You’ve probably heard of the phrase "quiet quitting" by now. This term has taken the workplace by storm in recent months, and while the name may imply that an employee is quietly quitting or walking out from their job without notice, that is not at all what quiet quitting involves.
What Is Quiet Quitting?
Quiet quitting work is far from a new concept — in fact, this term can be tied back to American economist Mark Boldger, who, in 2009, used the term to describe decreasing motivation in Venezuela. However, this term has recently risen to popularity thanks to Gen Z and TikTok.
But what is quiet quitting, exactly?
Quiet quitting is when employees limit their work responsibilities to what was in their initial job description and what they were initially hired to do. This means that employees are walking away from additional duties. They still complete their required tasks — they just don’t go above and beyond what is required of them.
Another way to look at quiet quitting is employees setting boundaries at their workplace to be able to enjoy life outside of their job. So, instead of taking on more responsibilities at work, such as additional tasks or assignments, attending nonmandatory social events, and working extra hours, employees have started to incorporate a better work-life balance.
Quiet quitting has a negative connotation due to its name. Some may assume that those who are engaging in quiet quitting are either lazy, looking for another job, or not good workers. This is, for the most part, untrue. These employees are not underperformers – they’re just employees who want to maintain a good work-life balance to protect both their physical and mental health.
Why Are Employees Quiet Quitting?
Burnout is real, and it’s a problem for many employees. Asana notes that 42% of employees have experienced both burnout and imposter syndrome at the same time. Burnout affects more than just an employee’s mental and physical well-being — it also hurts their job performance. Employees who suffer from burnout risk disengagement, mistakes, and low morale.
When the pandemic hit, the work culture changed. Many people began looking for a better work-life balance. This became even more prominent as more and more companies began letting their employees work remotely during the first two years of the pandemic.
A report from LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends suggests that employees want more flexibility now than ever. According to Justin Black, head of people science at LinkedIn, employees are 2.6 times more likely to be happy working at their company when given flexibility in when, where, and how they work.
Burnout, flexibility, and a good work-life balance are only a few reasons why quiet quitting has been in the headlines recently. Another factor contributing to this phenomenon is wages and inflation. As of August 2022, the inflation rate had increased to 8.26% from the previous month’s 8.52%. Last year, the inflation rate was 5.25%.
With the inflation rate and cost of living continuing to rise, many employees feel their wages should increase as well, especially if they are asked to do more than their job entails.
Workplace Happiness: A New Concept
Workplace happiness hasn’t always been around. Once upon a time, employees were expected to be happy and grateful for their jobs, even if they were detrimental to their mental health.
Many employees, especially those from marginalized groups, are scared to speak or stand up to their employers. Often, these groups feel they have to prove themselves more than others to earn advancements or even get acknowledged for a job well done. These workers are less likely than their counterparts to engage in quiet quitting.
While it’s true that work, at its core, is not something that is defined as being fun or bringing happiness to individuals, workplace happiness is something employers should strive to provide their employees with. Keeping employees happy is essential, whether with acknowledgment, pay raises, bonuses, benefits, flexibility, or an excellent work-life balance.
Workplace happiness is becoming necessary for keeping employees motivated and productive, but how do you keep employees happy? Here are a few things to consider:
- Be attentive to their needs: Ask for suggestions for improvements to their job and the workplace and how you can better support them.
- Be considerate: Learn what happiness means to individual employees. Ensure that they have an excellent work-life balance. Encourage them and show your appreciation. Celebrate their successes, and offer to help them improve their shortcomings.
- Get them involved: Listen to and apply their feedback when possible. Allow them to help with more minor decisions.
Quiet Quitting: Triggers and Reasons
There are several reasons why employees may feel pushed toward quiet quitting. Some of the most common causes include:
Toxic Work Culture
No one wants to be involved in a toxic workplace. It can leave employees feeling frustrated, mentally exhausted, and afraid. It can even lead to an employee’s performance at work suffering or the employee walking out.
What creates a toxic workplace? Employees with negative attitudes, fear of failure, uncertainty about roles and responsibilities, unclear communication between employers and employees, gossip and drama, inconsistencies in company and employee policies, and employees who fear their boss are just a few of the factors that can cause a toxic workplace.
Management must stay on top of these issues. Listen to your employees, be reassuring about any fear of failure, and communicate to all your workers about their responsibilities, expectations, and policies. You won’t be able to control some things, such as gossip and drama, but by creating a friendly and supportive workplace, you can diminish the other causes of a toxic work environment.
Creating unrealistic expectations often guarantees a team’s failure, affecting employees' mental health and work morale. If there are unrealistic expectations, employees may miss deadlines, have poor work quality, lose respect, and be more likely to resign.
Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, it’s essential to think about what you need and how much work that will take before setting expectations. For example, if a project requires much research and work, don’t expect it to be done within a few weeks or even a month. Consider how much work the project needs and set a realistic deadline.
To ensure that your expectations remain realistic, make sure to outline the project's requirements from the beginning and support your team with mentorship or help where they need it.
No one likes to be micromanaged. That is to say, no one wants to be supervised and have their work controlled and second-guessed at every turn. Unfortunately, micromanagement exists in the workplace, and while it may seem beneficial in the short term, it can be problematic in the long run.
Micromanagement happens when a manager or supervisor fears failure, prefers to be in control, is insecure in their work, is new to management, has unskilled team members, lacks trust in their employees, or has an inflated ego.
When employees are micromanaged, it can affect their performance at work. They may feel stressed while doing their job and fear making mistakes so much that they work slower than average. This can affect the whole team and even the company, especially if deadlines are missed due to employees’ low morale.
To avoid micromanagement, you’ll need to understand that perfection doesn’t exist, and you must let go of any idea of perfection. Other factors to consider to combat micromanagement include delegation, embracing failure, actively seeking and listening to feedback from your team, and focusing on your responsibilities as a manager instead of your team’s responsibilities.
Being Taken for Granted
Employees want and deserve to be appreciated. Taking your employees for granted can cause several problems. Aside from quiet quitting, your employees' performance at work may diminish, and you may lose the trust and respect of your team.
How do you show appreciation for your team? Consider the following:
- Offer food: We’re not talking about your typical lunchroom lunch or vending machines. Rather, you could offer pizza parties at the end of a busy and stressful work week, morning doughnuts before an important meeting, or a once-a-month company banquet.
- Use social media: Social media is here to stay, and you should utilize it at every opportunity — including recognizing your employees and showing gratitude toward them. This could include giving them a mention on their birthday and a post highlighting that employee. In addition, you could also do an employee-of-the-month social media post to highlight employees who have gone above and beyond in their performances.
- Pay attention to employee wellness: Employee wellness is more important than ever, and the topic doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. With that said, it’s vital that you recognize the importance of wellness. For example, you could bring self-care activities to the workplace, such as mindfulness sessions, yoga sessions, or fitness classes, or you could offer more time off to your employees for mental health days.
- Other considerations: There are several ways to show your appreciation for your employees, including offering them a company gym membership, listening to and applying feedback, offering bonuses and raises, providing gift cards and rewards, and planning annual retreats.
Signs and How To Avoid
Now that you understand what a quiet quitting job is, its causes, and the importance of workplace happiness, it’s time that you know how to identify quiet quitting in the workplace and how to confront or avoid it.
Signs of Quiet Quitting
While quiet quitting may look different for different employees, there are some common signs that you have a quiet quitter on your team. Three common signs include:
- Disengagement in work: Attending corporate events less frequently or not at all, avoiding optional meetings, refusing to contribute to mandatory meetings, and self-isolation from colleagues are all signs of disengagement in the workplace.
- Lack of initiative: A lack of initiative can show itself in many ways. Some examples include employees no longer having an enthusiastic or positive outlook at work, no longer wanting to take on new responsibilities or lead projects, or offering less feedback.
- Showing up late and leaving early: For example, employees who once arrived 10, 20, or even 30 minutes before work now arrive on time or even late. On the flip side, employees may also leave earlier than usual — for example, 5 or 10 minutes before 5 o’clock clock-out.
How to Confront Quiet Quitting
If you have a quiet quitter on your team, you’re probably wondering how to confront them. Here are a few ways you could address quiet quitting in the workplace:
1. Sit down and talk it out
While this may seem like a no-brainer or even inconsequential, communicating is one of the most effective solutions to handle any problem. Even when addressing quiet quitting, it’s important that you and your employees have an honest conversation.
Don’t reprimand your employees. Talk to them respectfully. Offer support. Ask for feedback and advice on what you can do better or bring to the table to improve their job or workplace environment.
Offering to find a solution together through an open dialogue will build trust and loyalty and show that you are willing to listen to and incorporate feedback.
2. Compromise on expectations
Some things may be out of your control, like an increased workload due to a labor shortage and understaffing. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t offer compromises or alternatives to keep your employees happy. You may not be able to compromise on everything and make the job perfect, but you can at least allow your employees some freedom and flexibility.
3. Show your gratitude
Quiet quitting doesn’t happen in just one day — it happens after a period of frustration. For example, you may have given an employee an increased workload over the last month, or perhaps expected them to perform other duties outside their area of expertise. Maybe you’ve even had them stay later than usual to finish a project with a strict deadline.
Suppose your employee has tackled these expectations repeatedly without hesitation, and you have failed to show any form of gratitude or appreciation. In that case, your employee may feel like their time is undervalued and will decide that, in the future, they will no longer do additional work or favors.
Instead of ignoring the fact that your employees have gone above and beyond for you, show your gratitude. If they’re overworked, give them an extra day or two of paid time off.
4. Keep your promises
Quiet quitting will not resolve itself overnight. Your employees will want to ensure you can keep your promises and compromises. It will take time to rebuild trust in your workplace.
You’ll need to show your employees that you mean what you say. Show them that you are sincere and supportive and willing to go above and beyond for them as they have in the past for you.
How to Prevent Quiet Quitting
If you’ve noticed a slight lack of performance or low morale in the workplace, your employees may be on the verge of quiet quitting. So, how do you prevent it from spiraling further?
1. Promote healthy work-life balance
Work-life balance has risen in popularity over the years, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Employees are tired of not being able to enjoy their time outside of work, whether it be on their own, with family, or with friends. They no longer want to miss out on special moments or exhaust themselves mentally or physically, to the point where they can’t enjoy themselves more.
Not only does an excellent work-life balance allow people to spend more time with their loved ones, but it also allows them to engage in self-care, hobbies that they enjoy, being present in the world around them, and more. It also helps them be more productive at work.
What are some ways to promote a healthy work-life balance?
- Allow your workers to have flexibility
- Offer your employees the chance to work remotely (if possible)
- Provide more support for parents
- Give your employees more time off
- Encourage more breaks
2. Don’t overwork your employees
Just like quiet quitting, hustle culture has become a key term used in the workplace in recent years. But hustle culture, which emphasizes working hard, can make your employees feel overworked and underappreciated.
Instead of adopting a hustle culture in your workplace, you should work on creating a healthy work environment with boundaries included. Avoid putting unrealistic expectations on your employees or requiring too much of them, as this could harm your employees and your company.
3. Show your employees respect
Respect is a two-way street. If you want your employees to respect you, you must respect them in return. Communicate clearly with potential employees during the interview phase about your expectations regarding their roles and responsibilities.
If you set realistic expectations ahead of time, you can avoid complaints and your employees feeling overworked in the long run.
4. Learn about your employees
Learning about your employees will allow you to gauge their morale, test their strengths, and learn their weaknesses. Additionally, you’ll be able to offer them more support and guidance and even tools and training to help them succeed at the company.
Quiet quitters aren’t lazy or underachievers. Quite the contrary, quiet quitters set workplace boundaries to promote a healthy work-life balance for themselves, often because they feel overworked or underappreciated. If you want to combat quiet quitting in the workplace, it’s your responsibility to show appreciation for your workers. Listen to them, apply their feedback, pay them what they deserve, and offer flexibility and remote work, and you’ll be on your way to creating a healthy workplace environment.