3 things to consider if you're thinking about 'quiet quitting'

Feeling burnt out or dissatisfied with work is leading people to "quiet quit" – a phenomenon that you’ve probably noticed making the news.

If that’s where you’re at now, before you decide on your next step, it's important to work out why you're feeling this way about your job.

The new year can be a useful time to take a step back and consider your relationship to work. According to independent research conducted on behalf of SEEK, 45% of employees use the new year break to reflect on their careers and think about pay, promotions and opportunities to upskill.

Leadership and career coach Sarah Vizer says there will be plenty of people feeling unmotivated as 2023 kicks off.

"Managers and employees alike are feeling overwhelmed, socially isolated and lacking in purpose. And burnt-out people burn out people."

"People are showing less engagement, which means they could be quiet quitting."

What is quiet quitting?

The term "quiet quitting" was made popular on social media networks like Tiktok throughout 2022. But while 53% of employees say they've never heard of it, 21% say they've done it in the past and 25% know someone who has. And 16% say they're likely to consider it.

When someone decides to quiet quit, they might do the following:

  • limit tasks to those strictly in their job description
  • not take on additional responsibilities
  • do the bare minimum to get the job done.

Thinking about quiet quitting?

Vizer says it's important to think about why you've had enough before you make any decisions about quiet quitting.

But Vizer says quiet quitting can actually be an understandable response to an always-on work culture, bad bosses or a toxic work environment, and it can lead to positive changes.

Some of the reasons why Kiwi employees may consider quiet quitting are:

  • a toxic work environment
  • not seeing effort reflected in salary
  • poor leadership
  • wanting greater work-life balance.

Consider your reasons for quiet quitting

Vizer suggests thinking through if your desire to quiet quit is a stress response that needs to be addressed, or if you're simply in the wrong environment.

If it's stress related, then for you quiet quitting might actually be a matter of drawing healthy boundaries.

"The joys of quiet quitting include adopting behaviours such as only working contracted hours, only working on tasks under your jurisdiction, and taking regular breaks. These are reasonable expectations but new for many people.

"It can also refocus your attention on what matters most, whether that be friends and family, hobbies, health or travel, which can really improve your sense of engagement at work."

If you don't make those changes, she adds, you'll only take the same bad attitudes or bad behaviors into the next workplace.

However, if the quiet quitting is about reasons beyond your control, such as a toxic workplace, it may be time to consider your next move.

Address what's missing from your job

Focus on proper communication with your manager. You don't have to tell them if you're looking for a new role, but it could be worth sitting down with them to talk through your career goals. Or, you might explain that you’re hoping to make a few adjustments to the way you work in the new year, such as finding ways to work more efficiently so you don’t have to go beyond contracted hours.

"Set out clearly your need to make changes," Vizer says. "You are not necessarily asking for permission to step back, rather approaching the situation in a logical and respectful manner."

Even if you're on your way out the door, maintaining relationships is key. You want to leave with your reputation intact, and have the right referrals to take with you.

"If you disengage too quickly, you risk blowing up your career."

Make your next move carefully

It’s important to make sure the next opportunity you pursue is a good fit, and not the wrong environment. Vizer suggests taking some time to understand what works and what doesn't work about your current role, then looking for jobs or workplaces that offer a better experience.

Along the way, reach out to people in your network and online, and talk to recruitment agents, she adds. A career coach or a mentor you can trust can also be invaluable, as well as good support from your family or friends.

"Job hunting can be a thankless task, so once again it's about filling your cup and boosting your energy reserves," she says.

Quiet quitting can be a sign you need to make some changes, either to your routine and lifestyle, or to your career. Whether you're making some personal changes or a career move, it's important to look after yourself and maintain good communication with those around you.

Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4000 Kiwis annually. Published February 2023.

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