Since the beginning of the pandemic, many employees have either left their jobs permanently or changed industries. Although the resignations triggered by such a crisis environment did not attract attention at first, according to official data in the United States, the decision of about 650,000 workers to quit their jobs in the retail sector in April alone was a sign that the elephant in the room had reached dimensions that could not be ignored. So, how exactly did this concept, which has not fallen off the agenda in economic forums held around the world, come about? What were the factors that acted as catalysts in the process? Let's examine it together...
Endless overtime, putting in too much effort to fill your colleague's vacant seat, and a burned team... Many industry-independent employees are quite familiar with this entire business cycle. On the one hand, the balance between work and private life that cannot be established is the dream... As the way of doing business has transformed with the pandemic, employers have focused on their own expectations as they try to overcome the stormy sea. In the eyes of the employees, those who "did not coincide with the right curve" began to resign with a radical decision in the middle of the crisis. The "Quiet Quitting" movement, which started in America, was not silent as expressed and spread all over the world. In a short time, it turned into a trend in TikTok and left its mark on social media...
The concept of "quiet quitting", which has been on the agenda of the world for a while, is defined not only in the sense of quitting a job, but also as a silent renunciation process based on spending minimum effort and taking less responsibility at work.
One of the people who started the "quiet quitting" videos that went viral on TikTok in a very short time was Zaid Khan, a 24-year-old software engineer and musician living in New York. In his video, which inspired many, Khan said, "quiet quitting doesn't mean quitting your job. It just means preventing your business from taking over your life. Your job is not your life! Your value cannot be defined by what you produce."
The hashtag QuietQuitting has received more than 17 million views on TikTok. Press articles around the world used the term, and the "quiet quitting" has spread to all social media sites, from Twitter to LinkedIn.
According to Edelman's research of 36,000 people in 2022, about 60 percent of adult Generation Z say they publish content that they hope will change the world. Considering the effects of this generation on social media and societies, it is not surprising that the "quiet quitting" movement has greatly affected daily life after it has found such a great response on social media.
Above all, workers have revisited how their employers have treated them during the pandemic. As a result, the decision was made to stay in the companies that offered support and to flee from those that did not.
Employees who found their company's corporate culture weak before the pandemic and were already on the verge of leaving were pushed to a breaking point during this period. A recent Stanford survey shows that many companies with bad environments have doubled down on decisions that don't support workers, such as mass layoffs. But this has fueled the idea that employees who have not been laid off are already in an unsupported environment.
Alison Omens, Chief Strategy Officer at JUST Capital, sums up the pandemic period as follows: "In terms of expectations, the intensity has increased; People expect more from companies. The early days of the pandemic reminded us that humans are not machines. If you're worried about your children, your health, your lack of financial security, your inability to afford your bills, and your other responsibilities, you're less likely to be productive. And everyone is worried about all these issues."
Workers expected their employers to make moves that would help alleviate or at least acknowledge these concerns, and companies that failed to do so were hurt. The Personio survey also points out that more than half of respondents who plan to quit their jobs make the decision because of reduced benefits, a worsening work-life balance or a toxic workplace culture.
Ross Seychell, Human Resources Unit Officer at Personio, says that many employees cannot find a positive answer to the question "What has this company done for my health and happiness in this process?" and therefore they think "I will go to a place where I am valuable".
This wave of mass resignations is happening at all levels of seniority. It is becoming more prominent, especially in the service and retail sectors.
Throughout the pandemic, workers, often in lower-paid positions, have worked long periods of time on tasks that require interaction with consumers with little or no safety precautions as a result of employers' decisions. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, about 650,000 workers in the retail sector decided to quit their jobs in April alone.
Now, major retailers are scrambling to fill open positions but are struggling to find enough new and willing workers. Companies like Target and Best Buy are raising salaries, while McDonald's and Amazon offer recruitment bonuses ranging from $200 to $1,000. A survey by management consultancy Korn Ferry shows that despite all these steps, 94 percent of retailers are having trouble filling vacant positions.
"They can't fill positions because money isn't the only problem," Omens explains, adding, "Many retail and service workers prefer entry-level positions elsewhere — in warehouses or offices, for example — that pay less, but offer more benefits, promotions and compassion. Many of the employees found that finding another job and making the transition was not as difficult as they had anticipated. When we ask people if they would take a pay cut to work for a company that matches their values, we get a yes answer."
Managers have long sought a balance to combat the fatigue of both themselves and their employees. The least damage from the quiet quitting movement that followed this period, when everyone questioned their priorities and rethought how they spent their time at work, was the leaders who could read the feelings of their employees and took action accordingly...
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, there are steps companies can take to create an environment that is more insightful and supports their employees' success. So what are they?
It seems that we are in a great awakening when it comes to psychology. However, there is a detail that well-being does not only mean not experiencing psychological discomfort.
Being mentally fit is self-assurance, connecting to the things we love is a superpower. This also directly affects the motivation of employees. A study for CNN found that 55 percent of employees feel stuck. However, employees can only increase their productivity when they feel supported. By buffering the impact of pain, leaders can prevent this burnout before it becomes too large.
It should be remembered that when employees feel that the work they do is meaningful, they are less likely to want to leave their jobs...
If leaders say they care about managing burnout, promoting inclusivity, and investing in people's development, they need to implement policies that demonstrate that they prioritize those goals. For example, a company that says it focuses on efficiency should not allow time-out meeting traffic.
Most of the conversations centered around a hybrid, remote, or face-to-face working model, but we shouldn't attribute this entirely to the pandemic. Whether we are in the pandemic process or not, these are models that all companies established in the last 10 years should consider. After all, it doesn't matter where the productive and creative talent is!
In remote work, managers no longer have information such as entry and exit times and time spent in front of the computer. Therefore, middle management now needs multiple leaders, project managers, coaches, and even "therapists." Mid-level managers, who typically manage two-thirds of an organization, have a disproportionate impact on the culture of the organization. It is crucial to ensure that middle management, whether through targeted development programs or by improving lines of communication, is the catalyst for positive organizational change. In other words, the middle management, which is expected to be the guardians of the company's values by establishing direct contact with people, needs to be strong and equipped.
As managers redesign their business processes for a post-pandemic world, one of the most important things they can do is to strengthen their sense of representation and control by involving employees in the process.
The pandemic has reinforced the importance of not only talking to people, but also listening to them. Being aware of your employees' perspectives will encourage them to do better by making them feel that they have a share in the corporate culture.
If you talk openly about motivation, listen to your team's needs, and then take concrete steps, you can not only come out of the pandemic strong, but you can also consider growth.
But can this wave of quiet quittings bring about meaningful, long-term change in workplace culture and the way companies invest in their employees?
Omens believes the answer is yes. Billionaire entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban agrees. In late March 2020, he warned companies on CNBC's "Markets in Turmoil" program not to force employees to work at an early date. "How companies act on this will define their decades-old brands. If you rush and someone gets sick, you and your brand are responsible. Companies that do not protect their employees and stakeholders and put them first are unforgivable."
Seychell de Cuban explained, "The way companies both old and new treat their employees over the past year and a half will determine the course of the future. Investing in the earnings and general well-being of employees has become imperative. When large numbers of employees take action, it imposes greater costs on companies in terms of loss of turnover and productivity. Companies that have lost most of their workforce will struggle with it for the next 12 to 16 months, and perhaps much longer. Companies that don't invest in their people will be left behind."