Silencing Quiet Quitting: How to improve workplace wellness

Published 12 September 2023 | 4 min read

How prevalent is Quiet Quitting in New Zealand workplaces?

In the vibrant landscape of New Zealand's workplaces, a concerning issue has begun to take root – "quiet quitting." This phenomenon, marked by disengaged employees who contribute the bare minimum, poses a significant challenge for businesses. According to the latest findings from Southern Cross Health Society and BusinessNZ, approximately 21.5% of New Zealand businesses have reported instances of quiet quitting within their ranks. Addressing this issue is paramount for the well-being of both employees and employers.

6 strategies to tackle Quiet Quitting

Learn how to create a supportive work culture for a more engaged and satisfied team.

1. Prioritise manageable workloads

In an ideal world, employees would experience consistent and manageable workloads. However, the business realm is often tumultuous, occasionally demanding overtime and additional effort. There lies a crucial distinction between temporary overtime during busy seasons or while awaiting a new hire and constant overwork.

Persistently operating at or beyond maximum capacity is not a sustainable approach. Employees require time off to rest, recharge, and connect with their loved ones. While most employees are willing to go the extra mile occasionally, when this willingness is exploited, it can lead to problems.

When assigning additional responsibilities, it's crucial to understand that you're altering the employment agreement. Any increase in workload should be short-term and ideally optional. If employees find themselves shouldering these new duties indefinitely, it should be acknowledged as an official promotion or come with extra incentives. Failing to do so can strip employees of their autonomy and force them into a role that differs significantly from what they initially signed up for.

2. Ensure fair compensation

One of the leading causes of quiet quitting is pay discrepancies. The issue isn't necessarily employees being averse to taking on extra work; it's often that they feel the potential rewards don't match the additional effort. Managers may dangle the promise of a raise that never materialises, or, worse yet, they may refuse to discuss compensation altogether, instructing employees to "deal with it" or "be a team player."

Beyond monetary concerns, the root of the problem often lies in a lack of respect. Continuously piling on responsibilities without regard for employee comfort levels or current workloads sends a clear message: the employer values output over employee well-being. This can feel like a breach of the employment agreement and the job's original scope. Employees may perceive this as an attempt to extract as much free labour as possible. A fair exchange of labour for compensation is essential to maintaining trust between employer and employee. Without appropriate rewards for exceptional effort, employees are likely to feel undervalued.

It's crucial to keep pay competitive with market rates and the cost of living, adjusting compensation in response to extraordinary effort or results. Additionally, non-monetary compensation, such as recognition, perks, benefits, and flexibility, can play a vital role in retaining employees. However, if staff members are severely underpaid, making a case for supplementary compensation becomes less convincing.

3. Understand each employee's career motivation

Not all employees share the same career aspirations or desire additional responsibilities. Career transitions should involve two-way communication. Instead of assuming that employees are eager to climb the corporate ladder or take on new challenges, assess their willingness to expand their roles. Employees may have a vision for the future that differs from the employer's expectations. While providing additional opportunities is commendable, forcing employees into leadership roles, especially without a formal title, influence, or increased compensation, can be counterproductive.

These conversations are most productive when they genuinely express belief in the employee's abilities and potential. The new role should also align with the employee's career goals, not solely serve as a means to alleviate managerial burdens.

4. Properly digest employee concerns

Listening to employees is a fundamental step in preventing quiet quitting. Often, employees express concerns that managers acknowledge but fail to address or outright ignore. When team members feel their managers are oblivious or apathetic to their issues, they may respond by taking matters into their own hands and disengaging. This loss of faith in leadership can be detrimental to workplace morale.

Regular meetings and open conversations with employees are effective starting points. Practising active listening enhances this approach's effectiveness. By showing empathy and understanding towards employees, you demonstrate your commitment to their well-being. When employees feel understood and valued, they are less likely to disengage and withdraw from the workplace.

5. Uphold work-life boundaries

Maintaining boundaries is another vital strategy to prevent quiet quitting. It allows employees to set limits and prevent coworkers or managers from encroaching on their personal time. Before employees resort to disengagement, leaders can reinforce these boundaries on their behalf.

For instance:

  • Emphasise that after-hours calls or emails are optional.
  • Implement an on-call system.
  • Define guidelines for marking messages as urgent and what constitutes an appropriate after-hours emergency.
  • Reward employees for staying late by allowing them to leave early on another day.
  • Intervene when coworkers pressure each other to overwork and establish a mechanism for staff to safely report this occurrence.
  • Offer employees random paid personal days.

Advocating for employees can be an effective method of preventing quiet quitting. The more vocal leaders are about employees' right to personal time, the less likely team members will be to overstep those boundaries. Employees will appreciate leaders who champion their cause, sparing them the stress of confrontation.

6. Be transparent about growth

To prevent employees from feeling blindsided by role expansion, it's essential to be transparent about potential growth during the interview stage. Employers can mention the possibility of the position evolving to encompass different responsibilities. Discussing this early in the hiring process allows both parties to manage expectations and find candidates comfortable with such growth.

Furthermore, providing accurate timelines for role changes can help employees prepare for what lies ahead.

In conclusion, quiet quitting is a concerning issue that warrants proactive solutions. By implementing these strategies, New Zealand businesses can improve workplace wellness, maintain employee engagement, and create an environment where employees feel valued and heard. In doing so, they can ensure the long-term success and growth of both their employees and their organisations.

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