During the pandemic, the world had to actively grapple with the questions that were often shoved into the background: mortality, purpose, values. For many, the lockdown was the push to reevaluate their relationship with work – people realized that they could and should be doing something more fulfilling. On the global scale, this “rethinking” fueled Great Resignation – the phenomenon of about 4 million Americans leaving work each month in 2021-2022.
Now, when asked how they feel about the decision, 25% of quitters admit to regretting the move for various reasons: new jobs didn’t outmatch the old ones, the job market became more hostile, or increasing housing costs and electricity bills made it harder to get a business off the ground. That’s why we are seeing a new trend – people are “sticking it through” at jobs they hate but choose to do just the bare minimum that doesn’t get them fired. This is known as “quiet quitting” work – a trend popularized by TikTok.
Quiet quitting: one step before quitting for real?
As leaders try to understand what quiet quitting is, the response to it is somewhat mixed. Some condemn the trend believing that a strong work drive contributes to purpose and meaning. Most see “quiet quitting” their job as the normal thing, especially when wage increases don’t match inflation rates.
Data shows that, instead of being actively engaged in their work, which only 36% of surveyed employees identify with, over 74% of workers find “shelter in job”.
For 59%, collecting a steady paycheck and contributing to the household with a stable income is the key reason for keeping their day jobs. Not having a plan B is one of the key reasons why employees are reluctant to quit – but, once something better lines up, they will likely leave.
In fact, before the term “quiet quitting” was coined, researchers at Utah State University surveyed 100 employees who left their jobs on their pre-quitting behaviors and put together a list of over 900 markers that show when an employee is about to resign. A lot of them look a lot like “quiet quitting”:
- Lower workplace productivity
- Less interest in teamwork
- Doing the minimum amount of work more often than usual
- Reluctance to long-term commitments
- Loss of enthusiasm for the organization’s values, mission, and philosophy
- Expressing job dissatisfaction more often
If a leader spots a decrease in productivity and initiative in the workplace, it likely means the time has come to review the fundamentals of employer-employee relationships: compensation, benefits, workload, and others.
7 tips for addressing the quiet quitting problem
1. Increase the frequency of pay raises
According to Pew Research, the low salary was the key reason why 37% of surveyed Americans left their jobs. When the talent market was booming, people quitting jobs chose to come back to the job market as a way to get higher paychecks. With the recession and inflation breathing down their necks, employees prefer safer ways to increase their earnings, like a side hustle or a second full-time job.
Having to work two jobs or focus on a side project leads to employees giving only the bare minimum in the workplace, not engaging with teammates, or challenging themselves to find creative solutions to problems.
By regularly reviewing salaries and making sure they match the rising cost of living, team leaders can help employees not feel financial pressure and the need to pick up a second job.
2. Review the workload
After the Great Resignation, managers found themselves short-staffed – in response, many started pressuring the employees who stayed on the team to take over the tasks of others after everyone quitting their jobs.
Setting unrealistic expectations leads more employees to burnout and the inability to focus on the tasks within their scope. As the result, they lose motivation and job satisfaction and become “quiet quitters”.
Reviewing the workload and making sure your reports are not left picking up the slack for their colleagues who left the team will help increase engagement and reduce the risk of quiet quitting behaviors.
3. Check if your workplace is inclusive
While, for some people, withdrawal from work is the result of a change in priorities, others end up “quietly quitting” because they don’t have the platform for speaking up or taking initiative. Minorities like Latin American or African American workers are especially likely to not get enough support from team leaders.
According to the survey run by Gallup’s Center for Black Voices, women of color are less likely to feel respected in the workplace. As the result, they are less engaged than their white colleagues, which can prompt quiet quitting.
Focusing on intentionally improving inclusivity in the workplace will help leaders increase engagement, improve job satisfaction, and enable their reports to be driven and proactive in the workplace.
4. Lead by example
According to research data published by Harvard Business Review, workers’ willingness to go the extra mile in the workplace correlates positively with the amount of effort and commitment leaders put in.
Out of those, who rated their managers at 90-100% in the ability to create a proactive workplace, only 3% identified with quiet quitting. On the contrary, those who saw their managers as incapable of creating an environment that encourages walking the extra mile, resonated with the idea of higher quitting much more.
Bias and absenteeism in management are one of the key reasons why teams stop working at their peak productivity while seeing leaders put in extra effort in turn increases employee motivation.
5. Build trust with your reports
Lack of trust between managers and reports is another reason why employees sweep their concerns under the rug and choose quiet quitting over open dialogue with their leaders.
The analysis of over 113,000 leaders shows that balancing result-orientedness with genuine concern for reports is the number-one differentiator of successful teams.
Workplace trust has three key components:
- Positive relationships between reports and managers – people enjoy talking to their managers and feel comfortable throughout the conversation.
- Acknowledgement of a leader’s expertise: when reports believe that their manager is skilled enough to solve a problem, they are likelier to voice concerns.
- Honesty: a manager shouldn’t reprimand employees for sharing their honest opinions even if they don’t always match the organization’s focus on result-orientedness.
6. Encourage efficiency instead of “clocking in”
Another way to use “quiet quitting” to the company’s advantage is by encouraging employees to spend less time at desks as long as they find efficient ways to do their work. Praise your team for automation, reusing assets whenever possible, and sharing information so that they have do less from scratch.
By legitimizing quiet quitting and letting employees spend the time they save by being efficient any way they want to, team leaders increase productivity and flexibility, contribute to the culture of creativity, and open-mindedness, as well as prevent teams from burnout.
7. Build a growth track for your reports
Monotonous tasks and lack of career development prospects will eventually drive bitterness and resentment in your team, leading to quiet quitting and resignations in the long run.
Promoting employee growth and encouraging your reports to experiment, try on new roles or hone their skillsets within their scope will contribute to proactivity and drive in the team.
To stay committed long-term, employees should be confident that the company is ready to invest in their long-term growth and a path to higher-level positions is open and accessible.
Regular salary reviews, one-on-one meetings, challenging (but manageable) projects, and opportunities for learning or sharing knowledge with new hires will keep your reports motivated and engaged.
How oVice helps leaders prevent quiet quitting
In remote and hybrid teams, quiet quitting is yet more pronounced as it’s easier for people to detach themselves from their workplace and see their tasks as something casual, not purpose-defining.
That’s why managers should be focused on building a culture of presence and belonging. In our experience, some aspects of teamwork benefit greatly from sharing a space with the team – there are more opportunities for networking and discussions, it’s easier to get people together for in-depth conversations, and everyone feels part of the team.
To replicate this collective energy in remote organizations, we offer leaders virtual office spaces for seamless communication. In oVice, leaders have more visibility of their team, helping spot and quickly react to quiet quitting red flags.
In many ways, quiet quitting seems an inevitability in workplaces where salaries don’t match inflation rates, lay-offs put a lot of pressure on stayers, and employees can’t make ends meet working a single job.
Managers should understand that an employee who shows quiet quitting behavior might do this out of exhaustion, external pressure, or frustration with specific organizational aspects – not indifference.
That’s why, rather than blaming employees for their lackluster performance, leaders should focus on improving their management techniques and find out if any bottlenecks prevent them from helping employees feel seen, heard, and valuable.