At some of our recent conferences, the discussion of “quiet quitting” was all the rage. It is, to be sure, nothing new. HR used to call it disillusionment or disengagement. However, in the “#hashtag” world of cool nicknames, the mass media has seized on the term “quiet quitting” for deep and thoughtful discussions. Watching mass media pundits discuss HR policy is like watching children running with scissors. Dangerous? Yes. And maybe nothing happens, but if it does, it’s going to be really bad.
You see, it seems everyone in #massmedia may not recognize that part of the problem is that employees are quietly quitting and HR is not seeing it.
The job of HR is not to make the workforce happy and content. It would be really cool if that were true. The job is to make them more engaged and productive. We know that engaged employees are more productive over the long term. Bullying makes for increased productivity, but only in the short term until the workforce becomes numb to the threats. Employees who feel respected and engaged in the mission of the business are more productive. In order to gain that relationship with the employer, they have to, well, have a relationship with their employer.
So, let’s discuss the elephant that is NOT in the room. Remote and hybrid work models are not as conducive to engagement, performance management, and emotional connection as office-based work.
Recently, a party, yes party, was held in Philadelphia called the Ditch Party. More than 800 people showed up to ditch work. And, I have been told by sources who attended, that many of the attendees were laughing that they had just set their Teams profiles to “away” or “busy” during that time and thought it was oh so funny to be paid for the time they spent drinking. Are you laughing? Me neither.
Before organizations became afraid of employees bad mouthing them on Twitter, they used to have the spinal fortitude to just fire these people. OK, they will call the employer selfish, but let’s be honest, these employees are ditching work and leaving the productive employees to cover their lack of productivity. This isn’t funny or cute. It is symptomatic of employees that would have long ago been fired for being molly coddled. The cure for “quiet quitting” is “loud firing.” People who are unproductive and disengaged should be helped along to their next job. Everyone frets a bit too much about “rehabilitating” associates with poor attitudes and then secretly discuss how relieved they are when that bad employee is finally gone.
Productivity is also declining. There are numerous metrics that suggest that productivity is declining and while the data is not yet conclusive that remote work is causative, the emergence of it is certainly correlative.
Some industries are well set to manage remote work and were doing it for years prior to the pandemic, but one size never ever fits all and the idea that suddenly remote work was going to be the new “normal” was not “normal.” It is time to get back to work and make the workforce do the same. No more ditch days, no more quiet quitters. It’s time to take charge and time to be in charge. This has gone on for a bit too long and while many employees like remote work—especially the ones who should not be working from home— most CEOs and CHROs do not.
We do not need to fear The Great Resignation because labor is a market. If someone leaves voluntarily or is fired for performance, you still need to fill the job and you can, hopefully, with someone happier to have it than the quiet quitter. Having malcontents at work just spreads poison through the workforce. The time to quit accepting quitters is long overdue.
Elliot S. Clark,