Quiet Quitting: What Is It and What Can Employers Do About It?

8 minutes read

By Julie Kramer

Ironically, the term “quiet quitting” is creating quite a buzz.

Quiet quitting is a concept that a startling number of U.S. workers appear to have embraced. Rather than formally resigning, these workers are still clocking in and collecting a paycheck—while doing the bare minimum required by their job descriptions.

It’s like an extension of the Great Resignation, except these workers have only moved on in their heads. 

No extra effort. No problem-solving. No passion for the job or the company’s bottom line. Not surprisingly, quiet quitting is depressing productivity as well as morale and innovation. 

It’s a topic of great concern for many HR professionals and frontline managers right now although they’re not immune to it, either. 

Needless to say, employers should know how to recognize quiet quitting and the reasons behind it—and, more importantly, how to combat it in their workforce.

What Research Tells Us About Quiet Quitters

According to Gallup, at least half of the U.S. workforce is currently composed of quiet quitters. 

The trend, which gained steam on social media, has been linked to declining employee engagement. Gallup’s latest engagement study reveals that just 32% of U.S. employees are actively engaged, while 17% are actively disengaged (a group also known as “loud quitters”). The remaining 51% are quiet quitters. 

Quiet quitters are psychologically disconnected from their job, coworkers and employers. Gallup found that younger workers—Gen Z and younger millennials—are more likely to be affected.

In addition, Gallup found that quiet quitters don’t:

  • Believe their employers care about them.
  • Think anyone encourages their professional development. 
  • Perceive opportunities to grow or learn in the workplace.
  • Have a firm grasp on what’s expected of them. 

How Do Employees Get to This Point?

According to a recent survey by Resume Builder, 8 out of 10 self-described quiet quitters consider themselves victims of “burnout.”

Some HR experts believe this is an after-effect of COVID-19. During the heart of the pandemic, many workers were asked to work harder under stressful circumstances and continuously adapt to changing conditions. In addition, during this time, remote and hybrid workers may have become detached from their coworkers and employers.   

However, researchers—including Gallup—believe that poor management plays a key role as well. 

For example, one study of 13,000 employers and 2,800 managers found that the least-effective managers had three to four times as many quiet quitters in their ranks as the most-effective managers. 

Effective managers were defined as those who demonstrated concern for their employees’ needs and inspired them to go the extra mile—and this may hold the key to overcoming the quiet quitting epidemic.

How to Re-energize Quiet Quitters 

Studies find that 70% of the variance in engagement is determined solely by managers. Since disengagement lies at the heart of the quiet-quitting trend, any initiative to reverse it should begin at the managerial level.

Unfortunately, managers are often disengaged themselves. So, the first step is to assess and invest in your management team. 

If your organization limited manager training during the pandemic, now is the time to get back on track. Make sure your managers know how to coach and motivate people, rather than simply act as bosses. Make sure they truly have the soft skills and aptitude they need to inspire trust.  

Once you have a strong foundation in place, managers can improve employee engagement by:

  • Ensuring every employee understands the company’s priorities and the role they play in achieving them. 
  • Holding meaningful one-on-one conversations with employees on a weekly basis, so they feel seen and supported. 
  • Learning each employees’ career and educational goals, then offering related training and growth opportunities.
  • Actively coaching employees to higher levels of performance, creating accountability and providing positive feedback.
  • Proactively asking workers for their ideas and input.  
  • Creating a collaborative culture where employees are encouraged to work together and support one another. 
  • Recognizing outstanding performance through formal and nonformal measures. 
  • Sponsoring an enjoyable group activity every month or so to build camaraderie. 

At the end of the day, the best way to bring quiet quitters back into the fold is to give them back their voice. Connect with them. Talk with them. Listen to what they’re telling you. Then, demonstrate that you hear them and care about them, by acting on what they have to say.

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