Perhaps you've recently heard of the term "quiet quitting" that has been trending on social media. Since the pandemic, it has supposedly taken workplaces by storm, while others argue that this phenomenon is nothing new. A poll on Gallup shows that half of the U.S. workforce is quiet quitting. But what exactly is quiet quitting?
The term can be rather misleading because it's not really quitting at all--it's the act of employees doing just enough to succeed without going above and beyond the call of duty in order to establish a healthier work-life balance. Covid-19 served as a catalyst for this movement. Many have put their relationship with work under a magnifying glass; they are starting to prioritize their mental health and draw boundaries between their personal and professional lives.
There are many mixed emotions surrounding the topic. Some higher-ups are frustrated by it and view it as laziness. Others are more accepting and acknowledge that it's fine so long as expectations and deadlines are being met.
But what does this mean for the legal profession? For a highly competitive field with intense pressure to succeed, along with those billable work hours, quiet quitting does not seem like an option. However, it may manifest in different ways.
True quitting is one. Workplace burnout is very real for lawyers. According to Law.com, 50% of young lawyers are likely to leave their current jobs for a career switch within the next five years, the majority citing concerns about a healthy work-life balance. With a waning "next generation" of lawyers, the longevity of the profession is brought into question. Younger generations are now looking towards jobs with flexibility and work that they can leave at the office. Careers that don't keep up with these demands may find themselves facing staffing shortages if they don't change to keep up with the times.
If the idea of burnout sounds relatable to you, check out our upcoming webcast replay of The Burned Out Lawyer: Recognition and Prevention Strategies in the COVID World 2022.
Maybe you're a go-getter who can't relate to the practice of quiet quitting, but you've noticed your associates may be slacking. That may mean that it's time for a conversation. However, you shouldn't be approaching it with thoughts of how to get them to work harder (remember that quiet quitting is meeting expectations not exceeding them, so they are still putting in the necessary work). If you want more from them, consider how you can improve their work life to pull that out of them. Incentive to convince them may be in order.
The answer could even be the opposite of what you're thinking. Studies involving shorter work hours have shown productivity levels remained the same or improved due to happier, less-stressed workers. So perhaps the solution is not always dumping more work on an unhappy employee. If you truly want to see them go above and beyond, think outside the box.
Of course, when you're a lawyer with billable hours, it becomes difficult to set a hard stop on the workday and resist grinding just a little bit more. Your partners may not be so eager to let you set the boundaries you desire, especially if they have a history of being overworked themselves. In order to break the cycle, change has to come from all parties.
To those who are laser-focused on profit, burning out your associates will only mean you have to replace them faster as they go looking for greener pastures or quit altogether. With each new hire, time and resources must be funneled into them, and new relationships with clients must be forged. Focus on your existing employees and their needs because otherwise, you might lose a number of exemplary, seasoned attorneys who feel they deserve better.
And to those who find themselves relating to quiet quitting, the best thing you can do is continue to do a good job. Show your employer your value. Don't slack, but don't sacrifice your health for the good of the company either. Hold onto the balance that quiet quitting preaches and be a glowing example that a healthy work-life balance is possible.
"Hustle culture" is on the decline and quiet quitting is proof of that. Many of us have been programmed to think that we must always be doing something productive, churning out results, working through lunch or well into the night...but this isn't something to brag about or be proud of. This will lead to burnout, which is damaging to your mental health, and may stop productivity in its tracks. Quiet quitting is an active form of combatting this. If you find yourself exhausted, ridden with anxiety, or mentally checking out of your life, it's time to take a step back.
And don't think of quiet quitting as "quitting." It's merely revamping your priorities and laying down healthier boundaries for a better life.