New Data on the Workplace Conditions & Behaviors Behind Quiet Quitting
It can be easy to dismiss the latest HR buzzword. But the term that has dominated our headlines in recent months — Quiet Quitting — is actually much more complex than it appears. New research out today, an update of a story we began telling in 2021, offers new clues as to why Quiet Quitting is an insufficient term for a large collection of discrete behaviors, each with its own causes and effects.
Here are some of the highlights of our 2022 special report, The Factors Driving Employee Experience Now: Quiet Quitting Edition.
Quiet Quitting Isn’t a Monolith
Throughout 2021, the Great Resignation filled our media feeds. In time, “great” became a convenient catch-all for all things workplace-related — the Great Return, the Great Reshuffling, etc. But it quickly became clear that this wasn’t a single trend, but rather many trends across the employee experience that experts needed to decipher.
Just when we thought we were done with the latest “Great” [fill in the blank here], the world woke up to the TikTok proclamation that employees weren’t actually resigning, they were just going to “Quiet Quit.”
Much like the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting doesn’t exist as a monolith. It’s a collection of disparate behaviors, some reasonable and some unreasonable, often in response to specific actions by employers or a continued discounting of employee workplace needs. While the trend may have started with a few employees announcing they would no longer do work outside their job descriptions, it quickly morphed into a phenomenon that raised more questions than it answered. Was Quiet Quitting really just a backlash against “hustle culture”? A reckoning enabled by remote work and a growing collision of home and work life? Or something completely different?
Quiet Quitting, Revealed
The majority of so-called “Quiet Quitters” are actually displaying one of the following types of behaviors:
- Limiting discretionary effort. Is the employee disinterested in the work, the organization, or a consistent requirement to do extra work? Or, is the organization asking more of an employee due to short-staffing or demands for increased productivity without extra pay?
- Failing to advocate for, or actively disparaging the organization. Is the employee not willing to bring talented friends or paying customers to an organization they don’t believe in? Or, is the organization failing to live up to the employee value proposition or brand promise?
Establishing clear boundaries between home and work. Is the employee unwilling to help out during an occasional off-hours crisis or completing personal errands during work hours? Or, is the organization taking advantage of their employees’ leisure time with frequent contact or not allowing flexibility during work hours to complete basic personal tasks?
Unless an organization understands both the behavior they are seeing and the motivation for that behavior, responding with an action that is fair and productive to both parties is very difficult.
Through continuous listening and conversations with their employees, leaders can address global, systemic issues, while empowering managers to “act locally” within their teams — creating a better and more productive environment for all.
A Modern Model for Understanding the Employee Experience
In our inaugural 2021 report, we defined the three critical factors employees are looking for in organizations today. In this year’s update, we expanded upon this earlier research to explore how these factors impact the behaviors associated with Quiet Quitting.
As a refresher, the three factors are:
People Management 101. This factor encompasses traditional employee engagement measures: the basics of good people management, such as providing what people need to be successful in their roles, working in a respectful environment, and cooperating with coworkers toward a common goal. These components have long been enough to explain virtually all reasons that an employee might choose to stay or leave an organization and why an employee might choose to exert or limit discretionary effort in their role.
A Shared Vision for the Future. The second factor measures three components of an employee’s future within the organization: the personal (do I fit here?), the developmental (does my manager support my growth?), and the aspirational (can I envision where we are headed together?). This factor is an important influence in an employee’s choice to go above and beyond in their current role. In the current employment landscape, it outpaces compensation and benefits in an employee’s desire to join, leave, or boomerang back to an organization.
Healthy Workplace Climate. The third factor, a healthy and psychologically safe atmosphere within the workplace, has taken on new importance in recent years, driven by a global pandemic, increased mental health pressures, and a global focus on equity and inclusion. Employees need to know that they work in an environment where stress is manageable and well-being is important. They also want to work in a place that values diversity, and where it’s safe to be different. This environment is one where employees can speak up, correct mistakes, and make a difference within the organization, rather than taking to social media or other professional circles to air grievances.
A Persona-Based Approach to Employee Experience
Employers that want to create best-in-class organizations must strive to manage each of these factors for individual members of their team. In large organizations, the work of connecting to and engaging individual employees is often the primary responsibility of their direct manager. However, workplace needs also have a systemic component which is best addressed through systemic means.
At this level, it’s often useful to simplify the complex commonalities — and differences — among employees by classifying them into broad groups. One such approach is the creation of personas.
In Perceptyx’s 2021 research, four unique personas were identified along a continuum. When examined through the behavioral lens of Quiet Quitting, further insight into the characteristics of each persona emerged.
The Four Workplace Personas: 2022 Edition
The Energized (9% of employees in the Perceptyx Benchmark Database in 2021, 9% in 2022): Employees who take on this persona aren’t “Quiet Quitting” — they’re extremely and proudly productive. That is, all 3 of the identified workplace factors are being maximized within their situation. These employees don’t need to send a message by engaging in any of the Quiet Quitting behaviors because their organization is a healthy place for them to be, now and into the future. The number of employees in this persona remains unchanged from the 2021 study.
The Contented (44% of employees in the Perceptyx Benchmark Database in 2021, 41% in 2022): Employees who take on this persona are the backbone of the workplace and represent the largest portion of the workforce. This group may feel passion for their work, but perhaps not for the organization itself. This group is likely to have at least one workplace need that is lagging behind the others. Understanding this asymmetry is key to positively impacting their workplace experience and performance. While this group may have been easy to ignore in the past (because they were seen as “fine”) the current climate requires a more thoughtful approach. This persona witnessed a 3% decline from our 2021 analysis, down from 44%.
The Disconnected (34% of employees in the Perceptyx Benchmark Database in 2021, 34% in 2022): Employees who take on this persona are in a complicated, precarious situation and require organizational triage. The Disconnected are looking for another job more frequently than either the Contented or Energized employees, but the bigger risk to an organization is that most intend to stay, and they are frustrated. These employees were Quiet Quitting long before it had a trendy name. They will likely do exactly what is expected of them, but no more. This group makes up the same portion of the workforce as seen in our 2021 data.
The Neglected (13% of employees in the Perceptyx Benchmark Database in 2021, 16% in 2022): Employees or groups who take on this persona are really struggling. Their workplace needs are simply not being met, and they are looking for somewhere they can grow, connect, and thrive. They are 7x as likely to leave the organization in the next 12 months and are probably already looking: they are also 1.7x as likely to have applied elsewhere in the past year. It’s troubling that this is also the persona that has seen the largest increase compared to 2021, up three points from 13%.
Building — or Rebuilding — an Environment Where All People Can Thrive
Our research has revealed three best practices that can facilitate the creation of genuine give-and-take environments that feel fair and reciprocal to both employees and leaders.
Organizational advocacy comes from employees giving value to and receiving value from their organizations. Employees want to know that their contribution matters — to their leaders, managers, and peers. They also want to work for an organization with a strong Employee Value Proposition — competitive rewards, a healthy culture, and meaningful work. People Leaders must spend time understanding the competitive talent landscape, communicate the “why” behind their organization, and outline how each employee and job role contributes to that success.
Think about career progression rather than a career ladder. For most organizations, there aren’t enough rungs on the traditional ladder to keep every employee moving straight up. Managers should work to understand the interests and talents of their team members. Once there, create a path and time in the day for this development to occur. Employees who can see themselves in the organization’s future contribute their best effort, and sometimes a little more, to edge the organization toward that future.
A fulfilling career is one that balances the needs of the employee and the organization. Workplaces that want employees to be available for questions or help outside normal working hours need to provide flexibility during those same business hours for employees to take care of personal errands or caregiving responsibilities. At the end of the day, it’s about a healthy give-and-take where both sides benefit.
Ongoing Workplace Conversations Are Part of the Job — And Perceptyx Can Help You Listen
Regardless of an individual’s role, participation in the organization’s ongoing workplace conversation is part of the job. Whether designing a listening event, answering a survey item, creating and completing action plans based on employee needs, or connecting with coworkers in productive and respectful ways, each person has a role to play.
As an experienced listening partner, Perceptyx has a role to play, too — our platform and consulting expertise can help you with every aspect of your journey toward a world-class employee experience. To read our full report, click here. For more information about the ways we can assist your organization, schedule a meeting with a member of our team.