Few compliance programs have tasks that are spelled out in the job descriptions of every person in an organization, and even the best of programs require buy-in from everyone from the C-suite to the housekeeping staff. But as so-called “quiet quitting” continues to change the workforce, compliance and ethics managers may need to take extra steps to ensure their programs get the attention they need.
After having gone viral on TikTok, quiet quitting is the latest workplace buzzword. Quiet quitting may even bring comparisons to “Office Space,” where Peter explains, “The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.”
While the concept of quiet quitting sounds like it refers to someone resigning from their position, it describes a rebellion against the pervasive hustle culture of going above and beyond what a job requires in an attempt to stay relevant and get ahead in corporate settings.
Today, not only are people resigning from positions in the Great Resignation or Great Reformation, they also often want to limit their workloads. Hence arrives the era of quiet quitting — the modern way of doing a job’s minimum requirements.
Engaged employees are vested in contributing to the success of the organization overall. Those who are quiet quitting often have such a short-term view that the long-term success of an organization is irrelevant.
What is quiet quitting?
The concept of quiet quitting has always been around. It typically describes those people who generally don’t define themselves and their profession as key attributes of who they are. It doesn’t mean an employee has left their job but rather has limited their tasks to those strictly outlined within the job description and nothing more — no “additional task as assigned.”
They want to do what the job they signed up for requires but nothing more, and they want to set clear boundaries between what they do to earn a living and their life, which is everything else. These employees fulfill tasks described in their job duties but do not subscribe to a culture where work is who you are rather than what you do to provide for yourself and/or your family. When they go home, they leave work behind them entirely and focus on non-work duties and activities.
Why do employees choose quiet quitting?
For decades (if not longer), workers have quietly quit their jobs when they become increasingly disengaged. They often spend additional time looking for something new and seeking alternatives to their current situation, whether it was because of poor pay, unmanageable workload, burnout or lack of promotion and other opportunities.
Almost two-thirds of employees experienced burnout in the past year, according to Asana’s 2022 Anatomy of Work report. Even more shockingly, 42% of workers experience burnout and imposter syndrome simultaneously. The report also showed that employees suffering from burnout are less engaged, make more mistakes, are far more likely to leave the company and are at a higher risk for low morale.
Gallup’s employee engagement research shows that only 32% of workers in 2022 are engaged with their jobs, down from 36% in 2020. And research from LinkedIn in 2021 showed that 74% of people were treading water at their current jobs while keeping an eye for greener pastures, though it’s important to note that LinkedIn’s research was conducted in January 2021, before the job market began to heat up.
What does quiet quitting work look like?
Quiet quitting can look different depending on the reasons for wanting to pull back on work. If a person is truly unhappy, the signs may be much more apparent than for someone who is wishing to establish healthy boundaries.
Signs of quiet quitting can include:
- Refusal to be part of celebrations or non-work conversations during working hours.
- Declining or not attending meetings.
- Arriving late or leaving early.
- Reduction in productivity.
- Reduced contribution to team projects.
- Not participating in planning or meetings.
- Lack of passion or enthusiasm.
What does this mean for well-being and compliance?
Disengaged employees carry significant costs for organizations in general. The four biggest impacts are:
- Customer experience
- Employee retention
Quiet quitting is an indicator of an unwillingness to carry passion and enthusiasm into the elements of the work you consider a placeholder.
Truly effective compliance and ethics programs require buy-in from people throughout the organization. While everyone is expected to be part of a compliance and ethical culture, it is rarely assigned as a job duty. When you combine a relatively negative outlook on work with a minimum-viable-work-product approach, the extras that compliance and ethics professionals rely on to make sure people raise issues are often gone.
Unwillingness to speak up and speak out when confronted with issues in the workplace will perpetuate because getting involved is extra effort. Many programs rely on willing ambassadors and without these individuals, compliance and ethics programs can lose steam. Everyone doing the bare minimum carries consequences to compliance and ethics programs that might not be apparent from the outset.
How do you combat quiet quitting from the compliance and ethics seat?
There are a few ways compliance and ethics professionals can combat quiet quitting in the workplace:
- Be engaged in discussions around employee engagement. Whether you realize it or not, the culture of your organization and the feelings of every person within it are key to the success of your program.
- Show gratitude. There are many ways to thank the people around you. Make sure you recognize every contribution to the program you run and every positive behavior you wish to see continued in the workplace. Saying thank you takes very little time and may be the difference between engagement and having people opt-out.
- Be an example. If the only thing you visibly care about is your program and you aren’t contributing in other areas of the organization, then you may be sending the wrong message yourself. Take the time to contribute in other ways to the organization and be the role model for behaviors you would like to cultivate.
- Identify when things are good enough. Some of the pressure people are feeling is associated with consistently high or unreachable standards. Normalize setting healthy-but-ambitious expectations rather than cultivating an “All hustle, all the time” approach.