What Is Quiet Quitting, and Should Employers Be Worried?
Quiet Quitting has been a buzzy term on social media recently, and is causing concern for employers in the real world. Leaders are still recovering from the aftermath of 2021’s Great Resignation. Will quiet quitting become the next big threat to engagement and stability?
What is Quiet Quitting?
Quiet quitting is a term that emerged among TikTok users in the summer of 2022. Professionals in the quiet quitting movement are re-evaluating the ways they go the extra mile for their employers—especially if that involves unpaid overtime. Those professionals will then quietly refuse to make that extra contribution.
According to an NPR report, quiet quitting is aimed at working out boundaries between work and personal life for employees. It involves things like:
- Closing your laptop at 5 pm
- Only doing assigned tasks
- Not checking email or Slack at home
- Not volunteering for projects
- Protecting time spent with friends and family
The phenomenon of quiet quitting can be seen as a covert refuge from our country’s typical “hustle culture”. Consistent overwork is common among American professionals and often leads to serious stress and burnout. This stress was one of the main drivers of The Great Resignation.
Why is quiet quitting happening?
Quiet quitting can be seen as part of a broader trend of reevaluating work-life integration--essentially making work fits into our lives, and not the other way around. As Gen Z enters the workforce, the idea of quiet quitting has gained much traction as they deal with burnout and ongoing work demands. For many, it is an act of self-preservation at a time when employees may believe employers are asking for more in return for less.
According to a Pew Research Center report, the main reasons for quiet quitting are:
- Low rates of job satisfaction
- Stagnant wages (or wages reduced in real terms as inflation and cost of living increases)
- Feeling unappreciated at work
- Lack of opportunity for career advancement
- Desire for a better work-life balance
Essentially, these are the same factors that drove The Great Resignation of 2021. The difference is employees are not walking out—yet.
What are the signs of quiet quitting?
Quiet quitting means a change in the way that your employee engages with their work. As a leader, you might see signs like:
- Low enthusiasm: Employees may not contribute as many project ideas. They might even flat-out refuse to assist with voluntary tasks or projects and instead ask for additional compensation.
- Declining productivity: Quiet quitters might start clocking out late or leaving early. While clocked in, their output will decline. They might refuse to work beyond their contracted hours unless you offer overtime rates.
- Apathy: Employees might stop taking part in meetings and team conversations. You might notice that the employee’s teammates complain about having to pick up their slack.
Of course, these symptoms also appear when you have any employee engagement issues. Quiet quitting is really just another name for low engagement, which can eventually lead to staff turnover.
How can employers deal with quiet quitting?
When you see the signs of quiet quitting, you need to take immediate steps, or else you risk losing a valued team member. Here are some steps that employers can take to tackle quiet quitting and improve retention:
1. Help employees set healthy boundaries
Quiet quitting is all about employees setting boundaries. It speaks to the frustration that many people are facing due to the effects of the pandemic and economic hardships. People are assessing what is important to them while protecting themselves from burnout.
Managers can help create a culture that is more resistant to burnout by encouraging employees to prioritize well-being. Promoting employees to take breaks during the day and use their vacation time and paid time off during the year will help ensure employees are balanced professionally and personally.
Are you offering enough paid time off? Consider incorporating an unlimited paid time off policy for your staff. Before making a decision, be sure to review the Pros and Cons of unlimited paid time off, first.
2. Set clear expectations with each team member
Quiet quitting is often driven by the sense that employers ask too much. Sometimes, this is true, as people are asked to take on responsibilities outside the limits of their role or work additional hours on a regular basis.
Often, the problem is that employer and employee haven’t discussed what’s required of the role. It’s important to have regular conversations with the team member and talk about exactly what you require from them. In return, you’ll have to listen to their needs.
It’s also important to make sure that you’re meeting your employer obligations. For example, unpaid overtime can be a compliance issue that may go against FLSA standards and other state and local mandates. It can also create an impression that you don’t fully respect the employee’s contribution.
3. Measure employee satisfaction
Managers should organize frequent surveys of their staff members. You can pulse surveys to get a general idea, and conduct one-to-one sessions for qualitative commentary from your team.
Stay interviews and exit interviews are also essential for understanding employee turnover. Both types of interview will give you some honest feedback about where you’re succeeding as an employer—and where you need to improve.
Remember to collate and review all employee satisfaction data. Some issues, such as lack of development opportunities, might not become obvious until you look at the full picture.
4. Use your Total Rewards strategy
Some organizations try to deal with quiet quitting by offering perks and “fleeting benefits”, like wellness supports and mental health days. These benefits can help improve engagement, but they must be part of a bigger Total Rewards strategy.
Total Rewards include benefits and compensation, which should be competitive with other employers. It also includes professional development and recognition, which can help encourage long-term employee engagement.
Work-life balance is also a Total Rewards component. A commitment to each employee’s work-life balance can help to drive engagement and improve your retention rates.
5. Lead by example
Employers must lead by example. When managers take off, they should not respond to emails when they are not working. Once logged off for the evening, avoid sending late messages that are not urgent and incentivize employees to completely disconnect from their computers and phone, and to enjoy their time away.
Your example sets the tone for the whole organizational culture. If you commit to your own work-life balance, you’ll promote a culture that values each individual’s wellbeing
Don't let employee retention become an issue
The quiet quitting phenomenon is a reminder that employee engagement problems can lead to staff turnover.
If you want to avoid turnover and improve employee retention, you have to start by looking at employee engagement. Make sure that everyone in your team is supported, respected, and that they know they are contributing to your strategic mission.
Need help with employee engagement issues? Helios HR has been helping build amazing teams for companies in the greater D.C. area for over 20 years. Book a no-obligation consultation call with Helios HR today.