Headed Out or Here to Stay; What We Can Learn From the Quiet Quitting Trend

Quiet Quitting
4 min read

According to a recent Gallup survey, half of the US workforce could be considered quiet quitters, doing the bare minimum required and psychologically and emotionally detaching from their job. Since the term was popularized earlier this year, “quiet quitting” has exploded in leadership conversations, business articles, and in HR consultations. For those not familiar, quiet quitting has nothing to do with quitting, but can be described simply as “coasting through work and doing the bare minimum to get a paycheck.”

Is this a response to seeking a post-pandemic work-life balance? Or, is it that this younger generation is slowly tapping out from day to day work? Some say there’s a misconception surrounding what quiet quitting really is. In fact, it’s argued that it’s not about being lazy or doing poor work, but rather about doing what you’re paid to do and restoring a healthy balance in your career and work. The concept really isn’t novel.

After several months of frenzy around “quiet quitting” and the implications of a lackluster attitude in the workplace, we’re seeing a few things. One, some companies, like Ford, are trying to weed out the people with this “underachiever” mentality. Second, whether quiet quitting is a new phenomenon or a trend, the employee workforce is communicating something about their needs. So, let’s take a minute to look for the signs and what we can learn from this movement.

What are the signs of quiet quitting? Tell-tale signs include:

1. Disengagement at work: Not being fully engaged in the job or task, mentally and/or emotionally withdrawing from one’s duties. 

2. Minimum performance: Doing the bare minimum work that one can get away with, screams distrust and a lack of respect. 

3. Isolation from the organization & team members: Withdrawal from coworkers, forgoing on-the-job social gatherings, and stepping back from “being a part of the team”, which significantly impacts morale.

4. Increase in workload to teammates: This one is huge – especially when others feel the impact of one’s withdrawal and must pick up that person’s slack.

It is incredibly important to keep an eye out for the above signs of withdrawal, as it signals employees already have “one foot out the door.” Recognizing these signs early can keep you – as a leader – ahead of the game and allow your organization to mitigate an abundance of rapid turnover. By uncovering true workplace motivators through behavior-backed research, leaders can pinpoint employees’ workplace attitudes and feelings, keeping organizations ahead of the quiet quitting sensation. But what specifically can you and your organization do to mitigate the new phenomenon of quiet quitting?

As a leader, you can:

1. Set boundaries and create a healthy work environment: Setting boundaries is crucial to maintain a healthy work life balance. Encourage employees to set time aside for themselves and help them stay ahead of their workload so that it doesn’t infringe on their personal time. Advocating for employees can be a very effective method of mitigating quiet quitting. The more openly vocal you, as a leader, are about employees’ right to personal time, the less likely team members will be to exceed those boundaries.

2. Check in with your employees and make improvements based on conversation outcomes: Listen to what your employees are expressing. Often quiet quitting starts because employees don’t feel heard, and their vocalization isn’t taken seriously. Team members who feel like they are not heard lose faith in not only their leader, but the organization.

“Gallup finds the best requirement and habit to develop for successful managers is having one meaningful conversation per week with each team member — 15-30 minutes.” By checking in with your employees and empathizing with their concerns, employees feel understood and like you have their best interest in mind. Having regular conversations and then implementing change based on their concerns is a great start to mitigating quiet quitting. The most important thing a leader can do is connect meaningfully and determine what is really going on with employees. Clarifying what matters and what the employee is seeking at their current life stage. Then, following through to best support their desires is the next step.

When people feel certain, respected, and treated fairly within their organization, they are much more likely to put in more effort, dedicate additional time to projects and be detail oriented in their job. People crave predictability. When employees feel a sense of mutual respect and are faced with clear expectations they feel less threatened, and are much more able to hone in on their strengths.

3. Spread out work fairly and compensate appropriately: Feeling overloaded with work and not being appropriately compensated are one of the biggest causes of quiet quitting. The issue isn’t necessarily that employees are reluctant to do extra work but that they feel the likely rewards and compensation are not worth the added effort. As a leader, it is vital to keep workload fair and compensate appropriately by offering pay competitive with market rates and current living standards, especially in response to extraordinary and additional efforts. Doing so can significantly decrease employee withdrawal.

4. Celebrate your people, and show them how valuable they are: as humans, we crave interaction with others; we are not meant to be isolated, especially on the job. Organizations and leaders need to focus on celebrating their people and small wins to encourage an environment of collaboration and unity. Most importantly, when people feel like they are positively contributing to the greater cause, they are more likely to continue to give ultimate effort and “go the extra mile.”

LEADERSHIP TAKEAWAY: Quiet quitting can be tough to spot. Some warning signs, like absenteeism, decreased enthusiasm and morale, and changes in work performance, may be non-intentional or signs of personal non-work-related conflicts. Regardless, it is imperative – in a timely manner – to address shifts in mood or performance concerning employee behaviors, as it could be a sign of a much larger issue.

Would you like to be a better leader? Contact us about leadership training that can advance your career and business.

Dr. Cheri Rainey is the CEO/Founder of Rainey Leadership Learning, partnering with leaders to support the entire employee life cycle.