The Truth About "Quiet Quitting"

If you've been keeping up with hiring trends, you've undoubtedly seen the prevalence of news stories about "quiet quitting," or the workplace trend of doing only what is required according to your job description. You may be wondering how quiet quitting is impacting your public sector organization. Today, we uncover some essential truths about quiet quitting and share some helpful advice to public sector employers trying to re-engage their employees.

Quiet Quitting Isn't About "Avoiding Work"

First, we should consider why some employees choose to quiet quit. According to a recent LinkedIn study, employees are craving balance as they seek out new roles. Often employees quiet quit so they can find work/life balance in roles that have taken up a lot of their lives. If we think about quiet quitting as a way employees reclaim time for themselves and their families instead of avoiding work, we'll create a more positive relationship with employees.

So, how can public sector employers tackle quiet quitting by better engaging their employees and supporting healthy work/life balance in the workplace?

Having Clear Work Expectations Helps Everyone Thrive

As an employee's role evolves, sometimes their job description becomes misaligned with their job duties. This mismatch between responsibility, pay and job title is sometimes called "scope creep" and it can lead to burnout and frustration among employees.

Top organizations like Indeed have discussed this phenomenon and how it impacts the work environment. Everyone wants to know what they are responsible for and to ensure they get credit for their extra work.

If you feel there is a lack of clear work expectations, your employees probably feel it too. Sit down with each team member to understand their title, the current scope of their work and how they'd like to see it look in the future.

Employees May Need More Support After COVID-19

The impact of the pandemic—and the aftermath of it—has profoundly impacted employees and how they show up to work. Many employees are looking for remote or hybrid jobs, moving into different roles at new organizations and spending more time with their families.

As a manager, it's essential to understand how these last few years have impacted your team.

  • How did their families get impacted by COVID-19?
  • What are their current caretaking responsibilities? Have these shifted these past few years?
  • What are their current priorities? How can they be supported in their priorities?

Instead of being in the dark with employees who may be quiet quitting, you can be empathetic, help them balance their work and home responsibilities and re-engage them in the process.

Going "Above and Beyond" Can Be Performative

It's important to note that going "above and beyond" isn't always what it seems. As employees build confidence at work, it's natural for them to become better at their job. Some employees take five hours to do a task that another team member can do in an hour. Productivity depends on the work environment, the employee's experience and many other hard-to-control factors.

Often employees start to pull back because they realize going the extra mile just gets them more miles—or more work on their plate. Does your organization define going "above and beyond," as the amount of hours employees diligently work on a particular task? The truth is, some employees are faster and shouldn't be punished for that. The difference in employee performance is why having clear work expectations are so important. We shouldn't saddle employees who work fast with more work.

Key Takeaways For Public Sector Employers: How to Retain Employees

In conclusion, let's talk about some of the critical takeaways public sector employers can use to build a great team and re-engage employees who may be quiet quitting.

  1. Find ways to improve work/life balance and help team members leave work at work.
  2. Take a look at the job descriptions you put in job listings and make sure they match what employees end up doing.
  3. Ensure that employees are healing from the recent pandemic instead of avoiding their feelings.
  4. Avoid asking employees to go above and beyond, especially if they are already pulling their weight.

Keeping your employees engaged at a time when team members are checking out is challenging. Public sector leaders need to understand what employees are going through right now. From dealing with looming recessions to being burnt out, emotions are high. We have a responsibility to tackle quiet quitting head-on so that we can make progress at work.

Are you thinking about the impact of quiet quitting in the public sector? Learn how organizations are addressing quiet quitting by engaging employees.
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Melissa Asher

With over 24 years of experience in human resources, specializing in training and development, test administration, and recruitment, Melissa brings a wealth of practical expertise to her Senior Leader role. As a hands-on leader, she is responsible for the growth and development of CPS HR’s Training and Development and Executive Search Divisions as well as leading key business development activities.

About CPS HR Consulting

CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country.  Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients.  We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.