Quiet Quitting (or Why Job Descriptions Are Important)

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By Samantha Seabrook

“Quiet Quitting” – formerly known as “work to rule”, “dialling it in”, or “doing the bare minimum” – is an old trick with a new name. Some employees become disengaged, either through burnout, boredom, or eyes to the horizon of a new job elsewhere. However, the phenomenon of quiet quitting is a reflection on the increased demands of remote work during the pandemic, and a pushback on doing the little extras (or a lot of extras) that have crept into an employee’s role. 

What does your employee do?

Job descriptions are not just for the job posts. The starting point of managing the quiet quitting phenomenon is to understand what the employee does day-to-day and month-to-month. Hopefully you have job descriptions for your employees…and attached those job descriptions to their employment contracts. Job descriptions are important because they create a baseline for job duty expectations. 

Some key points for writing stellar job descriptions:

  • Include the employee currently in the role – if you have not written job descriptions yet, don’t be afraid to ask the employee currently in the role to help you understand what they do. 
  • Be inclusive – not just the day-to-day activities. Include monthly, quarterly, and yearly duties too. 
  • Leave some room to maneuver – job descriptions should tell an employee what duties they are generally responsible for, but also include catch-alls for things that you are less able to define. 
  • Performance review time is a great time to revisit job descriptions – employees may share feedback or managers may take stock of extras an employee is doing during performance review time.

Job descriptions should be reviewed regularly to make sure they actually match the role. 

Quiet Quitting

So what do you do when an employee disengages and stops doing the extras – staying late, working weekends, planning events, or doing the things that have crept into their role over time. 

First, you need to take stock of whether the employee’s legal rights have been respected: 

  • Employees are entitled to overtime pay or time in lieu when they work more than 44 hours in a work week. 
  • Employees can usually work other jobs or side-gigs (as long as they do not compete with their employer). 

On the other hand, employers have the legal ability to:

  • Organize work to suit their business needs. 
  • Reasonably assign employees work within their role.
  • Expect employees to accomplish work and meet reasonable performance objectives. 
  • Performance manage employees who are not fulfilling their job duties or meeting performance objectives. 

So second, you need to assess whether the employee has stopped doing things outside of their role or reasonable expectations, or if there is now a performance issue. This is where the job description comes in handy. Sit down and evaluate what is in scope of the role, and whether there are any expectations that are out of scope. If there are expectations that are out of scope, this is a great time to consider revising the job title and increasing compensation to show the employee their contributions are valued in the organization. 

Performance managing the quiet quitting employee

If the employee is not performing job duties that are squarely in their role, it is time to move to performance management. We suggest that this not wait until performance review time. Try the following steps:

  • Have a check-in meeting with the employee – let the employee know that some things have come up about their performance, and that you want to know how they are feeling or if there is anything going on you should know about. If there is a disability or family situation happening that is affecting employee engagement, that requires a different solution than performance management (call us to talk about accommodation). 
  • If the employee does not have an accommodation need, then it is time to reset expectations about the job duties that are being missed or not performed well. Help the employee identify what could help them improve. Keep notes of what was addressed and any help the employee has requested. Schedule another meeting a week later to follow up. 
  • Keep following up with the employee on a weekly basis. Keep notes of discussions and document whether performance is improving, areas in which the employee continues to underperform, and any supports implemented to help the employee. 

If the employee continues not to meet performance objectives, it is time to put them on a formal performance improvement plan (PIP).

We are here to help you. Please contact your Seabrook Workplace Law lawyer to discuss quiet quitting or any other workplace, human resources, accommodation, or performance management issues. 

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