There is a new phenomenon popularised by TikTok known as quiet quitting in which employees will only perform work within their defined work hours and job description. Employees will not actually resign from their employment, but rather, they will refuse to go above and beyond their work duties and hours. In the TikTok video the narrator reflects that "you're not outright quitting your job but you're quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You're still performing your duties but you're no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality where work has to be your life."

Ideally, even employees who are quiet quitting should be performing to the best of their abilities within the scope of their role. However, organisations are most likely to grow and be successful when they have a team of employees who are motivated high performers, performing reasonable additional hours and pushing the boundaries of their role.

Managing quiet quitting in the workplace will present challenges for employers. It is likely that there is a disconnect between what an employee considers appropriate work performance and an employer's expectations. The key to managing the quiet quitter is to have a team of skilled managers who can address performance issues and maintain an open dialogue with employees.

Reasonable expectations

While a quiet quitter may refuse to work past their contracted hours, employers should be aware that employees can be asked to perform reasonable additional hours. Under the Fair Work Act 2009, while the maximum weekly hours of work is 38 hours for a full-time employee, an employer may request an employee work reasonable additional hours.

To determine whether additional hours are reasonable, an employer must consider any work health and safety risks to the employee, their personal circumstances including their family responsibilities and whether any notice was given to the employee that they may be required to work additional hours. Further, employers need to be mindful to pay any applicable overtime or penalty rates.

In addition to requesting employees work reasonable additional hours, employers have the right to require their employees to follow lawful and reasonable directions regarding how they perform their work. Those directions can include requiring employees to perform additional duties.

Exceeding performance expectations

In order to cultivate a high performance culture, employers should work to motivate their employees (including any quiet quitters) to exceed their defined performance expectations.

One way to motivate employees is for employers to introduce incentives linked to performance and value creation. For example, for employees who create, sell or run a product that creates value, employers should consider providing commission or a portion of the revenue to the employee. Similarly, if an employee's high performance helps an employer's bottom line, then that performance should be recognised through financial bonuses or non-financial rewards.

While it may seem unnecessary to reward employees for performing their role, ignoring the quiet quitting phenomenon is to ignore workers' concerns that they are undervalued. This can lead to the risk of employers losing their top talent, and increase their recruitment and training costs.

How to performance manage poor performing employees

There is a direct correlation between committing to addressing poor performance and creating a high performance culture.

In some circumstances, employees who are quiet quitting are also engaging in poor performance in their role. Employers are within their rights to performance manage these employees, and should undertake the following steps:

  • identify and understand employee and employer rights and obligations from a range of sources, including federal and state legislation, common law, awards, enterprise agreements, individual contracts, policies and procedures;
  • identify the work standards expected of employees;
  • implement a performance assessment process to identify when those standards have not been met;
  • effectively communicate unsatisfactory performance to employees;
  • make any necessary adjustments to the position;
  • arrange proper training and team meetings; and
  • ensure regular feedback and mentoring.

Disciplinary action

When the above steps fail to address an employee's performance problems, an employer should consider disciplinary action. The most common disciplinary procedures are counseling, verbal or written warnings and termination of employment. Other disciplinary alternatives include suspension and demotion. The level of disciplinary action taken should correspond to the seriousness of the performance issue.

As part of People + Culture Strategies education and thought leadership services, we offer High Performing Teams training. This program allows your organisation to develop a high performance culture by training leaders and managers in being effective at managing performance. For information please contact us on +61 2 8094 3100 or info@peopleculture.com.au