MT Quiet quitting

Why quiet quitting is a sign you need a new job

When Liz Truss said British workers needed ‘more graft’, she hit a raw nerve. That’s because people are working. And hard. For the last few years, we’ve worked through the global COVID-19 pandemic, new working patterns, and a rising cost of living.

What is happening is that tired, overworked, burnt-out professionals have taken stock of their jobs, work-life balance and their employers. Some opted early on to change roles and became part of the so-called Great Resignation.

The term “great resignation” was coined in 2021 by Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at University College London when he predicted an exodus of American workers from their jobs, prompted by burnout and the freedom of working from home. The Labour Force Survey in November 2021 showed that, of the 1.02 million workers who moved jobs between July and September 2021, 391,000 of them had resigned – the highest number recorded. 

Gallup’s global workplace report for 2022 revealed that 9% of workers in the UK were engaged or enthusiastic about their work, ranking 33rd out of 38 European countries. A "Work Happiness Score" survey by Indeed found that only a third of UK workers are happy in their jobs, which leaves plenty of unhappy employees

Many workers have resigned, but others have become quiet quitters. ‘Quiet quitting’ is the newly coined term for when employees only do the job that they’re being paid to do, without taking on any extra duties, working extra hours (or minutes), or participating in extracurriculars at work. Stateside, ‘Quiet quitters’ make up at least 50% of the US workforce, Gallup findings reveal.

The drop in engagement began in the second half of 2021 and was concurrent with the rise in resignations. The decline was related to the lack of clarity of expectations, minimal opportunities for training and development, feeling undervalued, and a missing connection to the organisation's mission or purpose - signalling a disconnect between employees and their employers.

Is quiet quitting the answer?

Quiet quitting is an alternative to quitting. If your quiet quitting is in response to feeling undervalued, overworked, not having a life-work balance or feeling there is no room for career development, quiet quitting might be the sign you need for a new job.

What does quiet quitting look like?

It might be saying no to projects that aren’t part of your job description or you don’t want to do, leaving work on time, or refusing to answer emails outside of your working hours. You might not have even made the decision to quietly quit. It could be a simple mindset shift that’s not noticeable to your colleagues but enables you to feel less mentally and emotionally invested in your job. The notion of setting boundaries at work to better enjoy life might sound sensible and logical – but experts advise proceeding with caution.

Why quiet quitting is damaging your career

There are risks attached to taking this approach to your career.

  • Your progression within that company will become limited – especially if your colleagues are going above and beyond to exceed employer expectations
  • You also run the risk of having little to show to your next employer when interviewing for your next role.
  • Sooner or later, your colleagues or line manager will start to take note. Achieving a promotion, pay rise or bonus is near impossible if KPIs aren’t met.
  • If there’s part of you that’s desperate for a promotion, quiet quitting will feel good at first, then awful when you’re passed over in favour of a colleague.
  • No one wants negative feedback during an appraisal or being chased by managers or colleagues for missed deadlines, overdue projects, or not responding to emails.

Can it be fixed?

Could whatever is causing your disengagement be fixed by expressing your concerns to your line manager? Whether your work-life balance isn’t right, the remuneration isn’t meeting your needs, or there’s no support to progress, have a conversation with your manager before deciding to disengage from your role. Are there specific aspects of your job that you’d like to tweak? Actively pushing for these changes could make you feel more engaged.

Quit while you’re ahead

It’s worth considering whether, rather than quietly quitting, you’d be better off quitting. Quietly quitting is often a sign that it’s time to move on from your role. If you’re reducing your effort to the bare minimum needed to complete your work, your heart is no longer in the role or the organisation.

Are you having issues with your job, or the idea of work as a whole? If it’s the former, it’s time to consider a change of jobs – there will be something that you enjoy.

Quietly quitting while job hunting

If you’re actively looking for other jobs, you may be fully engaged in the quiet quitting process. There are many things you can do when job hunting to ensure your manager and colleagues don't find out. Searching for a new job while still in your current role has many advantages. You can be more relaxed about your finances, and you can take the time to find the job you want the most.

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