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The workforce needs the 'quiet quitters' to re-engage with success

Columnist Kristen Asleson says never in my wildest imagination did I think of pulling out my job description and asking it for permission to do a task.

Women at Work - Kristen Asleson column sig
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Ten, 20 years ago, when employees became disenchanted with their job, disengagement quickly followed. Once the disengagement happened, workers were seeking out different employment opportunities with other companies or starting a new career altogether.

For the most part, and personally speaking, those who became disengaged still gave it their all while looking for new employment. Yes, there were some that self-sabotaged or stopped being productive members of their team, but mostly they got their work done to the best of their capabilities until the last day.

Nowadays, a somewhat new phenomenon called “quiet quitting” is tearing through the headline. What exactly is this new thing they call a trend? For some employees, it means doing exactly what is on their job description and not a thing more. For others, it means they are setting boundaries and focusing on work-life balance rather that becoming more burnt out and stressed at work.

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Although it does not necessarily mean quitting a job, it often leads to exactly that. Drawing on personal experience again and recalling past jobs, it seemed absurd to me to not do what I was asked to do. Never in my wildest imagination did I think of pulling out my job description and asking it for permission to do a task. Often, doing extra work above and beyond what was expected of me resulted in pay raises or promotions. In fact, “goes above and beyond expectations” was on just about every performance review at every job I had.

Now, according to Gallup, “quiet quitters” make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce, and maybe even more. In addition, U.S. employee engagement remained steady at 32%, but the actively disengaged rose to 18%. This drop in engagement began in the second half of 2021 and included those at managerial levels as well.

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Gallup also finds a decline in engagement and employer satisfaction among remote Gen Z and younger millennials, those below 35 years of age. These younger workers are feeling they are cared about much less, and they do not feel as if opportunities are developing for them. Who are these feelings targeting? Managers.

  • The percentage of engaged employees under the age of 35 dropped by six percentage points from 2019 to 2022. And during the same time, the percentage of actively disengaged employees increased by six points.
  • Younger workers have dropped 10% or more in "strongly agree" that someone cares about them, someone encourages their development, and they have opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Fully remote and hybrid young workers dropped 12 points in strong agreement that someone encourages their development.
  • Disturbingly, less than four in 10 young remote or hybrid employees clearly know what is expected of them at work.

At this point in time, it appears quiet quitting is a symptom of poor management, and that needs to change. Our workforce needs to propel toward feelings of engagement again where people performed tasks above and beyond what was expected or asked of them.
What steps toward resolution can be taken to re-engage managers? It starts with communication (funny how communication always comes up in resolutions). Managers must be able to have conversations with their employees that will help reduce disengagement, burnout and stress.

Engaging in talks about life situations, strengths and goals can be a starting point. Gallup also finds one conversation per week with each team member is the best habit to build.

To get their employees to go that extra mile, creating accountability for performance, collaboration with the team and customer value will show employees how their work contributes to the larger purpose. Every company needs a culture in which people feel as though they belong. It starts at the top of the ladder and needs to trickle down to everyone.

Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to news@postbulletin.com .

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