Is ‘quiet quitting’ working-to-rule by another name?

“QUIET QUITTING” is the latest workplace buzzword — and a possible explanation for under-performing companies.

It’s not a new concept. Trade union members will recognise the phrase “work-to-rule” — do your job to the letter of your stated contract, and no more.

That was usually part of co-ordinated industrial action; quiet quitting is more of an individual disengagement. It comes on the heels of the “great resignation” that followed the pandemic. Enforced changes to the working day gave employees time to reflect on what was important in their lives. Many found themselves unsatisfied. Today’s employees want a purposeful life.

Office worker with feet on desk - Quiet quitting
Image by DCStudio on Freepik

Quiet quitting can affect a company’s productivity — and reputation. Employees are still working and still fulfilling their contracts, just without much passion or energy.

Employees and company culture are assets. Taking care of them means building a sense of purpose, which ultimately relates to giving employees dignity through their work. Companies need to focus on two of its psychological building blocks: motivation and commitment. That doesn’t mean working longer hours, staying late, or being on call 24/7.

Beware of false claims; some lofty mission statements don’t match up to the reality. Employees will see through them. But not everyone can work for a “meaningful” brand. Explaining to employees how the goods and services that are produced are relevant to improve lives, even if only in an incremental way, is important.

Employees need a sense of cohesion within teams and between teams. Companies must appreciate the importance of psychological safety. Employees will be wondering if they can freely express a point of view, or disagree with colleagues. Reassurance is key.

A “safeguards approach” — one that helps companies foster the psychological building blocks of purpose —can help. It will take effort, care, and empathy — but the ROI will be worth it.