Quiet quitting: What you need to know and do about it

Last updated: 2023-09-056 min read time
Subscribe to our blog

What is quiet quitting?

A recent phenomenon that’s come to light is quiet quitting and has been featured on many news channels including CNN, BBC, and the satirical Daily Show. What exactly is quiet quitting? There are many definitions, but if quiet quitting can be described in one sentence then it would be – when employees are not resigning but limiting their output to the basic requirements, essentially resigning from their role without actually doing so in a formal way. In most cases, quiet quitting is when employees do the basic and minimum requirements to complete their daily work tasks, for example, just working 9-to-5 and not offering anything above and beyond. In extreme cases, it has been reported that some employees start their working day late, might go home a bit earlier, and take a couple more breaks in the day.

Why are people quiet quitting?

When the pandemic hit and The Great Resignation took hold, especially in the USA, it was assumed that employees had somewhere to go, which wasn’t always the case. Some employees didn’t have an option of joining The Great Resignation, so the best option available was the so-called quiet quitting option. As with every new employment trend, there has to be an underlying reason for employees to not go the extra mile for a company. Harvard Business Review states that “quiet quitting is usually less about an employee’s willingness to work harder and more creatively, and more about a manager’s ability to build a relationship with their employees…”. The HBR go on to say that quiet quitting comes from employees feeling undervalued and unappreciated, and that positive relationships, consistency and trust were the three behaviours to make employees feel better. To add to this, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 report found that only 21% of employees are engaged at work compared to 33% who said they were thriving in their overall wellbeing.

Employee sitting at a desk with his head down

What can be done about quiet quitting?

It’s far too easy to place the blame on lazy and unmotivated employees as these don’t make up a high percentage of employees that quiet quit. According to senior human resource specialist, Michael Timmes, quiet quitting might actually prove beneficial if it was turned into a type of “time out” where employees could work on their own personal projects, stating that “the employee may be able to think more outside the box, feel more refreshed and become more efficient in the hours they are working.” This can also be linked to a proposed 4-day week in the UK and other countries.

Younger employees are trying to find meaningful work, and The Great Resignation allowed many to try jobs out and if they didn’t work, they could find something else that created meaning for them. Quiet quitting is, in some ways, another form of this and employers should therefore be thinking about creating work that is meaningful and doesn’t waste employees’ time. If the solution is allowing employees to take “time outs” or reduce their hours down to a four-day week, then this suggests that quiet quitting is everything to do with work/life balance. Of course, a positive mental attitude also has be something employees need to have, and if addressing work/life balance is the key then quiet quitting could be a term that will vanish faster than it arrived.

For some companies, there might be times where the amount of work might be low, and this might be a good opportunity for employees to have these needed time outs, but for other fields of work, this might not even be possible (e.g. healthcare). Help is at hand if companies invest in a digital HR platform and app because communication about “time outs” or company events (e.g. after works or planned activity days) can be rolled out much more easily to individuals who might have decided to quiet quit, and this works in reverse because employees can input their feelings and needs through such a platform. If quiet quitting is a reaction against poor relationships between managers and employees, then this is a good way to vent frustrations and fix problems.

For many employees, work-life balance is about being able to not only fit in time to achieve their own personal ambitions, but it’s also about making time for employees to concentrate on their wellbeing and mental health. For many employees, this will mean telling their managers how they are feeling and what they can do to rectify any negativity before it reaches the stage of quiet quitting, so, manager-employee communication is really key. If employers ask their employees what support they need so that they are made to feel valued, especially in terms of their health, then this can avoid stress and burnout further down the road.

What’s the prognosis for quiet quitting?

If employers can find a way to engage employees in communications to understand their needs and work together to offer them what they want whether that’s flexible benefits, meaningful projects or ways to improve morale within the team. Managers should also be aware when employees need to take a break or have some time off, to recoup and re-charge. This could help reduce quiet quitting. It might be the case that giving employees what they want ultimately will be beneficial – which ties into the wants of many employees out there.

Offering employees flexible hours and facilitating a good work/life balance as well as encouraging breaks when needed is important for employees’ health, and avoids burnout whilst also tackling quiet quitting. For more information on burnout, read our previous blog below.