Friday, August 26, 2022

The "Quiet Quitting" Debate

Source: The Street

Several weeks ago, Lindsay Ellis and Angela Wang wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal on the "quiet quitting" phenomenon in the workplace.   Here's an excerpt:

Zaid Khan, a 24-year-old engineer in New York, posted a quiet quitting video that has racked up three million views in two weeks. In his viral TikTok, Mr. Khan explained the concept this way: “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,” he said. Mr. Khan says he and many of his peers reject the idea that productivity trumps all; they don’t see the payoff.

Naturally, the concept of quiet quitting has sparked a ferocious debate about work ethic, employee engagement, and organizational culture. Today, Kathryn Dill and Angela Wang wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal about the "backlash" against the quiet quitting movement. They present several people pushing back:
  • Arianna Huffington: “Quiet quitting isn’t just about quitting on a job, it’s a step toward quitting on life."
  • Kevin O'Leary: “You have to go beyond because you want to. That’s how you achieve success."
  • Amy Mosher: “It’s not about the quiet quitters. It’s about everybody else and the unfairness that occurs there."
For me, the discussion certainly creates a fair amount of concern.  I do worry about work ethic among a segment of the workforce.  I'm someone who loves my work and has always tried to go above and beyond for my students and my institution.  I would have a very hard time even contemplating quiet quitting.  However, I do understand why some employees have disengaged.  Moreover, I think the quiet quitting phenomenon should cause business leaders to seriously rethink four key issues.  They have to address these organizational weaknesses if they want to prevent people from disengaging in this manner:
  1.  Why are people disengaged? Is it really because they are overworked and trying to dial back their workload, or is it because you have not provided them meaningful, purposeful work and some voice in the organization?  Would they work much harder if they were passionate about a project or believed that their work could have a substantial impact on customers and other constituents of the organization?  The job here is to rethink the roles people have and the way that work gets done.  
  2. How are we measuring performance and providing feedback?  Is it possible for someone to coast unnoticed?  If so, that's deeply problematic.  Managers need to have a firm grasp on the way that work gets done, as well as how the workload is shared (equally or unequally) among their team members.  Providing feedback often is critical, but so is listening to hear people's concerns about their role and the organization's processes and systems.  
  3. Are we investing appropriately in developing our people?  How can we improve their skills and capabilities?  Workers will invest in their organizations if the leaders demonstrate a willingness to invest in them.  Yes, you might invest in their training and development and then they might leave.  The investment is worth the risk.   They will disengage or perhaps leave anyway if they are not growing and developing on the job.  
  4. Have our highest performers developed a perception of unfairness about how the workload is shared?   Perceptions of fairness have a substantial impact on organizational commitment and buy-in.  You will lose your best people if they think others are not carrying their fair share of the workload.  

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