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Quiet quitting – tragic and unnecessary

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All of a sudden everybody is talking about "quiet quitting". Staff who choose to work no more than is absolutely necessary, doing only the bare minimum required and nothing more. It is in protest against not being promoted or acknowledged or not getting better paid, despite working around the clock, stepping up and taking responsibility.

Some people think "finally" - it's good that someone is speaking their mind. Others say "but don't you understand that it's exactly this attitude that's stopping you from being promoted?" And some people wonder "but isn't it time to change jobs if you feel like this?" But honestly - think about how much time you spend working during your lifetime. Wouldn't it be terrible if you just checked out and let the time pass by? A job should be fun, inspiring and engaging. It should certainly be challenging, but not to the point of having a breakdown.

Aftermath of the pandemic

The term quiet quitting was coined on TikTok by Generation Z, i.e. the generation born around the turn of the millennium that grew up with the Internet and social media. They are now in their 20s and 30s, and are just entering or new to the workforce. However, the quiet quitting debate has spread like wildfire through the global media.

In a way, it is no wonder that people have had this reaction after the pandemic, when there has been a great deal of anxiety at work, with many people having to take on greater responsibility and handle difficult situations where it has been impossible to say no.

The juggling act of working from home, which has now transitioned into hybrid working, has made it harder to set and maintain boundaries between work and leisure. Everyone is always on their mobile phone, no matter where they are – at home, on the underground, on the school run or on holiday. Nobody ever seems to be entirely free.

To a large extent, quiet quitting is about good leadership, something which has been truly put to the test in recent years. It certainly is not easy to lead in a scattered organisation, where some people are always working from home while others are in the office. It easily becomes sprawling, can be hard to motivate a team and easy to lose staff. Clearly, it will take time for managers to find good ways to handle these new situations.

Organisations need to keep on top of this quitting trend

For organisations it is, of course, worrying that the concept of "quiet quitting" exists. How widespread is it? What if a large percentage of my staff thinks this way? A Gallup poll estimates that half of all employees in the USA have quietly quit or are considering it. Since the focus is on quietly, nobody is shouting about it.

At its foundation, "quiet quitting" is about two things: commitment, and setting and maintaining agreed boundaries which are respected.

Let's start with commitment and immediately make one thing clear. Commitment is not the same thing as working around the clock. It is about caring about your work, your staff and your workplace, and you can only do that if you understand your place in the department, team or organisation.

Businesses with committed staff are also often very clear and transparent about what is required for different roles and positions.

Solutions driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI), such as Cornerstone's Skills Engine, allow you to map the individual knowledge and experience of all employees against different roles in the organisation. This is done entirely automatically and employees receive suggestions for different development paths in the organisation that are unique to them.

They can clearly see what is required to take them to the next level, they get suggestions for training courses to achieve their goals, and examples of others who have taken the same journey. On this basis, it is easy for staff to discuss an internal career path with their manager.

Career path and employee expectations

Committed staff are often interested in taking on greater responsibility and see themselves as part of the future of the company. Showing ambition is positive but it doesn't necessarily mean working more hours. Instead, it's about making the best use of time in the smartest possible way.

Questions such as "what do I want and how do I want to develop" gain new significance when each individual's career path can look entirely different - not forgetting to take into consideration where they are in life and their personal circumstances.

Perhaps I need to slow down for a while? This is something that could be relevant to many people with small children or health concerns. Having a clear agreement with my boss makes it easier to push back if the demands on me become overwhelming.

Setting boundaries is one of the most difficult things to do. But be honest with yourself - is it you who has trouble letting go or your boss or organisation that requires you to be available all the time? If it's your boss or organisation, talk to them. As Josh Bersin says in his post on quiet quitting. "If you're just personally fed up, either tell someone or do something about it. We as employees have much more power than you think."

There is also a lot that employers can do, but of course this is only possible if they know there is a problem.

Even if it's you that has the problem setting boundaries - talk to your boss or someone else in the organisation. Due to the current scarcity of skilled people in some areas, and the difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff, your employer is actually more invested than ever in doing everything they can to keep you in the organisation.

Jobseeker's market

It is a jobseeker's market and companies and organisations are searching high and low for the right skills. Forward-looking companies have already realised they must invest in their current employees and develop their skills for the future. Being open and clear about what you as an employee want and how you want to work, is the best possible way to approach any problems, and give yourself the best chance for a lasting career in the company. Nowadays, there are advanced technical solutions that can highlight your place in the organisation and outline a clear career path for you. There is also a general trend towards much greater opportunities for employees to drive their own skills development, which can open up a whole new world.

Instead of just searching for skilled workers in the external job market, forward-looking companies should map the skills they already have in-house and invest in developing them. This is not only more cost-effective in the short term, but also a good investment for the future. Cornerstone's research indicates that high-performing organisations invest more in skills development, and that their employees are confident they will get the training they need for the future.

Engaging your staff by giving them the skills development and career they want not only means that they will stay with your company, but also that they are likely to invest their time and energy in their work, meaning the organisation benefits in the short, medium and long term.

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