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Recent weeks on social media have spawned a new term in conversations about workplace culture: ‘quiet stop’. There has been a flurry of talk about the phenomenon after it went viral on TikTok, with journalists and LinkedIn gurus eager to share their thoughts on the trend.
Everyone from Arianna Huffington to The New York Times commented on the topic and it has sparked a storm of conversation. Often these opinions are a total dichotomy, but what everyone agrees on is that stopping silently seems to mean a breakdown in communication and connection – one that we all need to fix.
Related: ‘Dream Jobs Are Dead’: Quitting Quietly Is the TikTok Trend That Encourages Workers to Take it Easy at Work
What is silent stopping?
For the millennials and Gen-Zers who have popularized the idea of quiet quitting, it’s the antithesis of the toxic “hustle culture” that has plagued them for the past decade or so. Moreover, after the significant upheaval and major changes in the workplace during the pandemic, it was seemingly inevitable that some would reclaim their autonomy by any means necessary.
Against a backdrop of cutthroat competitiveness, peer comparison, and an ever-active culture of ubiquitous technology, many people have experienced poor mental health and burnout. This led to a first breaking point in the form of the Great Resignation, and now again with some employees proudly talking about silent layoffs.
For those individuals, quietly stopping is the process of coming to work to meet the minimum requirements of your position in the time you are there, and then leaving. No offers of overtime, no going beyond your stated obligations, no taking the extra step. It is the silent withdrawal of extra labor to reduce what is perceived as unreasonable pressure.
However, for some senior business leaders, quitting quietly is much more troubling, and something employees should back off from. In a viral post on the topic, Arianna Huffington wrote, “Quiet quitting isn’t just about quitting work, it’s a step toward quitting living.”
Whatever your feelings on the matter, the problem seems to be that everyone believes they are right – causing a disturbing lack of meaningful connection between employers and employees. I would suggest that the division that silent quitting represents can be resolved with effective workplace communication.
Related: 8 Ways to Avoid Silent Quitting Your Team
Conflict and Withdrawal in the Workplace
A Gallup’s 2022 report states that only 21% of employees now consider themselves engaged at work.
Despite being on the rise for several years now, this 21% represents a stagnation in wellbeing and engagement metrics. The biggest stepping stone for this is of course Covid-19. In 2021, when countries reopened after the pandemic and many people returned to the office, commuting five days a week suddenly seemed expensive and unnecessary. The work itself may have just seemed less meaningful in light of the trauma of the pandemic.
Millions of employees have reassessed their priorities and reinvented their relationships with their employers and functions. For people who don’t (and still don’t) feel that organizations have communicated with them transparently, quietly stopping is a reasonable response. For CEOs and others who didn’t have access to employee voices telling them how they were feeling, it may be something a little more difficult to understand.
Fortunately, good communication is one of the great ointments for disagreement and conflict. The question that is being asked in many organizations is how they can communicate better so that employer and employee can enjoy a healthy and prosperous relationship. How can we reconnect so everyone feels informed and part of a community with a healthy working relationship?
Related: ‘Quiet Firing’ is taking the workplace by storm. What is it exactly?
How can you help reconnect and reconcile?
Building a communication culture means creating something that goes beyond push notifications from above. Enabling employees to contribute and comment, conduct regular surveys to check sentiment (no, a once-a-year eNPS survey isn’t enough) and making leaders visual and present can all help. However you get there, it needs to be multi-directional and reached through a wide variety of communication channels.
From an organizational point of view, employers must invest everything in their teams to perform tasks smoothly, ensure a healthy culture and adequately reward good work. But it is also necessary to build a vibrant community that everyone feels a part of. This includes connecting remote, frontline and deskless workers through mobile technologies or in-person events.
In return, those employees who feel quietly disengaged can reassess and recognize the efforts made to listen and rebalance work and life. Now that better channels are available for them to speak, it is hoped that they too will want to re-establish a meaningful connection. That certainly doesn’t mean that you have to go back to work until you burn out, it just means that you have to re-open the channels that silent stopping suggests have been shut down.
Let’s not be quiet, let’s be noisy – let’s dialogue and debate.
Related: Making Meaningful Connections At Work
How can modern workplaces get there?
Most enterprise-level organizations recognize that managing internal communications through a digital workplace is the best way to encourage employees to collaborate, innovate and, perhaps most importantly, communicate.
Transparent and engaging internal communication strategies that can generate open conversation tend to blend workplace culture with employee recognition, values, DEI, business goals, strategic goals, and critical information.
In the most successful cases, eliciting contributions from across the organization is accompanied by leadership team content, which contributes to greater engagement. And to combat work-related pressures, greater awareness of wellness initiatives and mental health ensures teams have all the resources they need when they’re feeling anxious.
Reassessing internal communications and building bridges between everyone is necessary as we experience a moment that feels frayed. Through a combination of technology and expertise, any company can realign and create a new kind of workplace that minimizes conflict and promotes openness and engagement.