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The Silent Scourge of Australian Workplaces: Understanding the Phenomenon of ‘Quiet Quitting’

The Silent Scourge of Australian Workplaces: Understanding the Phenomenon of ‘Quiet Quitting’

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recently reported that the unemployment rate in Australia stands at a respectable 3.9 percent. This figure suggests that the country is heading towards a period of prosperity and near full employment following the disruptions caused by COVID-19. However, this statistic does not account for a phenomenon known as “quiet quitting,” which is prevalent in many Australian workplaces.

Quiet quitting refers to the tendency among workers to limit their contribution to the business. These employees intentionally fail to exceed or even meet their employers’ expectations and avoid volunteering for tasks that could improve their career path. While they still draw a wage, they remain disconnected from their job, resulting in a significant loss of human capital.

According to a McKinsey report, between 20 to 40 percent of organizations’ workforce is typically made up of quiet quitters. These employees take more sick days, put in less discretionary effort, are less focused on delivering outputs, and may even make customers and co-workers unhappy. The lack of job satisfaction, as revealed by the Indeed/YouGov’s 2022 Workplace Happiness Survey, is a significant factor contributing to the practice of quiet quitting. 72 percent of Australian employees do not enjoy their jobs, further exacerbating the issue.

A prime example of quiet quitting can be seen in universities, where some academics only attend work meetings and teach classes reluctantly. Teaching is often perceived as the worst activity of the week, and unrealistic expectations may lead them to neglect research as well. This attitude aligns with the philosophy of quiet quitting. Similarly, the push for a four-day work week in Australia also reflects this phenomenon. Proponents claim that reduced hours will not affect productivity, but skeptics find this claim hard to believe.

One factor that has contributed to the prevalence of quiet quitting is the widespread adoption of remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home reduced casual interactions and dialogue, making it difficult for managers to gauge employee morale, work habits, and well-being. According to Bayside Group, connection with an organization’s people and vision are critical to engagement and work performance. The lack of supervision during remote work provided an ideal environment for quiet quitting to thrive.

Job insecurity is another significant factor contributing to the practice of quiet quitting. The threat of artificial intelligence and the potential for job redundancy have created a climate of uncertainty, causing employees to stay in their jobs for the wrong reasons. This further increases the instances of quiet quitting as employees become disengaged from their work.

It is ironic that quiet quitting is happening in a low unemployment climate where one would expect people to have opportunities for professional advancement and betterment. However, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace for 2023 report, disengagement with work has soared to a high of 67 percent in Australia, 8 percent higher than the global average.

In order to address this issue, employers must acknowledge the existence of quiet quitting and provide opportunities that can keep workers engaged and motivated in their jobs. Job satisfaction and a sense of connection with the organization’s vision and values are crucial in preventing employees from resorting to quiet quitting. It is essential for employers to prioritize employee well-being, provide opportunities for growth and advancement, and foster a positive work environment that encourages active participation and engagement.

Quiet quitting may be a silent scourge in Australian workplaces, but by recognizing its presence and taking proactive measures to address it, organizations can ensure a more engaged and motivated workforce that contributes positively to their success.

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