The Truth Behind Quiet Quitting

While the term “quiet quitting” may be new, the concept is not. It’s been around for decades. But, amid the global pandemic, employees finally started speaking up — refusing to settle for employee burnout, poor management, or lack of career opportunities. Many argued that their leadership’s expectations of them extended past their job duties or workload capacity.

Quiet quitters make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce. The notion has spread like wildfire on social media, meaning it’s more likely to worsen. Like any movement, the more a group feels heard, the more they speak up. Companies can no longer ignore their employees’ voices.

The Truth Behind Quiet Quitting

So, rather than debating if quiet quitters are fallacious, let’s try to understand them. What exactly is a quiet quitter? Are there warning signs? And is quiet quitting the result of a lazy work ethic, bad management, or poor mental health?

Dismissing quiet quitting as a news trend risks further disengagement and overlooks the genuine reason employees are taking a step back. Quiet quitting can be prevented, but only if we address it head-on.

What is Quiet Quitting?

The Great Resignation ignited employees to think about their careers, salaries, and overall treatment at work. Lack of advancement opportunities, low pay, and feeling disrespected were the top reasons for many to quit their jobs. Those that did not physically quit their jobs chose to “quiet” quit.

Quiet quitting is a softer approach than outright leaving a job. The term isn’t literal but a play on words. Rather than workers quitting jobs, they are quitting the idea of going above and beyond. Unhappy with some aspect of their current company or role, they choose only to complete the bare minimum.

While the quiet quitting trend has gotten a bad reputation, that may be unfair. It’s ultimately all a matter of perspective. Some quiet quitters claim they are simply setting boundaries where they belong and refusing to take on what they can’t handle.

Signs of a Quiet Quitter

There are tell-tale signs of a quiet quitter. But with that said, quiet quitting doesn’t look the same for everyone. A quiet quitter may show some of the below signs while not experiencing others:

Low employee engagement

Previous overachievers now only doing the bare minimum are likely quiet quitters. Rather than volunteering to help co-workers with projects like they once did, they only focus on their own. They are not necessarily unengaged but limit their engagement to only what’s required.

Attendance at meeting without speaking up

Team meetings should encourage employees to participate and use their voices. An employee who continuously remains silent may be a quiet quitter. For virtual meetings, this refers to employees who consistently have their video off and sound on mute.

Bare minimum at work

An employee who is a self-starter and can assess work independently has initiative. Conversely, quiet quitters don’t contribute new ideas or strategies to projects. Some may even require handholding with each task assigned to them.

Only working the required hours

Beginning and ending work exactly on time, every time, is a sign of a quiet quitter. While working extra hours shouldn’t be required of employees, sometimes it’s needed when a project’s deadline approaches. Employees who aren’t as passionate about their work are less likely to care about the outcome. As a result, projects become delayed or fall into another co-worker’s lap.

Isolation from the rest of the team

Collaboration is key to every team’s success. However, success falters when some employees stop contributing as much as others. Employees who only attend required meetings and participate in work-related conversations are potential quiet quitters. There is a difference between teamwork and tolerance.

Bad employee or bad management?

Less effective managers have three times more quiet quitters than their effective counterparts, prompting the question, “Is quiet quitting about bad employees or bad management?”

66% of managers are not engaged at work, meaning most managers are likely to miss employee burnout and disengagement. Leadership should actively converse with employees about their workload, performing their duties, their strengths, goals – and even their current life situation. Employees who feel valued by their supervisor, not only as a company asset but as human beings, are less likely to become quiet quitters.

Additionally, employees who aren’t aware of their contribution to the greater organization feel less fulfilled. It’s up to management to show their team how their work impacts the company’s purpose. Excellent management also includes accountability for individual performances, team collaboration, and employee value.

The saying, “people don’t quit jobs; they quit bad managers,” resonates with many quiet quitters. Employees might love their position and company, but poor management makes them resent their day-to-day. Leaders who have conversations with their employees about workplace well-being – without being afraid to turn inward – can combat quiet quitting.

Quiet Quitting and Mental Health

Quiet quitting is linked to employee burnout. Burnout can be a byproduct of the following:

  • Unfair treatment in the workplace
  • Unmanageable workload
  • Lack of role clarity
  • Lack of communication or support from management
  • Unreasonable time pressure

Neglecting employee well-being affects employees’ mental health. Quiet quitting is a response to workers feeling exhausted from unmanaged workplace stress. But is it the answer? The movement has had both a positive and negative impact on professionals’ mental well-being.

On the upside, employees are no longer afraid to set boundaries and advocate for work-life balance. Instead, quiet quitters ask managers to meet them halfway – whether with fairer workloads, pay increases, or growth opportunities – to co-create a better work environment. Supervisors who disregard the notion may find their employees retaliating through low-quality work.

With that said, job satisfaction and mental health are connected. Employees may choose to put in less effort, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel good about it. If anything, it’ll harm their self-worth and ultimately hurt their mental health. Unfortunately, it’ll also damage their co-workers’ mental health, specifically those who pick up their slack.

Ways to prevent Quiet Quitting

Employees don’t want to become quiet quitters. But when they repeatedly feel overworked and overwhelmed – without the proper compensation or growth opportunities to cushion the blow – they feel left with no other choice.

Rather than dismissing quiet quitting, employers should understand the reasons behind the phenomenon and provide actionable steps to fix the problem. Here is a list of ways companies can prevent quiet quitting:

Monitor workloads

In a perfect world, employees would always have predictable and steady workflows. But in truth, sometimes overtime is necessary. Managers should monitor their employees’ workloads. If they’re asking employees to step up and take extra responsibilities, they need to acknowledge it with a reward. Offering time off afterward gives the employees time to rest and mentally recharge.

Properly compensate

Pay discrepancies are one of the leading causes of quiet quitting. The issue isn’t that employees don’t want to do the extra work but don’t feel appropriately compensated for their efforts. More than money, the root of the problem is a lack of respect. Piling on responsibilities without employee consent damages manager-employee relationships. If leaders cannot give employees a raise or promotion, they should explore other forms of recognition, such as perks, benefits, and flexibility.

Make stepping up optional

Every employee doesn’t have the same career aspirations or goals. Some employees may be content where they are, while others envision themselves moving into management or desire to switch departments. Don’t make assumptions. Leadership should give additional responsibilities to employees who want to climb the ladder. Those employees will be more motivated and eager to accept them.

Listen to employees

Quiet quitting doesn’t come out of nowhere. Employees usually express their concerns beforehand. When they feel ignored, they begin retaliating. Employers must listen to their employees and keep an open dialogue. While managers can’t always give their teams what they want, basic empathy goes a long way.

Respect boundaries

Companies shouldn’t overstep or intrude on their employees’ personal time. Workers don’t need to explain why they can’t work extra hours. Leaders should acknowledge employees who do work overtime with a reward. It’s management’s job to be an advocate for their team’s work-life balance.

Be upfront about role responsibilities

40% of job switchers among the Great Resignation are already looking for a new job. Why? Because most companies are not upfront about each role’s duties. Many quiet quitters are required to do more work than their job description calls for. Recruiters must be honest about job roles and any associated career development. Specifically, not to oversell a position or false promise opportunities.

Build relationships

Relationships between leadership and employees are essential. Employees are more likely to become quiet quitters when there is a disconnect. Management needs to bridge the gap by building rapport with their team. We’re all human beings – employers, managers, and employees. Nurturing these relationships helps avoid miscommunication and disappointment.

Monitor behavioral changes

Quiet quitters are not chronic under-performers but disheartened high performers. A drop in engagement and productivity is a red flag. Employees may also be going through a challenging personal matter, and when they feel unsupported, they quiet quit. Behavioral changes are telling, as actions aways speak louder than words.

Quiet Quitters are far from quiet

Quiet quitters aren’t quiet, or subtle, but loudly recognizable. Employees display multiple warning signs. They aren’t hard to miss if you’re looking out for them. In the end, quiet quitters don’t want to be ignored. They want to be heard and see positive changes.

Companies should work with employees to build a strategy that promotes workplace well-being and fights burnout. Employees deserve reasonable working demands, positive cultures, opportunities to grow, and the chance to be passionate about their jobs. It is leadership’s responsibility to fix any workplace dysfunctions so employees can have a healthy work-life balance.

How to prevent and combat quiet quitting at work

Quiet quitting was inevitable. It’s been building behind the scenes for a long time. The problem is far from new, but the term recently hit the mainstream thanks to social media. However, the reasons for quiet quitting today are a bit different from earlier years.

To prevent quiet quitting, companies must first identify the causes behind it. But don’t worry – we’ve done the heavy lifting for you.

Learn the top four motivations behind quiet quitting, along with corresponding combat strategies.

Continue reading “How to prevent and combat quiet quitting at work”

Quiet Quitting: A Silent Protest Against Hustle Culture

What started with a viral video and a popular hashtag on TikTok has moved into widespread discussions among corporate leaders on LinkedIn and in executive meetings. Quiet quitting, defined as doing enough to get by and “quitting the idea of going above and beyond,” has become a rallying cry for a better work-life balance and setting boundaries. It’s also a pushback on hustle culture, where productivity disproportionately defines personal worth.  

A new term for an old problem in a pandemic-altered workplace

So, rather than debating if quiet quitters are fallacious, let’s try to understand them. What exactly is a quiet quitter? Are there warning signs? And is quiet quitting the result of a lazy work ethic, bad management, or poor mental health?

Dismissing quiet quitting as a news trend risks further disengagement and overlooks the genuine reason employees are taking a step back. Quiet quitting can be prevented, but only if we address it head-on

More than ever, employees feel an urgency to reimagine their working lives since the pandemic blurred work-life boundaries. But they also need healthcare and financial stability. Couple this with a tight labor market, high turnover and transitions from the Great Resignation and remote work shifting to hybrid: it’s no surprise that workers want a new relationship with work.  

There’s much debate over whether this is a real phenomenon or just a new name for something employees have always done but never spoken about openly.  

What the kids are now calling ‘quiet quitting’ was, in previous and simpler decades, simply known as ‘having a job.’” —Derek Thompson, The Atlantic  

Yet, this movement has real implications for companies that want to maintain employee productivity and a competitive edge.  

Only 21% of employees are actively engaged at work, according to Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace. And 40% of the global workforce is looking to quit their jobs in the next six months, according to McKinsey 

While Gen Z and Millennial employees may be the most vocal about quiet quitting, employees across the world are looking for more fulfillment in their jobs and demanding better work-life balance.  

Smart company leaders are listening.  

Advantages of quiet quitting

Discussions about quiet quitting can be a catalyst for positive change if companies approach them in the right way. Let’s examine a few examples:  

1. Fewer hours can improve employee mental health

The average workweek for full-time U.S. and U.K. employees has risen to 34.7 hours and 36.5 hours, respectively, but many salaried and commissioned employees work well in excess of these figures. Longer, inflexible work hours and excessive workloads are contributing risk factors for poor mental health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Employees can mentally recharge when they have permission to clock in and out on time — and remain off the clock for the rest of the day.  

2. Better boundaries lead to better retention

To get ahead, many employees feel pressure to abide by their work culture’s unspoken rules. If a company values and rewards productivity, it can erode an employee’s capacity to say ‘no’ to that extra project or meeting after 5 p.m. When employees give in to the status quo at the expense of their time and health, they will begin to resent it.  

“The pandemic has forced people to reflect on what really matters most to them,” says Joe Grasso, Lyra Health’s senior director of workforce mental health, in a Corporate Wellness Magazine article. “If their employer does not support their ability to prioritize other values outside of work, then people may look elsewhere, or they may risk becoming burned out and frustrated.”  

3. Companies focus on improved employee well-being

mental health support has become a priority

In 2021, 92% of companies said providing mental health support for their people became a higher priority. That trend shows no sign of stopping, with more companies offering an employee assistance program or other mental health benefits. Companies increasingly have an opportunity to attract and keep top talent with monthly wellness stipends for remote and on-site workers.  

Disadvantages of Quiet Quitting

Companies that refuse to acknowledge quiet quitting — and take proactive approaches to manage it — may reap serious consequences. Some instances include:  

1. Companies experience increased and unexpected absences

Quiet quitters are “less willing to engage in activities known as citizenship behaviors: no more staying late, showing up early or attending non-mandatory meetings,” reports Harvard Business Review. This is also referred to as “acting their wage,” another euphemism for quiet quitting.  

“I think for a lot of people, they’ve come to this mentality because they went above and beyond for years but realized what they gained didn’t outweigh what they sacrificed,” one reader told Slate.   

If employees feel like their investment in the company isn’t matched by the company’s investment in them, they might request more paid time off or prioritize other obligations during the workday.  

2. Low quality work creates conflict among coworkers

Quiet quitters are quick to clarify that they’re not slackers — they just want their boundaries respected. However, many company leaders believe great work rarely happens when someone is psychologically distant. Quiet quitting could lead to passable but unremarkable work and potentially hinder that employee’s future advancement.  

Additionally, disengaged employees are more likely to leave someone else on the team to step in. This can create resentment and increase some colleagues’ burdens, leading to more conflict and hurting morale. It can be especially damaging to newer employees who may be eager to do their best work but feel unsupported or underappreciated by quiet quitters. 

3. Reduced company profit 

disengaged employees cause a loss in productivity

The numbers are sobering. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace estimates disengaged employees cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, 11% of global GDP.   

The good news is that profits increase when employees are engaged. Gallup research has found teams with highly engaged employees are 21% more profitable than those with less engaged employees. Meanwhile, researcher and author Jacob Morgan found companies prioritizing a strong employee experience are four times as profitable as those that don’t.  

Quiet quitting is deeply tied to employee mental health

Quiet quitters have valid reasons for why they’re putting up boundaries. One reason that’s invisible to the outsider but very real for the employee is mental health. Disengagement is ultimately an emotion; it’s the detachment to emotion itself. If employees don’t feel supported or valued, they’re more likely to detach, which affects their mental health.  

Still, it’s intimidating for employees to share personal struggles and concerns with colleagues or managers. When employers normalize mental health conversations at work and offer assistance and solutions — rather than penalties and punishments — they create a culture where people feel seen and appreciated and can ultimately thrive.  

A new solution for an old problem in a more employee-centric workplace

Employees, specifically Gen Z and Millennials, are less tolerant of work environments that harm their mental health. The pandemic called for a time of reflection. What once was considered normal — back-to-back Zoom calls, long hours staring at screens, answering emails before and after working hours, and not taking enough breaks — is now seen for what it is and has always been: Toxic. Ultimately, quiet quitters have shined a light on hustle culture and its drawbacks.    

While much of the media has given quiet quitting a negative connotation, leaders must see it differently. Essentially, quiet quitters are silent protestors against unreasonable working conditions. While quiet quitters aren’t new, they are finally seen in a more employee-centric workplace.    

Smart companies are listening, but successful companies are transforming.