The phenomenon of “quiet quitting” that is currently taking the internet by storm raises many questions about the future of the workplace.
There are some who view this phenomenon as nothing more than a rebranding of familiar tactics such as “work-to-rule” (Italian strike), “slow down,” etc.
There are some who blame the “unambitious” Gen Z, or the pandemic that has caused so much fatigue, overload, and burnout.
I see something completely different here. What we’re experiencing now is NOT just a rose by any other name!
What the Arab Spring did to social protests, MeToo to women’s rights, or BLM to civil rights – these waves of quitting, explicitly or otherwise, are doing to the workplace.
This is a result of a tectonic shift that has been going on under the surface for many years and is just rearing its head now, not yet in full force.
The fundamental change here is a transformation in the ways in which people view development and growth but, at the same time their perspective on power, and authority.
For years we have seen the deterioration of what used to be called “parental authority” or “teachers’ authority.” We were raised on the truism that “knowledge is power” and so those who held knowledge were higher in the hierarchical structure. Knowledge was passed down from generation to generation. Children were always the weaker half of the power balance in the classroom.
The digital transformation and the network revolution have completely undermined these power structures. Those who lead the revolution today grew up in a world in which knowledge is always readily available to everyone, social media platforms are our natural surroundings, and their perception of the world was shaped both by these digital networks and the traditional systems of knowledge.
The boundaries between children and parents, children, and teachers, as well as between parents and teachers, have all been blurred.
This reality created a generation of opinionated, independently thinking, and diverse people with completely different views than their parents, teachers, and managers.
If in the traditional corporate world, personal identity relied on one’s profession, and developing within that profession was seen as a linear progression up the corporate ladder – today’s complex world views success in a completely different way.
These changes are not only generational. Gen Z knows how to make it viral, giving it a voice, using various platforms. However, many people are starting to understand the new reality.
Individualization and Personalization
We, as people, are much more complex, holistic, and rich than our job title. Our identity is no longer dependent on our education, our position, or our organizational affiliation.
Within this multifaceted reality, they set clear boundaries. To be part of many different worlds, not just the professional world, one must clearly delineate between essential and inessential. Those who grew up in a time of blurred lines are now creating clear-cut boundaries for themselves. No, this is not necessarily a lack of ambition. It’s simply a different kind of growth.
The psychological contract between people and their employers has changed! The employer no longer “gives” an employee work. People “give” to the organization just as much as they get. The power dynamic is balancing out and people are now viewing their bosses as equals.
How should we adjust ourselves in light of these changes?
1. Network organizational structure
We need to say goodbye to hierarchical structures and move toward a model of “value networks” – in which people hold more than one position within the network. They can lead a certain project and support a different lead in another. Responsibility comes with authority, but not strictly formal authority. Delegating the work based on an individual’s abilities, strengths, and personal motivations will allow them to find more meaning in the work and in turn to take on more responsibilities in the future.
2. An operating system based on collaboration
Everyone is a partner in the organization’s decision-making, goal setting, and pursuit of those goals. When an organization cultivates an authentic collaboration culture, everyone feels responsible for contributing to its success.
3. Redefining Roles and Responsibilities boundaries
The expectations from people to give 200% of themselves to their job is unrealistic and unfair. Organizations take advantage of the power imbalance to ask their employees to always exceed expectations. Of course, we expect people to be proactive and to take charge, but there is a clear line between this expectation and bending employees until they break.
Don’t ask employees for more without properly compensating them. And no, I don’t mean money, but recognition and appreciation!
Working 150% of your contractually obligated hours should not be the default! Such a demand made explicitly by managers represents clear exploitation of corporate culture.
4. Employees are people first
When they’re hurt, they cry. But guess what? When they are seen, understood, and supported – they thrive!
Employees who chose to mentally check out of work do so because they don’t trust their managers. They don’t feel like they have someone who’d listen to them. A lack of trust breeds toxicity.
To each their own! Every person is unique and has unique needs. We cannot view them as a faceless assembly line of workers. See them as individuals and be flexible in your management style so they can have as much space as possible to express their individuality in the organizational network.
What’s happening right now is the post-corporate revolution! People are stomping their feet. True, it’s passive-aggressive. It’s behavior typically seen in children. But guess what? When they are trusted and listened to, children also grow and develop!
The solution is to open up a respectful dialogue, to understand their needs and their red lines. What can’t they live without and what will they do anything to achieve? Be open about your own needs and the organization’s needs, too. Take an opportunity to think things through together – how can we create shared value that meets our individual and shared needs?
Smadar Tadmor. Co-founder&CEO, Claro-Mentor