When employees mentally check out, changes are needed
Working late nights, on weekends, replying to emails at odd hours, and answering calls during vacation is part of hustle culture — a culture that connects people’s identity to their work, worth to money in their bank account, and importance to the number of hours they work or how busy they are.
While most people mindlessly join this rat race, a few dare to question. They realize that a life well lived is not based on others’ definition of success; it’s based on their own hopes and dreams, their own values and principles.
This quiet awakening is a mindset that safeguards employees from placing excessive focus on one’s work, ignoring personal time because their career comes first, or becoming so dedicated to their jobs that friends, family, and their own health turn into an afterthought.
“A reckoning with burnout is so often the reckoning with the fact that the things you fill your day with — the things you fill your life with — feel unrecognizable from the sort of life you want to live, and the sort of meaning you want to make of it.
That’s why the burnout condition is more than just addiction to work. It’s an alienation from the self, and from desire. If you subtract your ability to work, who are you? Is there a self left to excavate? Do you know what you like and don’t like when there’s no one there to watch, and no exhaustion to force you to choose the path of least resistance?
Do you know how to move without always moving forward? — Anne Helen Petersen
Quiet awakening can sometimes shape into quiet quitting, a philosophy from a lifestyle and social protest movement in China called ‘Tang Ping’ (lying flat), which started in April 2021. It’s a rejection of societal pressures to overwork at the cost of one’s mental health and personal well-being. Make no mistake. Lying flat does not promote social isolation. It simply means lowering one’s ambitions and simplifying goals to prioritize psychological health over materialism.
The quiet quitting that gained popularity in mid-2022 is also not the same as ‘The Great Resignation,’ which emerged in early 2021 when many employees voluntarily quit their jobs in search of better opportunities. Employees who are joining the quiet quitting revolution don’t quit their jobs. They just do what’s required at work without going above and beyond.
“You’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re no longer subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that work has to be your life. [Me and many of my peers] reject the idea that productivity trumps all; [we] don’t see the payoff.” — Zaid Khan whose TikTok video on Quiet Quitting went viral with 3 million views in just two weeks
When people start putting work above everything else and the line between personal lives and career blur, quiet quitting can give a temporary respite to bring back some balance into their life. It can help them see that work is not life; it’s only a small part. Here’s what quiet quitting can offer:
- No longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality.
- Not burdened with fulfilling unwritten expectations.
- Not feeling pressured to work even when you’re sick.
- Setting boundaries and not taking on additional work.
- Enjoying family time, vacations, and holidays.
- Able to take care of your personal life, not just work.
When quiet quitting is employed to take control of your work and personal life, it can be very empowering.
However, quiet quitting by actively disengaging from the job and doing only what’s required is a preventive measure to avoid the deadly effects of burnout — it’s not a long-term solution. Quiet quitting doesn’t solve the reality of one’s situation; it only delays it.
I don’t see quiet quitting as a cure for burnout or discontentment. Whatever is causing you frustration at work, whatever isn’t meeting your needs, or whatever is the reason for making this choice, disengaging and doing the bare minimum to meet the requirements of the role isn’t going to fix it. Rather, not being mentally and emotionally invested in work comes at a cost:
- Not utilizing your full potential can cause dissatisfaction which can soon become a feeling of hopelessness.
- Lack of motivation can lead to a fall in job satisfaction, morale, enthusiasm, and engagement.
- Research shows that not feeling a sense of belonging can also lead to burnout.
- You’ll be less likely to be considered for promotion, pay rise, and other opportunities.
- Others can sense when you’re mentally checked out, and it can lead to backlash from coworkers.
“Effort is one of the things that gives meaning to life. Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you and you are willing to work for it. It would be an impoverished existence if you were not willing to value things and commit yourself to working toward them.” — Daniel Pink
You don’t have to choose — you can have the best of both worlds by maintaining healthy boundaries and remaining emotionally invested at work.
If you are in a phase where too much work is creeping up on you or the demands of the work are making you reconsider your choices, don’t jump to quiet quitting and be part of the trend. Instead, ask yourself a few pertinent questions:
- What about your job is making you consider quitting quietly?
- What options did you consider other than quitting quietly?
- Have you tried defining boundaries and setting expectations with others?
- Have you spoken to your manager about your concerns? What did they have to say about making changes that will give you a healthy balance of work and life or whatever it is that’s troubling you about work?
- Do you really want to be in this job or company? Why quit quietly and not simply quit the job?
Actively push for the changes you desire instead of simply disengaging from your role. If things continue to stay awful, maybe it’s time to find a new job — don’t be lazy and do so. Quiet quitting could be a good option once you decide to actually quit and start looking for another job. It can give you the space needed to find the next perfect role while continuing to fulfill your current responsibilities.
“There is a difference between giving up and strategic disengagement. Know the difference.” — Bryant McGill
If you’re a manager or a leader, employees quiet quitting on you can lead to a disengaged workforce with a severe impact on the organization’s performance and growth.
To keep your employees engaged at work and reduce the risk of employees quietly quitting on you, do this:
- Align on a common definition of success and give them the context and clarity needed to prioritize, make decisions and achieve their goals.
- Encourage them to sign off from work at a reasonable time.
- Don’t expect them to respond to emails and chats at odd hours.
- Treat their off time with respect.
- Make them feel valued and appreciated for their work. They want to be recognized and seen.
- Empower them to say no to projects that aren’t aligned with their goals.
- Give them continuous feedback to have a sense of progress. Silence from a manager can bring restlessness, anxiety, and stress.
- Align on sensible timelines instead of creating pressure and stress with unrealistic deadlines.
- Limit time spent in meetings so that they get ample time to fulfill other responsibilities without having to overwork.
- Ask for candid feedback and demonstrate that you value their input by taking the necessary steps towards improving work culture.
- Don’t apply a one-size-fits-all solution. Optimize for individual preferences and goals.
Finally, none of this can work if you don’t set a good example for others. When your employees see you attending to your own well-being, they’re inspired to create healthy boundaries for themselves and adopt some of these practices in their life too.
Employees will not find reasons to be disengaged when they feel heard, appreciated, and seen without sacrificing their mental health and personal well-being.
- Quiet quitting is a mindset that prevents employees from giving their best. They only fulfill their work responsibilities and stop at that.
- Disengaging from work can create a healthy balance between work and life but mentally checking out this way isn’t without negative side effects.
- Quiet quitting lowers job satisfaction which decreases your motivation to get work done. It impacts your productivity and performance.
- Your manager and others around you can sense this shift. You are less likely to get growth and learning opportunities.
- Instead of quiet quitting, bring forward your concerns, set healthy boundaries, and try to fix whatever is bothering you about work. Finally, if nothing works, quitting (not quiet quitting) might be a better option.
- Don’t ignore the trend if you are a leader or a manager. Work with your employees closely and make the necessary changes to prevent them from quietly quitting on you.