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Quiet quitting unveiled: Decoding GenZ’s workforce evolution

Quiet quitting unveiled: Decoding GenZ’s workforce evolution

Jan 28, 2024

Reports show that 85% of employees worldwide may be engaged in quiet quitting, while three-quarters of GenZ employees (76%) are willing to work no more than 40 hours a week. This indicates a potent workplace trend among the newer generation, and the phenomenon strongly implies how employers should adjust their management style.

Interview with Irwan

Bringing a unique perspective to this discussion, we delve into an insightful conversation with Irwan Hermawan, CEO of Markathing, a leading marketing communications agency based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Noticeably, he is also a first-honor student from Melbourne University meanwhile owning four chain restaurants. The unique career journey allows him to look at employee behavior through a multifaceted lens.

Our interview uncovers a fascinating trend within his organization: a majority of those engaging in quiet quitting are from Generation Z. This revelation from Irwanher’s experience sheds light on the phenomenon and opens a window into the broader narrative of generational differences in the workplace.


What is quiet quitting?

In recent years, the term "quiet quitting" has emerged as a buzzword in the modern workplace, capturing a phenomenon where employees do no more than the bare minimum required by their job roles. Far from resigning, these individuals are subtly stepping back from the extra mile, signaling a shift in their engagement and attitude towards work. This trend, especially significant in the post-pandemic era, reflects a growing emphasis on work-life balance and a reaction against the pervasive hustle culture.


Misconceptions and Clarifications

Quiet quitting is often misunderstood as the actual resignation. However, it's more accurately a step back from going above and beyond one's job requirements without complete disengagement or underperformance. This distinction is critical in distinguishing quiet quitting from active disengagement, where employees may fail to complete tasks and potentially act against business objectives. Unlike active disengagement, quiet quitting is a subtle withdrawal from extra roles and responsibilities not specified in the job description rather than an outright act of defiance.

Quiet quitting example: Employees come to office late and complete just what they are asked to do and leave office early.


Three most common causes of quiet quitting

  • Unmanageable Workloads in the Post-Pandemic Era

The post-pandemic era has significantly increased workloads, often unmanageable for many employees. As companies adapted to the new normal, employee expectations rose, often without proportional increases in resources or support. Numerous organizations faced reduced staff or heightened demands during the pandemic, leading to increased work burdens. A survey conducted in 2020 indicated that 45% of remote workers reported working more than before the pandemic, with a significant portion working weekends. This increased workload has continued post-pandemic, contributing to the rise of quiet quitting as employees seek to cope with these unrealistic expectations.


  • Lack of Recognition and Rewards

A common trigger for quiet quitting is the feeling that extra efforts and work are not recognized or rewarded. This lack of acknowledgment can lead to disengagement in environments dominated by a hustle culture. Employees extending beyond their job descriptions often expect some form of recognition, but when it's absent, they may resort to quiet quitting. Feeling undervalued, despite extra effort, can erode their motivation for continued high-level commitment.


  • Poor Workplace Interactions

Negative interactions, such as unfair treatment, bullying, or belittling, are significant contributors to quiet quitting. Employees subjected to such negativity often limit their efforts to the bare minimum required, using quiet quitting as a protective response against a toxic work environment. In some cases, it can be viewed as a subtle protest against mistreatment, signaling a disconnection between the employee and organizational culture.


Historical and Cultural Context: Generation Z vs. Baby Boomers

In the words of Irwan, “The Boomer employees stay long and emphasize the importance of stability and consistency. Payment is the most important factor because they work to get paid. But GenZ doesn’t care about payment as much. They seek freedom and don’t want to be restricted by work, which among the employees who quiet quit, most of them are GenZ.” This observation provides a crucial lens to view the generational divide between Baby Boomers and Generation Z in workplace attitudes, meanwhile demonstrating the multifaceted nature of quiet quitting.


  • Baby Boomers' Workplace Ethos

Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, came of age in a post-war era marked by remarkable economic prosperity and stability. This period shaped their work attitudes significantly:

- Work Ethic and Loyalty: Baby Boomers are known for their strong work ethic and deep sense of employer loyalty. They often view tenure and longevity with a single employer as a badge of honor.

- Value on Job Security: Growing up during a time of economic boom, Boomers generally prioritize job security and upward mobility within an organization.

- Motivated by Traditional Perks: Titles, prestige, and retirement benefits hold significant value for this generation. Their work often defines their self-worth.

- Preference for Hierarchical Structure: They are typically comfortable in a structured, hierarchical work environment and do not require constant feedback, adhering to the adage, “no news is good news.”


  • Generation Z's Workplace Approach

In stark contrast, Generation Z, born from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s, are digital natives who have grown up in a world that is globally connected and technologically advanced:

- Emphasis on Diversity and Authenticity: Gen Z values diversity, inclusivity, and authenticity, both in their personal lives and the workplace.

- Seeking Meaningful Work: This generation looks for work that is not just a job but a reflection of their personal values and societal beliefs.

- Influenced by Economic Uncertainty: Having witnessed economic challenges, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gen Z is acutely aware of the precarious nature of job security.

- Valuing Flexibility and Adaptability: Gen Z workers prioritize mental health, work-life balance, and flexibility, often preferring remote or dynamic work environments.

- Driven by Personal Values Over Pay: Unlike the Boomers, Gen Z is less motivated by long-term job security and more by how their job aligns with their personal and socio-political beliefs.



The implication of generational differences in the workplace, particularly between Baby Boomers and Generation Z, is that managers need to adapt their approach to cater to the diverse needs and preferences of these groups. For example, in a traditional, stable, and predictable workplace, Baby Boomers might thrive due to their preference for structured environments and job security. However, this setting might not appeal to Gen Z, who value flexibility, diversity, and alignment with personal values.


Conversely, in a workplace that prioritizes unconventional management styles without emphasizing financial stability, Baby Boomers might struggle to adapt, potentially leading to dissatisfaction and decreased productivity. Generation Z, on the other hand, might find such an environment more stimulating and aligned with their expectations.


To manage these differences effectively, managers should adopt a flexible and inclusive approach, fostering an environment where both groups feel valued and engaged. This could involve creating a hybrid work environment that balances office-based and remote work, facilitating knowledge sharing across generations, and aligning the team with strong company values. Organizing team-building exercises can also help break down generational barriers and foster mutual understanding.


Three criteria to know if the GenZ employee will quiet quit

In this next chapter of our exploration into the modern workplace, we turn our focus to Generation Z, a group that's at the heart of the quiet quitting phenomenon. Through an insightful conversation with Irwan Hermawan, we've uncovered three pivotal aspects that define Gen Z's relationship with work: environment, expectation, and payment. These are not just words; they are the keys to understanding a generation reshaping our idea of work and commitment.


  • Environment: A supportive and flexible work environment is key for Gen Z. They look for companies where they are valued as individuals and have the freedom to work flexibly. Research shows that 73% of Gen Z employees desire flexible work options, blending remote and on-site work. Mental health is also a significant concern for Gen Z. A survey found that half of Gen Z respondents want mental health training and over 80% value mental health days at work. Irwan's observation aligns with this, emphasizing the importance of a positive, inclusive, and socially responsible workplace.


  • Expectation: Gen Z aims to grow and learn in their jobs. Irwan noted that they seek career progression and are prepared to work hard when necessary. However, they face dissatisfaction when tasks exceed their capabilities or differ from initial job expectations. Gen Z values career development, with research indicating that a lack of learning opportunities can make them more likely to quit. Their approach to work is about consistent learning and embracing new challenges, underlining the need for clear, achievable goals and supportive guidance.


  • Payment: While salary is important, it's not the top priority for Gen Z. They're more inclined to work in roles that align with their values and offer job satisfaction. However, when other aspects like environment and expectations aren't met, the salary becomes the primary reason to stay in a job. Despite valuing salary less than other generations, 54% of GenZ place it as the highest importance in job decisions. This mirrors Irwan's point that when the work environment and expectations fail, the only thing left between the company and quiet quitting for Gen Z is the salary.


Although payment isn't always their top concern, it becomes crucial when they are expected to handle tasks beyond their standard responsibilities. Fair financial compensation for this extra effort is key. While Gen Z values interesting work over high pay, they also seek recognition and fair treatment for their additional contributions. Proper acknowledgment, whether through monetary rewards or other forms of appreciation, is vital in ensuring their job satisfaction and preventing disengagement or quiet quitting.


Let’s talk about flexibility and freedom

In a survey conducted by Irwan Hermawan to assess employee satisfaction, he uncovered some intriguing findings about his Gen Z employees. This exercise, aimed at understanding the impact of his management style, revealed that factors such as flexibility, freedom, and respect for personal space played a significant role in determining their workplace loyalty and satisfaction. These insights offer a valuable perspective on the evolving expectations of the younger workforce and highlight the importance of adapting management strategies to meet these changing needs.

  • Autonomy in Pursuing Personal Projects: Irwan finds his Gen Z employees highly value the freedom to engage in personal projects or freelance work. This autonomy extends beyond the scope of their regular job duties, indicating trust and respect from the employer. It’s a gesture that acknowledges their diverse skills and interests, potentially leading to increased job satisfaction and a sense of empowerment.


  • Respecting Personal Life Boundaries: The non-interventionist approach towards employees' personal lives emerged as a significant factor in the survey. Gen Z appreciates when employers respect their personal space and time, illustrating a modern understanding of work-life balance. This respect for personal boundaries is more than a policy; it's a cultural attribute that can deeply influence workplace contentment.


  • Open and Respectful Communication: Irwan’s approach to encouraging open and respectful communication channels where employees feel safe to express their concerns and ideas resonates strongly with Gen Z. This generation seeks a work environment where transparency and honest dialogues are the norms, not the exceptions. Establishing such a culture can lead to a more engaged and trustful employee base.


  • Flexibility in Work Policies: Flexible work policies, especially regarding leaves, as long as job objectives are met, is another key insight. Gen Z values results-oriented work environments where they are judged on their output and performance rather than just adherence to traditional work hours or methods. This flexibility is not just a convenience; it's a reflection of a modern, adaptable workplace that aligns with their dynamic lifestyles.


The result?

The culmination of these factors leads to an interesting revelation: Gen Z's increased loyalty to employers who offer such freedoms. When their need for autonomy, respect for personal life, open communication, and flexible policies are met, Gen Z employees tend to show stronger commitment and higher job satisfaction.


Quiet quitting meaning a subtle shift in employee engagement, particularly among Generation Z, represents a crucial change in workplace dynamics. This phenomenon, highlighted in Irwan Hermawan's experiences at Markathing, calls for a deeper understanding and adaptation by employers to foster a work environment that resonates with the evolving expectations of the modern workforce.







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