Ben, a friend of mine, has been ‘quiet quitting’ his job for the past few months. It means he does what is required in the job description and nothing more. The term originated in a TikTok video that went viral in July 2022. The video sparked a debate about work-life balance and reasonable expectations for employees.
From Burnout to Balance
Ben told me he was burnt out after the pandemic and years of going above and beyond at work. He stayed late, was always available for calls and emails, and took on extra projects.
The problem was it wasn’t getting him anywhere. While his managers were happy to pile more work on him, he wasn’t receiving any promotions or meaningful rewards.
So Ben decided to test out quiet quitting, where you only do the bare minimum required by your job description and nothing more. He now leaves right at 6pm every day, declines any extra projects, and focuses on his core tasks.
His manager seems frustrated sometimes. She tries to give him new assignments and encourages him to stay late for ‘team bonding’ events. But Ben sticks to his boundaries. She can’t complain too much if he completes his assigned work.
By the way, Ben is still collecting the same salary and benefits. By not going above and beyond, he has rediscovered his personal life. He has time for hobbies, friends, and just unwinding after work.
But from the manager’s standpoint, it’s a terrible situation. Rather than quitting the job, Ben is quitting the idea of going putting in any extra effort. Unhappy with certain aspects of the current company and role, he chose to only do the bare minimum.
Burnout Drains Engagement
By 2021, 67% of people reported feeling burnt out. It’s no wonder “quiet quitting” became popular. After years of nonstop demands, many feel, “Why should I go the extra mile for a job that keeps taking more from me?”
Companies can breathe new life into burnt-out employees by offering flexible schedules, extra paid time off, and mental health support. With some recovery time, people can re-engage fully.
Younger Workers Demand Work-Life Balance
Millennials and Gen Zers like Ben highly value work-life balance and flexibility. Ben is an engineer, and he was required to monitor Slack on nights and weekends to respond to critical errors if they show up. He started turning off off-hour work to focus on hobbies and friends instead. Unlike older generations, young staffers push back when jobs start overeating on home life.
Managers should respect balance by allowing remote work options and setting reasonable availability expectations. Showing care for people’s well-being beyond just productivity numbers is critical to retaining young talent.
Stalled Wages Undermine Motivation
While living costs rise all the time, pay bumps have stalled out in many teams, leaving people unsatisfied. Ben took on some extra duties when his company froze wages. But, after no promotion, he felt underappreciated and stopped volunteering for extra projects.
No one has an incentive to overperform when they’re not rewarded. Benchmarking compensation to market rates and tying raises to performance re-engages your team members struggling with flat wages.
Lack of Progress Drains Passion
With growth opportunities, employees can feel encouraged about their career progression. Ben, eager for management, saw no openings despite outstanding performance. Feeling stuck, his passion waned. He started doing the bare minimum.
Providing training, mentors, and promotion pathways demonstrates a commitment to staff. This gives purpose to going the extra mile. Otherwise, a lack of mobility stifles motivation.
Insensitive Management Leads to Disengagement
Ineffective or disrespectful managers spawn resentment among the team. There’s another reason Ben stopped volunteering for extra work. His long hours received only criticism from the boss, not acknowledgment.
Undervalued, we logically minimize effort. Training your managers in communication, empathy, and accountability can re-engage teams. Why go the extra mile for an insensitive boss who doesn’t care?
Don’t Expect Employees to Work Extra Hours
The expectation that employees should work extra hours, reply to emails late at night, and be available 24/7 is simply wrong. Study after study shows that overworked employees experience burnout and exhaustion, which hurts productivity and performance.
For example, research by Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer found that overwork and work-life imbalance caused 120,000 deaths per year and cost U.S. businesses $300 billion annually.
Hustle Culture Damages Employees and Employers
The “hustle culture” of glorifying nonstop work is unhealthy and counterproductive. Workers who never take time off and push themselves to the brink for their jobs make more mistakes, lack creativity, and eventually burn out.
This damages the employees and the companies they work for through high turnover, poor morale, and reduced output. Any company praising the “hustle” culture will learn the lesson the hard way when overworked team members start quitting one after another.
Top Performers Are Driven by Passion, Not Hours
The truth is that the best and most engaged workers often differ from those working extremely long hours. Top performers work hard because they care about what they do and take pride in their work, not because they are forced to work overtime.
For instance, a Gallup study found that the most engaged employees don’t necessarily work the longest; they just feel their work has purpose and meaning.
Companies Should Recognize Effort, Not Just Face Time
Engineering teams should recognize effort and passion separately from face time to get the most out of top talent. They should focus on output and results rather than hours logged. Managers can offer flexible schedules, judge performance on deliverables, not time spent, and reward taking needed breaks and vacations. This will improve morale, retention, and productivity.
A great case study is the Virgin Group, whose founder, Richard Branson, actively encourages employees to take vacation time and pursue outside hobbies and passions. He believes this makes them better workers in the long run.
Quiet Quitting is Not Laziness
The recent “quiet quitting” trend is not about being lazy. It’s about setting reasonable boundaries and not going above and beyond job requirements when those efforts are not recognized.
Managers should understand that top performers are motivated by passion, not mandates. If managers want employees to exceed expectations, they must reward those who do so. Otherwise, people lose incentive.
Originally published on Medium.com