Jonathan finally got an epiphany after attending two days of leadership development focused on resilience and wellbeing. His “revelation” is something his closest friends and his now former wife probably could have told him a long time ago. And that’s the fact that his dedication to his work (more like the all-consuming nature of his work) has been costing him the most vital relationships in his life.
Unfortunately, these critical components to a person’s quality of life have become the casualties of corporate cultures. But just like with Jonathan, the “that’s-just-how-it-is” acceptance of it is the burden of high achievers. But it shouldn’t have to be that way.
Quiet Quitting is rising as the seemingly silent, yet outspoken protest against this unsustainable approach to work and life. This is a bit different from an individual “checking out” due to frustration or overwhelm or because they have one foot out of the door anyway. Instead, Quiet Quitting is more of a collective movement where people are not succumbing to their circumstances but rather CHOOSING themselves over the company in an effort to protect their most precious priorities: their key relationships and their own mental health.
Essentially, employees are declaring that enough is enough. The pandemic has opened their eyes to how fleeting and fragile life can be, and many are even wondering why they have given away so much of themselves to their jobs for so long.
Here’s the thing…what is happening in response with Quiet Quitting is not quitting at all. Instead, it’s a new beginning, with people deliberately deciding (or revolting depending on who you ask) on how much or how little to give an organization that doesn’t seem to be giving back to them.
How should leaders be responding to this if they notice it within their organizations? A substantial difference maker would be to take Quiet Quitting as a cue for a culture reset, starting with these 3 pivotal areas:
Having a sense of belonging goes beyond simply being a part of something. It’s about helping employees feel valued and appreciated. A lack of belonging within an organization’s culture can lead people to feel isolated (remote workers may be particularly vulnerable to this) and to feel disconnected from their work and from the company altogether. Disconnection breeds disengagement, which can infect team morale, and ultimately impacts retention, too.
Leaders can build or repair bridges to belonging by advocating and esteeming diversity of thought, elevating listening for understanding, and empowering employees to advocate for themselves and others. Group yoga, retreats, and mindfulness apps are not what connects people. And those who are thoughtfully choosing Quiet Quitting will easily be able to detect insincere tick the box activities disguised as caring.
A workplace culture of inclusion grants psychological safety for people to bring their full selves to work, reassured that their distinctive voices and lived experiences are heard and affirmed. Creating an inclusive culture starts with leaders setting the tone and holding themselves and others uncompromisingly accountable for behaving in ways that honor diversity and respect intersectionality (how social identities interact with systems of power that oppress some and benefit others).
It takes a concerted effort to foster a climate where everyone feels included. Future focused leaders should consider DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) coaching to help give them a practical understanding of how they can make a real difference with embedding the principles of DEI into company culture so that they can address the unique needs of systematically excluded and under-represented talent.
It shouldn’t have had to come to this, but something more was needed to shine a light on the real impact on health and wellbeing that so many employees have been enduring because of underappreciation and overload. That was part of the epiphany for Jonathan when he reached the end of that two-day resilience and wellbeing workshop. He relates his new understanding to seeing himself as the frog in the pot of water analogy. Years of enduring an unhealthy, unsustainable work-life experience has been a slow boil over time, killing any chances of a fulfilling quality of life. And unfortunately, killing his marriage because of his inability to manage his workload and stress.
Employee wellbeing goes beyond individual responsibility. Organizations must meet their people halfway, providing resources AND flexibility to help them in building resilience and self-efficacy. This is critical. Because employees are rightfully refusing to keep sacrificing their health and wellbeing, relationships, and dignity for the sole benefit of their employer.
The unreasonable workloads and expectations. The drive for more every year with little to no support or sponsorship. The disregard for mental wellness. The focus on seeing people for what they produce vs seeing them for who they are. It would have been ideal if corporations had recognized this on their own, before Quiet Quitting set in. But that didn’t happen. Because of that, employees have taken it upon themselves to make the change – through their productivity – or lack thereof.
Now is the time for organizations to take moral responsibility for things getting to this point. Because if left unchecked, a company’s fractured workplace culture will continue to inspire the emotional resignation of its employees, which is The Great Resignation on another level. Don’t waste this opportunity that Quiet Quitting is giving you to reset your culture and re-engage your employees. It may be the best gift you get all year.