Article: Beware the trend of 'quiet quitting'

Employee Engagement

Beware the trend of 'quiet quitting'

Has the concept of 'The Great Resignation' morphed into a new kind of employee disengagement?
Beware the trend of 'quiet quitting'

A new workplace trend where employees reject the idea of working for long hours is starting to become popular in Australia. 

Known as ‘quiet quitting’, the concept sees workers perform only the duties outlined in their job description and reject any responsibilities that fall outside of those. They also avoid having to work longer hours than what is necessary for their role.

The movement began as a random Internet post that became viral in China last year. It has since spread to other countries, with people flocking to Internet forums and social media to voice their support. 

In Australia, a Reddit user posted about a TikTok video on quiet quitting on a Brisbane thread, which has drawn the attention of hundreds of people. Many seem to agree with the philosophy of putting their own health and wellbeing first before their careers. 

With Covid causing massive changes in workplaces, businesses are forced to adopt new policies to stay productive. However, as the new movement suggests, workers are also starting to prioritise what they see is best for themselves.

Read more: What's hurting your team productivity?

Quiet quitting’s origin

Many attribute the start of the quiet quitting movement to an online post in April 2021. An Internet user in China criticised the country’s mindset of prioritising work over their wellbeing. This is commonly referred to as ‘tang ping’ or lying flat.

According to Chinese labour laws, workers should not work for more than 8 hours a day and more than 40 hours a week. But in reality, many businesses often require their staff to go beyond the normal work hours to maintain their high productivity. This led to the 996 work hour system, where employees work daily from 9 AM to 9 PM for 6 days a week.

The Internet post became so popular that local Chinese media outlets, including the state-run Guangming Daily,  began publishing articles to refute its claims.

Read more: Top reasons workers in Australia are quitting in 2022

“The creative contribution of our youth is indispensable to achieving the goal of high-quality development,” Wang Xingyu, an official at China University of Labor Relations, said.

“Attending to those ‘lying flat,’ and giving them the will to struggle, is a prime necessity for our country as it faces the task of transitioning development.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping also warned the public about the dangers of following the lying flat trend.

“A happy life is achieved through struggle, and common prosperity depends on hard work and wisdom,” Xi wrote in the Chinese Communist Party’s journal in October.

“It is necessary to prevent the solidification of social strata, smooth the upward flow channels, create opportunities for more people to become rich, form a development environment where everyone participates, and avoid ‘involution’ and ‘lying flat’.”

Despite the government’s opposition to the movement, many young Chinese still choose to practice the lying flat trend.

The movement in Australia

The lying flat trend eventually spread to other countries, where it became known as quiet quitting. In Australia, hundreds of Reddit users shared their experiences of how they’ve adopted the movement’s principles.

“I stepped down from a management position to a lower one with less hours to study,” user ‘Rus_s13’ wrote. “[I] went from putting in 110% to everything I did to the absolute bare minimum required to keep me happy and employed.”

“As someone who was 90% of the way to resigning from my current job, this post has given me that final 10% of refreshing clarity,” ‘bne-guy’ commented. “I'm at uni and so contracted to do part time 32 [hours] a week, but regularly do 40-45 and I'm over it.”

Another user, Axtvueiz, wrote that quiet quitting is no longer a new concept. However, they believe that it might become the next wave in workers’ mindset.

“For the last 10 years or so there has been a "hustle" mindset for workers, where they work extra hard in the belief they will be rewarded for it,” Axtvueiz commented.

“If they aren't getting rewarded, [then] they aren't working hard enough. It's really insidious if you think about it.”

The Reddit post has received 92% upvotes on the website and 381 comments so far.

Read more: Record-setting quit rates aren't just about pay

Link to employee engagement

In an interview with the BBC, University of Nottingham Associate Professor Maria Kordowicz explained how the quiet quitting’s rise in popularity could be related to a drop in job satisfaction among workers.

“Since the pandemic, people’s relationship with work has been studied in many ways, and the literature typically, across the professions, would argue that, yes, people’s way of relating to their work has changed,” Kordowicz said.

Kordowicz, who is an expert on organisational behaviour, believes the Covid pandemic has led people to find more meaning in the work that they do. Many are looking to align their personal values with their job roles.

“I think this has a link to the elements of quiet quitting that are perhaps more negative: mentally checking out from a job, being exhausted from the volume of work and lack of work-life balance that hit many of us during the pandemic,” Kordowicz pointed out.

“But I think that can lead to less satisfaction at work, lack of enthusiasm, less engagement. So we could juxtapose ‘quiet quitting’ with ‘the great resignation’. Do we stay put but switch off? Or do we move towards something?”

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Talent Management, Performance Management

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