New Form of Setting Boundaries in the Workplace
The newest trend floating around on social media is called “Quiet Quitting.” In this post, we’ll both explain what this trend means and dig into it from both the employee and leadership viewpoints. It’s important to set healthy limits in order to do your best work, but it’s a two-way street in how those limits are handled.
Quiet quitting is a new wave of employees setting personal boundaries at work by sticking to the specific tasks written in their job description. Rather than leaving their position, people instead are no longer doing the “extracurricular” asks. In doing so, they are prioritizing their time outside of work in order to move toward a healthy work-life balance. People during lockdown really took notice of the amount of work they were doing in a trade-off for their hobbies and family time.
So in response, they are setting clear boundaries by quitting their above and beyond efforts. Staff personnel jumping on this trend are subtly sending a message to leadership. That’s not to say the administration can’t have a rebuttal reaction.
Quietly Quitting May Have a Short-Term Personal Benefit, It May Also Devalue Your Work.
While setting work boundaries breeds positives, it can also have some unintended consequences.
Quiet Quitting Can Be Worthwhile If You Remain Valuable to Your Company.
Team members participating in this trend may find it worthwhile if they’re seeing signs of burnout. I know personally that the lockdown and returning to the office only intensified my feelings of burnout. As a former teacher, the pandemic’s lockdown broadened my ability to set boundaries and truly cut off from work when my hours were met. If this sounds familiar to you, before taking drastic measures such as quiet quitting, think about taking mental health days or utilizing a remote work day.
Another way to instill boundaries at work is by utilizing your lunch break as just that. A break. I have a bad habit of using my lunch as a working lunch. So sure, I’m productive and getting things done, but my brain is working overtime and on hyperdrive. Set mental boundaries by keeping your lunch free of meetings and job responsibilities as much as you can.
Burnout in companies is a real and detrimental effect of pushing and overworking. Retention rates and team morale will lower if too many staff feel undervalued and overworked.
The Detriment It Can Cause to Your Position.
While all of these ideas and measures are helpful to broaden your own mental health, it doesn’t take into account the effects they can have on your job and teammates. Boundary setting at work is both necessary and great for your mental health, but there are some unintended consequences, too.
Your work boundaries while quiet quitting impact coworkers whether you intend to or not. Setting your own boundaries can create the perception that you’re not a team player. It can also invade personal lives by giving extra work to coworkers. When you set healthy boundaries for yourself, it forces a change in your team and their own boundaries at work.
Think about it this way, if I were a barista and decided to set boundaries by not pushing myself, then my manager will take note. That note will cause a domino. The first to fall would be a drop in numbers during your shift. Next, it pushes more work on shift staff when the manager sends someone home. And finally, it could mean fewer future shifts and less income flow. Your coworkers will notice and, in turn, could form the same habits you are. Work will no longer run smoothly.
Similarly, in a corporate setting, employees who enforce better boundaries may have better mental health. However, those same boundaries can give people the idea of a poor work ethic and lack of ambition. Positions can open up, whether it’s your own or above. You may be overlooked for a new role without even knowing it. Your salary is generally tied to the amount of effort you put into your work and projects. Minimal effort and work, minimal salary or raise.
What Happens If Inflation Increases and You Need a raise?
The biggest unintended consequence of participating in this activity is that it limits your financial growth. Currently, the inflation rate in the US is right at 8% per year. That means that if you don’t get an 8% pay raise this year, you will be making less money now than you did this time last year.
In good times, good companies tend to reward their team members. It is good business. However, in bad times, everyone has to tighten their belts. According to a recent Forbes article, 51% of executives are implementing job cuts and layoffs right now.
Put yourself into their shoes. If you have to fire an employee, does it make more sense to fire the most-productive team members? Or does a team member who is just doing the bare minimum a better choice?
One of my team members recently asked me for a raise in her salary. She has to drive over 30 miles to get to the office each day. With the price of gas still over $3.50 per gallon, even a small raise would go a long way.
Unfortunately, I had to tell her that I couldn’t give her this raise in pay. Our normal office hours are from 8 AM to 5 PM each day. A typical work day for her is to arrive at about 8:50 AM, and I’ve never seen her in the office past 4 PM. At lunch, she shuts her office door for the full lunch hour. And when her coworkers need help, she is always busy doing something more important.
As the leader, if I reward this behavior, I’d be shooting myself in the foot. My point is that quiet quitting may be trendy on Tik Tok, but sooner or later, you are going to need something from your company. You may need a raise or time off for something personal or important. Your employer is more likely to help you if you are indispensable to the company.
Employers Can Take Notice and Rise Up or React.
If you happen to be a manager or leader in your organization, and you are seeing these behaviors, take note. There may be a reason why your team members are acting this way. Viewing your team quietly quitting might be a wake-up call to make alterations in your team culture.
Take Notice of the Reasons Employees Might Quietly Quit.
Company leaders may see this trend as an easy way to weed out their staff, but it shouldn’t be ignored entirely. Staff who set personal limits are looking for a better work-life balance. That’s to say that they cherish their outside-of-work hours and want to better use that time for their own personal needs. Long hours impact job satisfaction the same way overbearing teammates and duties. Poor performance by low-quality work and culture within the office.
Knowing this, administrative staff can recognize that a work email may not be viewed as urgent as they do. A team leader can recognize the wear of work-related stress on their coworkers and be proactive about it. Approve vacation time or allow for a more hybrid work approach. Spread the wealth of work tasks more evenly. Be compassionate when it comes to last-minute call-outs and the use of sick days. Think about the needs of others when delegating tasks and provide reasonable deadlines. Your staff will appreciate you and show it in their work.
Without recognizing low team morale and burnout, employees will leave.
Quiet Quitting Is Both Bad for Business and Potentially Bad for Morale.
I don’t need to explain in depth what those busy bees dipping out of extra tasks means for business. Those willing to do work now and who then quietly stop doing them slow production and profit down. Their diminishing work ethic impacts the culture within the office. A good leader would nip it in the bud by addressing the lacking work ethic head-on.
Give some benefit of the doubt to staff by having a frank discussion. Address issues they might be having. And if all else fails, make the necessary staffing changes.
Use this time as an opportunity to recognize those that have great follow-through and utilize their work time well. Some staff won’t indulge in this trend. You’ll notice little difference in their time management and their priorities. That is to say, as a suggestion, it’s worth taking note of and rewarding such.
Times are monetarily changing. It’s no longer admirable to overwork yourself. But it also airs on the side of selfishness to just execute the minimum requirements. Inflation and our economic system flow in cycles. We’re nearing an economic recession which creates key changes in the workforce. If the “quiet quitting” trend continues, we might see a large layoff instead of a great resignation.