Doing the minimum at work: it is a trend. For employers, it is a signal that they should take a more critical look at their policy, says AMS Professor Ans De Vos. Below you will find her open letter to employers, which appeared as an opinion piece in De Standaard.
What strikes me about the great amounts of attention paid to 'quiet quitting', it is that work seems to leave no one indifferent. It is remarkable, all that attention for a term that has gone viral on TikTok, but - as all the interpretations and testimonies show - actually has no clear meaning. Especially whether it is something employees do out of dissatisfaction, “I am not appreciated anyway, especially not for all the extra tasks I take on” or from a positive perspective: focusing on what actually matters in their jobs.
I find it strange that this phenomenon elicits little response of the employers. Quiet quitting? Do employers lose sleep over it? "If only we could find enough people... and somehow counteract the real turnover... paying attention to quiet quitting, that’s just too much right now..." because, as you know, the job market is ‘on fire’, with a ‘war for talent’ as a consequence.
Dear employer, I think there are good reasons to take a closer look. Not so much at the term, but at the phenomenon it refers to. What about the engagement in your organisation? What does your employees’ relationship with their work look like, on the spectrum from 'total indifference' to 'healthy engagement' to 'overcommitment'. Or from bore-out to burn-out. Do you have any idea? And what does this mean for the people themselves and your organisation? And if you have no idea, how come? No time for dialogue? The elephant in the room?
I would also be very interested to know how many workplaces discuss the media debate at the lunch table - or at the weekly team meeting. Or do employees, supervisors and HR managers deftly walk around the elephant?
"Quiet quitting is essentially about 'the contract in our heads', where employees psychologically distance themselves from their work; they mentally and emotionally balance their own commitment with what they get in return."
Quiet quitting is essentially about 'the contract in our heads', where employees psychologically distance themselves from their work; they mentally and emotionally balance their own commitment with what they get in return. And they may have good reasons for that. If the employment contract is about 'pay for work', it is only logical that you balance that work with the pay. But the psychological contract is much broader. It includes everything that makes the work meaningful, not just the euros in exchange for working hours. It's about appreciation, being seen, learning opportunities, social connections… Just as work is about more than just putting in the hours, but also about helping colleagues, solution-oriented thinking, flexibility… What is that balance like in your organisation? How much more do you expect from employees than merely performing the hours required? And what do you offer in return, apart from their wages? Or have you as an employer, perhaps unintentionally - that burning labour market and all - evolved to 'focus on the essentials' as well, namely ensuring that wages are paid? And in this sense, are you actually a 'quiet dismisser'?
Dear employer and employee - you are together in this work agreement: maybe it’s time to discuss what that entails? So that work, as an important part of our lives, and not as a means or an end, again becomes something that can be discussed in the workplace itself.
This open letter was the basis for the opinion piece that appeared in De Standaard.