Understanding the “Quiet Quitting” Trend
By Karin Tierney
“Quiet quitting” is an emerging trend where employees only do the minimum at work without going above and beyond. For some time, we have witnessed organizations working to reduce operational expenses often by asking employees to do more and reducing the size of their workforce. Labor costs are often the biggest spend for organizations. Costs for base compensation, benefits, variable compensation, etc., are a significant expense for organizations. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees have shifted their views on their work lives, and this has been reflected in movements such as the Great Reshuffle—a mass movement of workers to new jobs that better meet their demands for things such as more flexibility and better benefits—the shift to remote work and now, the quiet quitting trend.
Employees who solely complete the minimum work expectations and do no more may still be valuable workers. However, employers are facing high levels of turnover and if they are also experiencing quiet quitting, may be getting less from their existing employees. Employers who suspect quiet quitting can consider steps to re-engage employees and ideally, prevent quiet quitting from happening in the first place. To improve engagement, employers should focus on developing their leaders and determining how to best engage and motivate their employees. It may also be time to reevaluate whether organizational demands of specific positions is too great.
Signs of Quiet Quitting
Research conducted by Gallup found that only 32% of employees are engaged, and 17% are actively disengaged. Employees who are not engaged are not going above and beyond. Further, 53% of workers reported they feel burnt out, according to Talkspace’s Employee Stress Check 2022 Report. To improve employee engagement and prevent these issues from turning from quiet quitting into actual quitting, employers need to know what signs to look for.
Employers should pay attention to employees who are consistently doing the following:
- Not attending meetings that are not mandatory
- Not being as productive as they once were
- Contributing to team projects less
- Not participating in meetings
- Displaying a lack of enthusiasm
It is important to know that there a several reasons an employee may choose to quiet quit. For example, they may simply refuse to do work outside their job description because they feel they are not being compensated for it. While it may not be clear why an employee is choosing to quiet quit, these signs are a good indicator that an employee may be thinking about it or trying to do so.
What Employers Can Do
Quiet quitting is often the result of decreased motivation and burnout. Further, a lack of effective communication between leaders and employees and a general failure of management and organizations can play a role. For example, failures may include a lack of honesty with employees and not delivering on promises. Consider the following ideas to help improve employee engagement and decrease the odds of quiet quitting among employees:
- Provide clear job descriptions. Job descriptions let employees know exactly what is expected of them. Employers should review job descriptions to ensure they accurately reflect the duties they expect their employees to perform. Reviewing the job description during a periodic performance review helps to be clear about expectations and to update job descriptions based on real time input from your employees.
- Conduct performance reviews. Performance reviews are opportunities to recognize employees for their positive contributions towards the organization’s success and strategic business goals. It is also a time to share the collective purpose, vision, mission, values, to inspire and motivate employees to continue working productively. Without regular opportunities for feedback and to provide positive feedback to recognize employees and their engagement, employees may begin to feel they are not valued, they may start to lack motivation and feel burnt out and consider quiet quitting. Further, it is important to recognize employees who go above and beyond because they are likely to feel discouraged and decrease their performance if their contributions go unnoticed. Conversely, performance reviews are just as important for underperforming employees because they are opportunities to clearly communicate expectations and work together to correct the behavior.
- Provide learning and development opportunities. High employee engagement is crucial to preventing quiet quitting. One effective way to increase engagement is through learning and development initiatives. According to Zywave’s 2022 Attraction and Retention Benchmarking Overview, 29% of employers found career development opportunities to be a top priority of workers during the hiring process. Employees who have these opportunities are more likely to remain engaged and stay motivated to try their best at their jobs.
- Focus on leadership development. Effective leadership is essential to employee engagement and productivity, so it is important to focus on the techniques used by effective leaders. Provide resources to managers about effective leadership traits and strategies and meet with them to discuss ways they can improve. Further, consider conducting skip level reviews, where employees talk with their manager’s manager to discuss feedback or concerns they may have. This will allow the manager to receive helpful feedback that can be mutually beneficial and improve their employees’ experiences.
- Recognize that employees are unique individuals. Each employee will have unique needs. In order to connect with and motivate employees, leaders need to make the effort to develop relationships and understand what is important to each individual on their team. There is no one size fits all approach to employee engagement.
- Employee burnout is real. Even before the start of COVID organizations asked a lot of individual employees. Expectations of being available to work and respond to text messages, emails, and calls outside of normal work hours increased. Since COVID employees are showing signs that they are no longer willing to take more on. Quiet quitting is not a new phenomenon, but coupled with significant turnover and employees leaving for better opportunities, organizations are being forced to take a hard look at their practices.
Quiet quitting is the new description for the trend of employees doing only what their job requires without exceeding expectations. Employers should be aware of the trend and that it will impact every workplace differently. Employers should monitor for signs that employees may be disengaging and utilize different strategies to help prevent quiet quitting.
Contact Hickok & Boardman HR Intelligence today for more information on workplace trends, employee retention and employment laws.