“Quiet quitting”. “Working my wage”. “Work-to-rule”. There are various names for the same global phenomenon. Multiple industries are experiencing this trend, largely fueled by social media. Unfortunately, the public sector is not immune to this movement.
What is quiet quitting exactly and how can it negatively affect productivity in your public sector organization? What tools can public sector organizations use to help combat the trend and re-engage their workforce?
What is the quiet quitting trend?
At least 50% of the U.S. workforce participates in quiet quitting – probably more, according to a Gallup poll. Gallup reports only 32% of workers are engaged and 18% are actively disengaged. Disengaged employees often look for another job.
Even though we’ve called it a trend multiple times in this article, and the media reports it as such, it’s not a new trend at all.
Quiet quitting is another name for “work-to-rule”, which occurs when employees work within defined work hours and only engage in work-related activities within those hours. Despite the name, quiet quitting is not actually connected to quitting a job, but rather doing exactly what the job requires, without going above and beyond.
Social media has made the term popular, with many saying it’s not a trend but just the workforce realizing that work-life balance and avoiding burnout is important.
It is healthy to set boundaries at work and be self-aware enough to recognize when you are close to burnout. However, quiet quitting is a problem when the job requires some level of extra effort such as collaboration with coworkers or meeting customer deadlines, and employees are not stepping up. Also, quiet quitting can negatively affect the manager-employee relationship and create a toxic work environment, bringing down other employees.
From Millennials to Gen Z
Quiet quitting stems from a rejection of the millennial workplace “hustle” culture mentality that dominated the workforce for years. Just a few years ago, Millennials (those born between 1981-1996) championed working long hours, taking on more projects to impress your boss, and having several side hustles to generate passive income.
As Gen Z (those born between 1997- 2012) enter the workforce, there became a shift in this mentality. Gen Z is more focused on mental health, setting boundaries, and defining their limits. Gen Z rejects the notion of working multiple jobs or taking on extra work to earn a raise or promotion.
This is where the conflict between the two workplace mentalities lies. Millennials hustled to get to the top, while Gen Z believes in working their required hours and only doing extra work when being paid accordingly. Millennials may look overworked in Gen Z’s eyes. Meanwhile, management may pass Gen Z workers over for promotions or raises due to the lack of initiative.
Thanks to the pandemic, employees found themselves working in remote or hybrid models. Millennials started to embrace the Gen Z mentality because of the increase in work-life balance and freedom to live in another location and not be tied down to a physical office.
Other reasons quiet quitting happens, according to the Gallup article, is due to lack of “clarity of expectations, opportunities to learn and grow, feeling cared about, and a connection to the organization’s mission or purpose — signaling a growing disconnect between employees and their employers.”
Read more about the impact of employees in the public sector resigning here.
Why quiet quitting is a problem for the public sector
Quiet quitting can negatively impact any employer or industry due to workers resisting added responsibilities, a decrease in productivity, and not being motivated or engaged at work. When it comes to the public sector however, it might be more difficult to combat quiet quitting because of the limited resources available to the public sector.
Employees feeling frustrated that they are doing work beyond their pay scope and refusing to take on more responsibility unless paid accordingly, might be looking for added financial compensation. However, it’s not so easy for the public sector to increase pay when it’s tied to taxes and public funds. How can you justify pay increases, especially during economic downturns, or when governments are trying to curb spending?
Also, it’s difficult to engage employees when spending is limited. Private companies can set aside funds to throw parties or take their staff on fun activities. Public sector organizations, however, must be careful with how they spend their money as each lined item can be scrutinized by the government or citizens.
It’s also not just about money. The public sector is prone to citizens’ complaints and negative news. This in turn may make employees start to disengage and feel less proud to work for the organization. Public sector employers must balance their external brand reputation while managing organizational culture internally.
Thankfully there are some steps public sector organizations can take to combat quiet quitting.
Discover what is lacking
It all begins at the top. Executives and managers need to take on the responsibility of addressing the problem and trying to actively come up with policies to help change the mindset of those participating in quiet quitting. First, review the organization’s values and policies to fully pinpoint areas of improvement. Try to objectively see if there are areas that are lacking in clarity or values that aren’t supported by policies already in place.
Second, have managers conduct one-on-ones with their staff or have human resources conduct anonymous surveys to discover why employees are quiet quitting. The results from these activities can reveal if there are disconnects between the organization’s stated values, the employees’ personal values and the perceived values between the employer and employee. It can also reveal if current policies are addressing employees’ needs.
Remember, it’s best to avoid accusations or paint quiet quitting as poor employee performance. Instead, look at quiet quitting through the eyes of the employee. Find empathy in why the employee is not motivated. Perhaps they feel like their skills or education are not being utilized. Perhaps they are discouraged from not getting the promotion or raise they wanted. Or perhaps they feel stuck in their career path and do not know how to advance. Whatever the reason, always ensure the employee isn’t being treated as the problem and demonstrating that the organization is trying to help by changing policies and taking employee feedback seriously.
Create new policies
Come together as a team to come up with policies and tactics that address the issues of quiet quitting. Ensure policies are detailed and meaningful and align with not only the organization’s values but the values of the employees. Re-evaluate mission and value statements if it makes sense to the organization.
Here are some sample strategies that the public sector can investigate that won’t cost the organization much to implement:
- Implement a ‘No Meetings’ plan for a certain day of the week or after a certain time unless there is an emergency.
- Don’t send emails after a certain time and/or expect emails to be answered beyond work hours.
- More educational opportunities that align with the employee’s careers goals and interests, and not just what is best for the department or organization.
- Offer personal days to recharge or get important errands or appointments done without the need to use paid time off.
- Provide options to work remote or hybrid.
- Plan fun group activities for employees to take a break from work, or family activities that allow employees to invite their spouses and children.
Implement new technology
After communicating the new values and policies to employees, the next step is to demonstrate changes through action. Communication campaigns, emails, and meetings are meaningless unless the organization can prove it has made changes.
With the right technology, public sector organizations can give employees the useful tools to stay engaged and advance their careers. Ceridian’s powerful Human Capital Management (HCM) solution, Dayforce, is purpose-built software meant for employees. The platform is used to optimize management of the entire employee lifecycle, including engaging, paying, deploying, and developing people. It allows organizations to share information with their employees through a centralized platform and allows employees to access tools and resources to stay engaged.
Employees can use Dayforce to track their educational opportunities, view new job postings and manage their goals for the year. Management can use Dayforce to recognize staff for their accomplishments, keep track of employees’ career and education goals, and send out important information. The software truly allows for building a better relationship between management and staff, an important step in combating quiet quitting.
For a more in-depth look into choosing HCM software, read OnActuate’s article “User Experience: The Three E’s in Choosing the Right Modern HR Technology”.
Discover the Gartner Magic Quadrant report to learn why Ceridian continues to be named a leader for Cloud HCM Suites for 1000+ employee enterprises.
Investing for the future
How can the public sector justify investing in HCM software, especially during tough economic times or criticism over government spending?
First, new policies and values must be backed up with investment in execution. Quite often, the amount spent on implementing new tools can be justified in the employee retention savings alone. Don’t let all the research, feedback, and changes go to waste because of the fear of investing in execution tools.
Second, position the software as a tool not just for current employees for the organization to retain, but also to promote your brand and attract future employees. Dayforce’s software can also take care of job applications and guide applicants through the hiring process. Using the right technology can decrease the long hiring process and help find the right candidates, thus reducing the public funds needed for hiring.
Finally, tools like Dayforce help employees advance their skills, career, and add to the organization’s overall culture. An investment in building a happy and engaged workforce is always a good investment whether in the private or public sector.
Keep quiet quitting at bay
There will always be a small percentage of employees with negative attitudes towards work. However, the right policies and tools can change the mindset of the employees who are just in a rut. Employees need motivation to inspire them and make them realize that they can find happiness in their career again.
The public sector may feel tight on resources to combat quiet quitting, but with some meaningful changes, the public sector can reduce and prevent the risk of quiet quitting.
Ready for a digital transformation that supports your stated values and policies? Look to technology partners like OnActuate to find HCM tools to help your public sector organization take action against quiet quitting and support your company culture.