“Quiet quitting” or “silent resignation”, this concept from the United States has infiltrated our vocabulary corporate, eager for anglicisms. What does “quiet quitting” really consist of? Is it practiced among Belgian workers and how to manage it? Insight with Ans De Vos, Professor at the Antwerp Management School (AMS).
“Quiet quitting” – or “silent resignation” – is a neologism originating in the United States. The practice is to perform one’s job to the bare minimum, without putting in extra hours or effort, instead of quitting one’s job. For some employees, it is more a matter of taking it easy in order to reduce stress and avoid burnout. The phenomenon has gone viral on social media, especially within genZ, thanks, among other things, to this TikTok video of Zaid Khan viewed more than 3 million times in a few weeks this summer.
“Quiet quitting” – or “silent resignation” – is a neologism originating in the United States. The practice is to perform one’s job to the bare minimum, without putting in extra hours or effort, instead of quitting one’s job. For some employees, it is more a matter of taking it easy in order to reduce stress and avoid burnout. The phenomenon has gone viral on social media, especially within genZ, thanks, among other things, to this TikTok video of Zaid Khan viewed more than 3 million times in a few weeks this summer. Ans De Vos: It’s a social phenomenon. Some of the workers, mainly young people, have lost the meaning of their work. They ask themselves a lot of questions about their mission. There are different interpretations. We can see “quiet quitting” as a micro societal problem. But, on a larger scale, we also observe that some employees relocate more to the heart of their function, and try to slow down the pace. They work less overtime, accept fewer tasks so as not to be overwhelmed and to preserve their sanity. The concept then takes on a more positive meaning. It’s a healthier behavior to protect yourself from burnout. The term “quiet quitting” is therefore not really appropriate if you focus on the essence of your job to protect yourself from overwork. But when you hide from your employer that you’re doing the bare minimum, it’s different. It is no coincidence that this trend is particularly noticeable among young people. Many people have not had the benefit of a traditional business start-up, and therefore have not learned what is called “normal” behavior in the office by observing their colleagues. This does not necessarily mean that the older generation of workers does not practice “quiet quitting”. It’s just less visible to them because they don’t show it openly on social media. The influence of social networks, TikTok, instagram in mind, is very great. We see in our research differences between the generations. The youngest feel much less invested in their job. They expect more understanding from their company on a private level and have more expectations of work-life balance. Yes, the pandemic has transformed the way we work. Young workers have never had a real physical connection to their workplace. They did not observe how people talk to each other and interact in the office, how much time employees spend at the coffee machine… In a way, they were not educated in business practices, because they stayed home most of the time since the start of their contract. What is a worker? They don’t have this notion, this reference. They rely more on what they see on social networks than on their colleagues. The pandemic, the digital revolution and the talent war, all these elements combined have accentuated this phenomenon. Many parameters are currently combined to create a “perfect storm” conducive to these behaviors. It is difficult to measure whether many workers practice “quiet quitting” in Belgium. It is also difficult to compare the American and Belgian labor markets in this context. They are actually very different. In Belgian companies, we do not notice a “big quit”, a big resignation. Employees and young people are much less looking for a new job, as is the case across the Atlantic and in other countries in Europe. To me, when you practice “silent resignation” in the sense of doing the bare minimum, instead of avoiding overwork, it’s the last step before resignation. If a person no longer finds meaning in their job, does not feel respected, it will be healthier for them to leave and find another job. Otherwise, she won’t be happy to stay in her job even doing the bare minimum. “Quiet quitting” is a risk for the employer, because it is not visible. Employees reduce their investment and this can be felt among co-workers. What strikes me is that the concept is discussed a lot in the media, on social networks, but not in companies. It’s a taboo subject. For an organization, it is dangerous to deny it. As an employer, on the contrary, you have to fight against the culture of silence. The employer must also know how his workers feel, what their expectations are. Leaders need to be able to look in the mirror and change how they operate if necessary. It’s a long-term trend. We must review how we organize work, what are the interactions between an employee and an employer, we must redefine the employment contract that unites the two parties. This transformation was latent, but things exploded with the pandemic following the structural introduction of telework and the new way of organizing work. Very often, people do not dare to talk about their mental health, the loss of meaning they feel about their job to their superior, because they are afraid of the negative consequences. It’s a real problem. Companies have a huge responsibility to discuss these kinds of topics with their employees. This is all the more important for young workers who have not had much contact with their superior because of the telework established since the pandemic. Dialogue is essential to find solutions and prevent employees from practicing “quiet quitting” at times. expense of the company they work for. By freeing speech and lifting the taboo, relationships and behaviors can already change for the better.