Digital media has been abuzz with #QuietQuitting for quite some time now. The term refers to performing only what's necessary at work without going the extra mile and looking beyond what is required. The topic is casting a new spotlight on the world of work for GenZ and Gen Alpha and has unfurled a whole new spectrum of debates and discussions around how we relate to our jobs. Nishith Upadhyaya (SHRM Certified Professional), Senior Director, Knowledge & Advisory Services, SHRM India, cited a study during a discussion at SHRM Indian Annual Conference 2022, "Gallup survey shows workplaces are becoming less attractive for the younger workforce and the number of disengaged workers has increased in the post-pandemic era." The days when workers held fast to the notion that "work is worship" are long gone.
Demystifying Quiet Quitting
Performing what is required without subscribing to the hustle culture mentality sounds okay, after all. Moreover, it is good to pursue interests outside of work and not tag your fulfillment with a career alone. Then what is so alarming about quiet quitting that has been giving managers uneasy toes all along?
According to human behavior experts, quiet quitting is more than just a social media hashtag. For working people, it is a way to deal with burnout. Grappling with pandemic-infused crises, losing loved ones, job insecurities, and battle against financial crisis fuelled stress, anxiety, and deteriorating work engagement among workers. This has mobilized them to seek flexible and meaningful engagements outside of work.
Ira Gupta, Head of Human Resources, Microsoft India, presented the emerging workplace trends index and its findings from a recently conducted study in India by Microsoft. She quoted the findings, "9 out of 10 employees say they would not come back to the office every day because the organization expects them to, but they would, to rebuild team bonds and socialize with office friends. Further, 90% of employees feel they would stay in organizations longer if mobility within the organization is easier and if learning and development opportunities are easier to come by." This sets the pretext for the social equity, social capital, and wealth of skills that new-age employees want to rebuild and which organizational leaders must take ownership of.
How To Combat Quiet Quitting?
People who started their career stints during the last two years have witnessed the dislocating effects of the world of work, such as remote working, gig working, and layoffs. P. Dwarakanath, Former Chairman of GSK Consumer Healthcare, said, "Earlier employers were desperate and flexible for employees to work from anywhere. Now, most people have become acclimatized to working from home environment. Some employers resorted to mailing correspondence threatening pay deductions of those refusing or showing reluctance to return to offices." Threatening to penalize has created a trust deficit, compelling employees to look elsewhere. Compared to the previous generation of workers, the new-age generation is more sensitive to any form of ill/miscommunication and places more emphasis on work-life balance, trust, empathy, and value-driven culture.
Why are more people quitting 9 to 5 jobs to launch their venture or try out non-traditional work forms such as gig work? The answer lies in the 'variety,' which seems to be the new spice of work-life. According to experts, the 'passion economy,' in which people pursue more of what they love, has ushered in a new era of side hustles. Richard Lobo, Executive Vice President of Infosys, said, "create more collaborative spaces and opportunities for people to come together and engage." Have regular career conversations with employees. To give employees the experience of variation in work, create job shuffle opportunities, and install technology-backed marketplaces to provide employees with gig opportunities.
Pay attention to the early signs of employees' lack of engagement and respond promptly. Stressing over petty things and irritable attitudes are the symptoms of workers' deteriorating mental health that need immediate attention from employees' welfare and wellness practitioners. Studies show that GenZers are most worried about their physical and financial well-being and social ties. Constant expectations to keep up with the changing technology and skills are also a cause for their burnout.
Some signs of employees' disinterest could be frequent absence from social gatherings, camera off in virtual meetings, working in silos, or not being inquisitive about their work. Lavanya Shrinagesh, VP and Global CSR and D&I Leader, Genpact India, said, "most organizations keep confined to broad strokes keeping in view the large quantum of people, while they overlook the smaller hints or details that make the difference." Most managers simply act basis what is immediately apparent. They must be observant to comprehend and respond discretely to people's subtle emotions and actions.
Dwarakanath vouched for psychic income over monetary income to remediate the issue. He suggested, "develop means, methods, and processes for acknowledging employees as a regular practice, and rest all is the hygiene factor." Proactively fulfilling the innate desire of humans to be recognized will have a miraculously positive impact on their psyche, and they will act as the organization's goodwill ambassadors.
Reimagine workplace practices in order to integrate with reality, accommodate hybrid working, customize experiences for each employee, create opportunities to learn and grow and give employees a sense of purpose. Engaging employees is a collective effort of HR and the leadership team. Importantly, all the efforts must first start with the acceptance that people's worth is not defined by their labor and that they ought to have a life beyond their careers.