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Soaring costs, inflation nurturing generation of 'quiet quitters' among under-30s

My friends say I should act my wage. What's my wage again?

Young professionals are railing against drops in living standards and stagnant wages by becoming "quiet quitters" unless a pay rise or promotion is possible.

Research by global recruitment consultancy Robert Walters has found that almost half of workers under the age of 30 say they intend to do the "bare minimum" for their role if wages or progression potential remain static.

The "quiet quitting" phenomenon also means as younger workers perform the basics of their job description, it all but ensures they will never see the improvements they hope for.

CEO Toby Fowlston said: "This behavior isn't entirely new – there have always been less motivated individuals in the workplace. However, the real concern here is that unlike those few workers who tend to consciously be less productive at work, 'quiet quitting' is often a subconscious act borne out of frustrations at work."

"It is easy for managers to pull their employees up on lack of productivity, but unless they get to the bottom of the 'why' their motivation has dropped, then quiet quitting could well become a silent movement that has a damaging effect on businesses productivity and profitability."

Broader workplace issues aside, the poll makes clear that the leading reason for "quiet quitting" among under-30s is pay.

Although, for some, 2022 has been a record year for pay increases, especially for those switching jobs to win hikes of up to 25 percent (while those staying put receiving up to 15 percent) the reality is that they are meaningless in the face of the 50-plus percent increase in energy bills and a further 80 percent next month in the UK.

The pollsters say the inability for wages to match the cost of living is inspiring younger workers to "act their wage" – where they suddenly feel heavily underpaid due to rising costs and inflation. Thus, some are refusing to do more outside the parameters of their job description.

"In all cases of economic hardship it is young workers who are on lower salaries who feel the financial burden more. Their lack of experience – exasperated further by the pandemic – puts them in a much weaker position than their older, more experienced counterparts when trying to bargain for higher pay," Fowlston adds.

"Employers will be unable to increase pay at the same rate of inflation – that's a fact, so this is where softer perks and benefits really do have a chance to make a difference. Increasingly we are seeing utility vouchers, travel cards, and streaming subscriptions all being offered to prospective employees."

The research also finds that the remote work trend is helping to enable quiet quitters, at least from managers' perspectives.

Some 51 percent claimed they feel like they have to pick up the slack due to a dip in productivity from younger workers. Echoing sentiments picked up in recent Microsoft research of a "productivity paranoia," 39 percent of managers said that hybrid and remote working makes it difficult to measure their team's output. A further 24 percent said the flexibility in work patterns and hours means there is no universal indicator for productivity, making it easier for quiet quitters to slack.

"Quiet quitting creates a real imbalance in the team – where engaged workers will find that they are having to pick up the slack or deal with the lack of output from their disengaged colleagues," said Fowlstone. "This in turn will either burnout or frustrate those workers who are going above and beyond to deliver a high output.

"Business leaders can't allow 'quiet quitting' to become a norm – accountability is a central part of this. If 'quiet quitters' are benefiting from being 'out of sight, out of mind' then employers should not hesitate to make more office facetime mandatory.

"As much as we learned new ways of working in the pandemic, we also had some great working habits before COVID. These more traditional structures and systems should not be overlooked."

However, a survey last week from digital transformation specialist Adaptavist suggested that workers are reluctant to return to the office due to costs associated with travel, which had risen by 15 percent in the UK fo example, and are digging their heels in where they can.

In this climate of constant crisis, some might say work simply doesn't pay anymore for young people entering the job market. Universal basic income anyone? ®

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