Can a single TikTok cause concern to the labour market? That’s what happened in July when Zaid Khan shared his thoughts on work in a 17-second video. In the clip, Khan introduced the term quiet quitting to a broader (and predominantly younger) audience as continuing to perform your duties but not treating a job like your whole life.

In the aftermath, the term went viral and brought the debate on work-life balance to social media – with force. Within a week, 2.6 million people watched the video in question. As of September, #QuietQuitting racked up over 17 million views on the platform.

Considering the number of people who picked up the topic – both regular Joes and experts – a question must be posed. Is quiet quitting just a trend, or is it a long-time coming result of the hustle culture?

A Passive Way of Getting Fired or an Active Call for a Change?

Jumping on the trend train, Joshua Fluke, a YouTuber known for work-related content, posted his commentary reaction to a video talking about quiet quitting. The video in question raised a point that quiet quitting comes with a critical risk — that of losing your job.

But that’s where the real conundrum takes the spotlight. Is quiet quitting about passively trying to get fired? In the grand scheme of things, that assumption would be missing the point entirely.

William Kahn, dubbed “the father of employee engagement”, was asked by Forbes to share his insights on the situation. His opinion points the reasons for quiet quitting in a different direction.

“If we’re ‘quiet quitting’, it isn’t so quiet if we’re posting it on TikTok. I see it not unlike a different version of workers taking back their own sense of autonomy and control over their work lives”.

The hustle culture is no more – particularly for younger generations.

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Nowadays, people value other aspects of work than the salary – mental health, career development, or time for life outside of work.

For many, going the extra mile, even for a larger paycheque, isn’t justified if it causes them to miss out on life and leads to burnout.

Quiet Burnout

Max (named changed) worked for a big IT corporation for over a year. During that time, he sacrificed free time to upgrade skills and competencies for a promise of promotion once his employee scores reached a certain level.

After a while, he reached the magical number. But instead of getting recognised, he was told that now he needed additional points to get promoted. Burned out and disgruntled, he slowly became increasingly disengaged and eventually left the company a few months later for a better opportunity.

Employees are human – with goals and limits. In many cases, striving for better career opportunities and putting in extra work can risk having a negative impact if it doesn’t lead to any sort of progress.

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As mentioned by Joshua Fluke in the video, “People aren’t quitting the idea of going above and beyond itself. People are quitting the idea of going above and beyond for no more reward”.

Quiet quitting could simply be a long-time coming result of quiet burnout. Giving the best version of yourself for little to no return.

The most recent Gallup report seems to support the claim. In the survey, only 21% of the global workforce felt engaged at work. Even worse, 44% of the surveyed reported experiencing high-stress levels at work.

Perhaps that’s why ‘the trend’ became so popular – it hit home to many out there. People realised they’re not the only ones feeling like they sacrifice their well-being and personal lives. Sometimes in vain.

Steps Organisations Can Take to Avoid Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting may disappear as suddenly as it appeared. But it may also stay here and influence more employees to take their well-being into their own hands. Regardless of the outcome, it complicates life for companies.

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Now, not only do they need to struggle with attracting candidates, looking for innovative ways of identifying valuable talent and keeping the existing ones. They also need to wonder: are any of my workers trying to exit the door quietly?

To avoid this happening within your organisation, employers need to take swift action.

  1. Ensure recognition is not an empty slogan. Make sure to regularly reward team members for a job well-done – and not only monetarily
  2. Introduce anonymous employee satisfaction surveys to identify potential issues early on
  3. Implement exit interviews or exit employee surveys to better understand the reasons for leaving your company
  4. Allow flexible work schedules and mental health days to mitigate burnout

Will that be enough? Perhaps not, but it’s a good start considering what’s at stake. Mark Royal, senior director for Korn Ferry Advisory, says: “Organisations are dependent on employees doing more than a minimum” – and he’s far from wrong.

If you’d like to benefit from an engaged and productive workforce going the extra mile for your vision, you need to offer something more than the minimum yourself.

A Message Not to Be Ignored

Quiet quitting is quiet for a reason. Workers are not walking out the door with a bang because they don’t necessarily want to walk out. It’s more about sending a message that a change needs to happen.

The takeaway point employers should note is to have eyes and ears open to potential causes of dissatisfaction among their teams. The first step? Ask your own employees for feedback so that you can plan measures specifically for your organisation.

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