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Employees Are 'Quiet Quitting' - What Can Employers Do?

How Employers and Employees Can Create an Engaging, Satisfying Workplace Culture
Employees Are 'Quiet Quitting' - What Can Employers Do?
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The term "quiet quitting" has become increasingly prominent in discussions surrounding workplace dynamics and employee engagement. This concept does not refer to an employee resigning. Instead, it describes a shift in the work ethic, where individuals strictly adhere to their job descriptions and meticulously avoid any tasks that fall outside their defined responsibilities.

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This trend isn't merely a workplace fad; it's a profound reflection of deeper changes in labor market attitudes and societal views on work-life balance. Quiet quitting raises critical considerations for both parties in the employment equation.

Employees, in asserting their boundaries, seek fulfillment and balance. They strive for a work life that doesn't encroach excessively on personal time. Conversely, employers are urged to reevaluate their organizational culture, engagement strategies and overall environment to better align with the evolving needs and expectations of their workforce. Achieving a harmonious balance requires open communication, acknowledgment of employee contributions and ample opportunities for professional growth.

Flexibility vs. Idealism

The widespread inclusion of "other duties as assigned" in job descriptions adds complexity to this dynamic. This clause is intended to grant employers the flexibility to respond to changing needs, but it has profound implications for employee engagement, job satisfaction and the delicate balance between organizational flexibility and employee well-being.

Research suggests that role ambiguity, which can be exacerbated by undefined "other duties," negatively affects job satisfaction and engagement. Ensuring that additional duties are reasonable, aligned with employee skills and fairly compensated is crucial to fostering a positive and productive work environment. The discrepancy between employer and employee perceptions of acceptable job performance - particularly the expectation to exceed job descriptions in order to excel in performance reviews - highlights a broader dialogue about workplace culture, motivation and the evolving labor market.

To many employers, going "above and beyond" indicates an employee's commitment and potential for leadership. But many employees believe that fulfilling their job responsibilities is sufficient for satisfactory performance. This divide is further complicated by generational differences, as each age group brings its own set of values, expectations and work ethic to the table.

How Different Generations Feel About Work

Generational changes in attitude toward the role work plays in our lives are nothing new, but younger generations are relying on their career less to define who they are, and this can create a lack of understanding among teams.

Traditionalists - Born Before 1946

While mostly retired now, traditionalists would likely perceive quiet quitting as a lack of professional dedication and commitment, reflecting their values of hard work and loyalty to an organization. They are likely to advocate for going above and beyond as a means to demonstrate work ethic and ensure job security.

Baby Boomers - Born 1946-1964

Baby boomers might view quiet quitting with skepticism, as they often equate professional success with personal effort and believe in the importance of exceeding job expectations to achieve advancement. This generation values visibility and recognition in the workplace and believes extra efforts are integral to career growth.

Generation X - Born 1965-1980

Generation X could have a more understanding stance toward quiet quitting, recognizing the importance of work-life balance and being skeptical of the unwritten expectation to always do more. They value efficiency and output over sheer hours worked, and they appreciate the need to set boundaries.

Millennials - Born 1981-1996

Millennials might be more sympathetic to quiet quitting and view it as a response to the demand for greater work-life balance and a reaction against burnout. This generation seeks meaningful work, fair compensation for their efforts, and a clear distinction between work and personal time.

Generation Z - Born 1997-2012

Generation Z is likely to resonate with the concept of quiet quitting. They prioritize mental health and well-being, and they desire flexibility and autonomy in their work. They see the value in setting boundaries and are keen to find jobs that align with their personal life and values.

It's crucial for organizations to recognize and value the diverse perspectives each generation brings to the workplace. By fostering an inclusive culture that addresses the varied expectations and values of its workforce, employers can bridge the gap between different age groups and enhance job satisfaction, performance and retention across the generational spectrum.

How to Prevent Quiet Quitting

To prevent quiet quitting and foster a positive workplace culture, both employers and employees must engage in practices that promote mutual understanding, satisfaction and growth. Here's how both parties can contribute:

For Employers

Employers who recognize the importance of communicating clearly, recognizing employees and providing growth opportunities can cultivate a work environment that meets the needs of the newer members of their workforce.

  • Foster open dialogue. Encourage a culture in which employees feel comfortable discussing their roles, expectations and concerns. Regularly review job responsibilities and performance indicators to ensure they are clear and align with organizational objectives.
  • Establish a clear performance review process. Clarify any ambiguity about employee measures of success and goals. Ensure each employee knows exactly what the expectations are and how to meet and exceed those benchmarks.
  • Acknowledge and reward. Recognize the efforts of employees, and provide constructive feedback and rewards for achievements. Implement a system that appreciates both the fulfillment of core duties and extra contributions when expectations are exceeded.
  • Support professional growth. Offer opportunities for employees to develop their skills and careers within the company, including training programs and pathways for advancement that align with their interests and the company's needs.
  • Promote flexibility and well-being. Create policies that support work-life balance - such as providing flexible working hours and paying attention to mental health - to prevent burnout and maintain employee well-being.
  • Cultivate a collaborative environment. Build a workplace culture that values teamwork, inclusion and mutual support. This allows employees to thrive and feel their contributions are valued.

For Employees

Through open dialogue, a commitment to personal growth and a concerted effort to maintain work-life balance, employees can effectively manage their responsibilities while seeking fulfillment in their careers.

  • Practice clear communication. Initiate discussions with your managers to clarify your role, understand performance expectations and express your career aspirations or concerns. Transparency is key to aligning personal goals with organizational objectives.
  • Engage actively. Provide regular feedback on your work and seek advice on improvements. Be proactive about identifying solutions to challenges; this will demonstrate your initiative and commitment to your role.
  • Pursue personal growth. Commit to your professional development by acquiring new skills or enhancing existing ones. Look for opportunities within your organization to expand your responsibilities in ways that foster your career progression and satisfaction.
  • Establish boundaries. Clearly define your work-life boundaries to maintain well-being. Be flexible when necessary, but communicate your limits to ensure a sustainable balance between professional and personal life.
  • Strengthen workplace relationships. Engage in building a network within and outside your organization. Participate in creating a supportive and positive work culture by collaborating effectively and acknowledging the efforts of your colleagues.

By adopting these strategies, employers and employees can work together to mitigate the risk of quiet quitting and create a workplace culture that encourages engagement, satisfaction and shared success.

About the Author

Brandy Harris

Brandy Harris

Director, Learning And Organizational Development,

Harris has more than 20 years of experience in education and is dedicated to evolving the cybersecurity workforce. She develops and evaluates cybersecurity programs. Harris promotes diversity and inclusion in cybersecurity by fostering collaboration between industry and academia, aiming to bridge the talent gap and drive positive change. She previously served as assistant dean and faculty member in the graduate cybersecurity program at Grand Canyon University.

Steve King

Steve King

Managing Director, Cybersecurity Marketing Advisory Services, CyberTheory

Steve King has served in senior leadership roles in technology development and deployment for the past 25 years. He is an author, lecturer and serial startup founder, including three successful exits in cybersecurity, and served for six years as the CISO for Wells Fargo Global Retail banking. As a co-founder of the CyberTheory Institute, King is passionate about the role Zero Trust must play in the future of cybersecurity defense. He is currently the managing director of CyberTheory and has held leadership roles in marketing and product development, operating as CEO, CTO and CISO for several startups, and served as CIO for Memorex and was the co-founder of the Cambridge Systems Group.

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