Quiet Quitting: Understanding & Combating the Workplace Trend

By Aaron Swartz on November 17, 2022

Within the last year or so you may have heard the term ‘quiet quitting’ being thrown around on social media platforms like TikTok. Quiet quitting is, apparently, a big problem in workplaces all over, so much so that some mainstream news outlets have even picked up stories about it. But what is quiet quitting? How do you spot quiet quitters? And, most importantly, how can you motivate your employees and make sure they’re fulfilled and productive in their jobs? To give you some info on this new trend, here’s our guide to understanding quiet quitting and helping combat it in your workplace.

via Pixabay

What is Quiet Quitting?

Contrary to the name, quiet quitting actually doesn’t involve quitting (confusing, right?) — In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. Quiet quitting is when an employee does the bare minimum of their job, nothing more, nothing less. They clock in, work exactly the hours they’re required, do exactly the work they’re required to do, and clock out again. Pretty straightforward. But the real question is, why would your employees do this in the first place?

Why Do People Quiet Quit?

The biggest answer most sources have for why employees quiet quit is pretty simple: they don’t feel valued or fulfilled in their job. In the modern day, there are a huge number of problems with our capitalist system and being part of the workforce. You’re expected to work long hours with poor pay and few breaks, there are barely any benefits, and almost no time to pursue fulfillment or fun outside of your workplace. For a lot of employees, especially those in the gig economy or service jobs, it’s soul-crushing. Thus, quiet quitting. Quiet quitting is an alternative to quitting. Instead of leaving your job and risking financial destitution, you preserve your energy and sanity by doing as little work as possible. It’s more a survival mechanism than anything; humans do actually want to work! The problems come when the work isn’t fulfilling or adequately compensated.

How Do You Spot a Quiet Quitter?

Ok, now you know what a quiet quitter is and why someone would be tempted to become one. But what does it look like when someone is a quiet quitter? How can you recognize them? Here are a few things to keep an eye out for:

  • Disengagement with work

  • Disengaged with community

  • Lack of enthusiasm

  • Performing bare minimum requirements

  • Attending meetings but not contributing

All of these are signs your employee is practicing quiet quitting, which means it’s now your job to pull them away from that pattern.

What You Can Do?

Quiet quitting can be difficult to combat in the workplace, in part because you can’t change the macrostructures of our society that are largely contributing to the issue. Capitalism and wage stagnation are not things you as an employer can fix, but there are definitely steps you can take to improve your employee engagement and push back against quiet quitting. Here are some things you can do:

  • Start with your managers: If your managers aren’t engaged, your lower-rung employees won’t be either. When applying these tips and looking for problems in your company, start by examining your managers to see if you can root out the problem at its source.

  • Talk with your employees: This is a radical idea, we know, but it may just help things. One of the biggest causes of quiet quitting is a lack of engagement with the workplace. Employees feel like they’re not part of the team, like they’re not valued as people and as workers. Talking with your employees and getting to know them can really help them feel like they’re valued in your business, and can help motivate them to resist quiet quitting.

  • Make their work matter: When talking about quiet quitting, engagement is the biggest issue. Employees don’t feel motivated to put in extra work, and that comes from being disengaged from their work. One way you can help combat quiet quitting is by showing your employees exactly how their work matters. Everyone wants to feel like they’re doing work that has a purpose, so showing your employees just how important they and their work are can help them find the motivation to put in their all.

  • Slacken your requirements: Quiet quitting is a troubling idea for a number of reasons, one of the biggest being that it firmly sets the blame on the shoulders of the employees. This, however, is often not the case, and you may be just as much to blame. Break that cycle and ask yourself “why do my employees not want to put in more work?” This may be because your business has unfair expectations. No one should be working 60 hours a week, be receiving no sick leave or benefits, and be paid barely enough to live on. If that were your life, why would you do anything less than the bare minimum? Take a moment to reflect on your business practices as an employer and see if some of the blame is really yours.

Quiet quitting is the latest in a pattern of terms and articles around the same thing: employee disengagement. Employees have been struggling to find purpose in their work for decades; this isn’t a new phenomenon. However, hopefully, the rise of this new term can teach you and other employers a valuable lesson, and help your workers find fulfillment while improving your own business.

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