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'Conscious quitting’ – it’s more than just a buzzword

By Beth Wingad

‘Conscious quitting’ is the latest workplace term hitting the headlines. So what is it? And what can companies do to combat it?

After ‘quiet quitting’, ‘resenteeism‘ and ‘rage applying’, you’d be forgiven for thinking that ‘conscious quitting’ is just the next buzzword. But it’s so much more than that.

Coined by Paul Polman of Net Positive, ‘conscious quitting’ is summing up the mood of the workforce right now, and is set to have a massive impact on the future of work and employment.

What is conscious quitting?

Conscious quitting is the act of quitting your job because your employer doesn’t share your values, or isn’t making a positive impact on the world.

Almost 50% of workers would be willing to leave their job if their employer didn’t share their values, according to a recent Net Positive survey. Younger workers were also statistically more likely to quit over values-related issues, with nearly half of Gen Z and millennials going as far as to say they’d take a pay cut to work for a company that shares their values and is pushing for societal change.

We were interested by this, so asked our connections the same question. A huge 80% of people responded to say they’d consider quitting if values didn’t align.

Still think it’s just a buzzword?

Why are values so important?

Gone are the days when a beer fridge and a communal pool table counted as culture. Increasingly employees are demanding more from their employers when it comes to values, particularly when it comes to the environment, social issues, and sustainability.

People are worried about the future. ‘Unprecedented times’ have become the norm, and without a doubt the tumultuous world we currently live in is having an impact on the rise of conscious quitting. In a society that’s rife with climate crisis, economic and social inequalities, and conflict, people naturally want to do more, and are expecting their employers to follow suit. In fact, three quarters of survey respondents said that companies should take responsibility for the impact they’re having on the world.

Employees want their employers to have a stronger stance on the environment, on inequalities, on sustainability, to name just a few issues.

Why should employers care?

Quite simply, because their employees do.

Paul Polman advises that ‘business is sleepwalking into an era of conscious quitting’, so it’s crucial that companies take note of what’s going on. Not only will businesses who seemingly ‘don’t care’ about issues in the wider world risk falling out of sync with their employees and losing to those making a more positive impact, but they’ll also forego the benefits of being a values-conscious employer, things like higher levels of employee motivation and loyalty, and a strong employer brand.

Plus, as Gen Z and millennials begin to dominate the workforce, conscious quitting is only going to grow more rife. The future workforce cares, what companies need to think about is how they can show (and demonstrate!) that they care too.

So what can employers do?

No one is expecting companies to be ‘perfect’ straight away. Employees can often see that their employer is taking steps to address environment and social issues, but want them to do more. Where employers should focus their efforts is on closing that gap between their actions, and the expectations of their workforce.

A huge part of this is about what’s communicated. Whether it’s being clear on what they’re doing from a sustainability perspective, or empowering their employees to share what they care about (and listening!), companies that are communicating with their teams about these issues are creating more engaged employees. Meaningful dialogue around issues that are impacting the wider world is a great place to start.

More than half of the surveyed respondents said they actively want a more significant role in helping their company to make positive changes, so companies shouldn’t feel faced with an impossible task. Taking decisive action and steps in the right direction, as well as taking your employees on that journey, will go some way to combatting conscious quitting.