What is quiet quitting and how does it affect your employees in Hungary?

Quiet quitting and labor rights

Quiet quitting is a new term that started circulating over the last year or so. It refers to employees doing the bare minimum at their job, as if they were already considering quitting – a behavior that gives rise to frustration among employers. What can you do against it? Get a better idea below.

What exactly is quiet quitting?

According to definition, “quiet quitting” refers to doing the minimum requirements of one’s job and putting in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm than absolutely necessary. As such, it is something of a misnomer, since the worker doesn’t actually leave their position and continues to collect a salary.

By this definition, you can see that an employee considered engaged in “quiet quitting” continues to do their job according to their job description. They are not neglecting their tasks, and they are not causing problems in hopes of getting fired.

At the same time, they will show less (or no) willingness to display “organizational citizenship behavior, which includes everything that is not part of the employees’ contractual tasks. Such employees will not go the extra mile to support the company, will not stay late to finish tasks, and will not attend non-mandatory meetings, especially not outside of working hours.

But is that really a bad thing?

Quiet quitting vs. labor rights

In Hungary, just like in other member states of the European Union, workers’ rights are heavily protected. Laws define working hours, working conditions, and fair compensation, which includes not only minimum wage, but wage supplements for overtime and any kind of work performed outside regular business hours. The job description is a compulsory element of the labor contract, and it is intended to protect the rights of both the employer and the employee: it defines the tasks which the employee is rightly expected to perform, and which the employer rightly expects to be performed.

As a result, from the point of view of labor rights, the concept of quiet quitting makes no sense. So called quiet quitters perform their contractual duties appropriately: they do not slack off, and their performance is not lacking in any way. They cannot be fired solely on the basis of doing “only” their job.

Quiet quitting defined from the employer’s point of view

Quiet quitting does make sense if we acknowledge that it is defined from the point of view of the employer. You own the company, you pay the salaries of your employees, you have various expenses – and you would like to see your investment flourish. That is an understandable desire, which can lead to frustration if you as an employer are committed to your business, and your employees are not.

At the same time, employers must acknowledge that employees are not required and cannot be forced to perform above their contractual obligations. If your employees are doing their job according to their job description, that is already a win, and should be appreciated as such.

In contrast, the question of delivering above expectations can become an actual problem if your employees are doing so “for the wrong reasons”. For example, if they are in Hungary with a work permit and their residency is dependent on their employment at your company, on the surface they might be more inclined to go the extra mile for fear of losing their job and then needing to find a new job on their own in a strange country or face being sent back to their country of origin. This could lead to burnout and an actual drop in their performance – which would in fact be detrimental to your Hungarian business, as opposed to quiet quitting.

How to reduce the number of quiet quitters at your company?

Motivation and engagement are personal, and cannot be measured the same way as the performance of tasks. However, if you as an employer feel frustrated that your employees seem not to be as invested in the success of your business as you are, there are various strategies you may apply. Most of them involve engaging with your employees on a more personal level, acknowledging their needs, providing relevant incentives and rewards, and building not simply a business, but an organization that is worth being engaged with. This is an investment of not only money, but also time and effort.

  • Increase salaries: increased effort should be rewarded by increased compensation.
  • Improve working conditions: cleaner and safer working environment, flexibility in working hours, option for home office, and additional perks will let the employees feel more appreciated.
  • Set the example: not (just) by staying after hours, but by engaging with your employees, being accessible, and responding to their concerns with consideration.
  • Improve workflows: make sure that official workflows reflect practice, responsibilities assigned to each position are realistic, and tasks are feasible in the allocated working time.
  • Provide opportunities for development: offer training for soft skills as well as hard skills, and create a clear path for promotions.
  • Keep employees in the loop: changes that affect the daily operation should be announced with at least some advance, and should not get revealed accidentally.

The more you consider the goals and motivations of your employees, the more engagement you can expect. However, you can still not require them to be engaged with your business above their contractual obligations.

Is quiet quitting a problem?

What might seem “quiet quitting” to the employer, might well be just “doing their job” to the employee, maintaining a healthy life-work balance. As a result, quiet quitting is only a problem if you expect your employees to do more for your business than what you can contractually require them to do. Adjusting your expectations while improving your workflows and creating a better working environment through incentives and rewards, you get the chance for better employee engagement, which will in turn increase employee performance – hopefully not to the detriment of your employees’ home life.

HR support for your Hungarian business

The Helpers Team focuses on working with foreign-owned business in Hungary, providing administrative assistance with all aspects of business operation from incorporation through accountancy to payroll administration and HR support, including work permit applications for foreign employees. Whatever you need, we are confident we can take care of it thanks to our relevant experience accumulated since 2004, or at least send you in the right direction.

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