30 minute conversations per team member. 

According to Forbes (2022), these are the top 4 questions for leaders and their employees to discuss:  

  1. Is that true?

Every job comes with its own set of challenges, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of overgeneralizing how we really are because of one particularly bad day at work. Given a leader’s unique position to know employees as individuals, from problems at home to anxieties about the future, it’s important that they approach any topic with a sense of curiosity. As the popular Scott Fitzgerald saying goes, “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” Thus, as mentors, employers must be willing to help their employees sift through concerns to separate the temporary from the more permanent. 

  1. What else could this mean?

According to Daniel Pink, author of “The Power of Regret,” autonomy leads to engagement. When working through an employee’s concerns, Forbes recommends creating the space for internal insights, as these breed true and lasting change more than external commands. Instead of spewing solutions, employers can simply help their employees find new interpretations of their circumstances to cultivate a desired, more beneficial attitude. 

  1. What needs to be done?

In the hands of the authentic leaders, the problem of quiet quitting can be turned into a collaborative project. Once the root causes have been identified, the next step is to come up with a course of action that both parties agree on – whether it’s offering mental health resources, workshops and coaching, conversations on workload and boundaries, or finding other areas of support. What is critical is that these efforts are initiated and embodied by the leaders first.  

  1. How can I help you?

Brave, Compassionate and Empathetic leaders recognize their role in creating a safe space that will allow their employees to thrive and foster self-engagement. From effectively communicating the organization’s mission-vision to reinforce a sense of purpose, to promoting a culture that prioritizes wellness and belongingness, let your employees tell you what it is that they need from you. 

Whether it’s the “fault” of the employee or the employer, whether it’s a healthy boundary or a sign of indifference, quiet quitting is a form of taking control in the absence of the needed conversations. 

The opposite of control is connection. And as with other forms of connections, mutual accountability is required for both sides to not only be able to safely set and respect boundaries, but also lean into difficult conversations. 

How Conscious Alchemy can help address quiet quitting 

Conscious Alchemy is a team of certified facilitators, coaches, and practitioners  of globally renowned programs such as Franklin Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Leader in Me” programs; Gallup’s Clifton Strengths, Strengths Strategy, and People Acuity; Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s “Conscious Parenting Method”; Dr. Gabor Mate’s “Compassionate Inquiry"; The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine’s “Advanced Master’s Program on the Treatment of Trauma"; and The Somatic School’s “Body Oriented Coaching”. Through an alchemy of these programs and with their 23 years of experience working with leaders, teams, families, and youth from all different stages and ages, we help individuals build a better version of themselves to conquer whatever life challenges they’re in. 

We offer programs grounded on the See to Grow (SOW) Transcend Ecosystem framework, including C+ExplorE programs for leaders in Workspaces, Conscious Parenting Ph for leaders at Home (parents), C+EdgE for transition leaders in training; and Camp Explore for our children as future leaders (youth).  

Through the wealth and depth of our experience working with these different generations and in different contexts, we have alchemized programs that effectively respond to the root causes of “quiet quitting,” such as:  

  • Strengths-Based Self-Leadership program for Leaders and Employees/Teams
  • Conscious Leadership program: Emotional Management & Vulnerable Conversations
  • Conflict Management: From Conflict Resolution to Conflict Transformation
  • Well-Being, Mindfulness, and Stress Management programs
  • Coaching & Mentoring program

We believe that quiet quitting can be effectively addressed through coaching and embodied practice. By empowering leaders and employees to become co-creators of their workplace culture, we help them mutually tackle quiet quitting not as a problem meant to be eradicated but as an interdependent project to be mindfully worked on together. 

References:

Harter, J. (2022). Is Quiet Quitting Real? Gallup. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/398306/quiet-quitting-real.aspx  

Jaymalin, M. (2022). More Than Half of Pinoy Workers Suffer Mental Issues. OneNetwork. https://www.onenews.ph/articles/more-than-half-of-pinoy-workers-suffer-mental-issues 

Rosalsky, G. and Selyukh, A. (2022). The economics behind ‘quiet quitting’ – and what we should call it instead. https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2022/09/13/1122059402/the-economics-behind-quiet-quitting-and-what-we-should-call-it-instead 

Teschner, D. (2022). The quiet-quitting reality. https://www.nhbr.com/the-quiet-quitting-reality/ 

Westfall, C. (2022). Conquering Quiet Quitting: The 4 Questions You Have to Ask Disengaged Employees Before It’s Too Late. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/chriswestfall/2022/10/12/conquering-quiet-quitting-the-4-questions-you-have-to-ask-disengaged-employees-before-its-too-late/?sh=343d39b38cf7 

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