The phrase “quiet quitting” became popular after a TikTok video describing it went viral. However, workforce studies on the changing world of work support the rise of quiet quitting and suggest it’s more than a social media hashtag.
Quiet Quitting Is An Intentional State of Mind
The term implies a norm in which people feel they do more work than they’re paid for and are taking a stand by dialing back productivity as a form of protest, carrying out only what they are contracted to complete. In reality, it’s a little more complex than that. It’s when employees accomplish the duties necessary for their role but do not go above and beyond to take on more than is required—noticeable only because it differs starkly from when they did do more.
It manifests in a number of ways, including a reluctance to join new projects, joining meetings but not contributing, not volunteering for new tasks or pushing themselves to learn more, or a lack of drive toward career growth or promotion opportunities.
In effect, quiet quitting is not a refusal to do the work assigned as part of a core role, nor is it over-delegation of tasks to others, poor quality of work, or missing deadlines. It also shouldn’t be mistaken for burnout. Quiet quitting is very much a voluntary and intentional act. It is a proactive step employees take toward creating a healthy mental distance between themselves and potentially toxic work environments that don’t offer or allow them to exercise a healthy and flexible work/life balance.
What HR and Managers Should Do When An Employee Is Quietly Quitting
One of the first steps in managing a member of staff who appears to be quiet quitting is to consider why this person might be notably disengaging. It is important to remember that some people may reach a point where they feel undervalued or unable to manage their workload and therefore seek to leave or slow down. Before thoughts turn to disciplinary action, HR professionals and managers should seek to genuinely understand what has changed for those employees, with a view toward working together on solutions.
Start by setting up a one-on-one to ask how these employees are feeling. Be conscious that there might be something occurring in their personal lives that’s currently affecting their levels of engagement at work.
Connect with employees to understand what projects they are passionate about, and give them opportunities to grow in those areas where possible. Understand that not every employee will go above and beyond, but make sure they are still succeeding in what they are assigned as part of their role.
With remote or distributed workforces and hybrid work models, a good workforce planning strategy and tool as part of your people management HR tech stack will help leaders easily reimagine their teams’ structures and support their people’s growth in a way that delivers job satisfaction and career opportunities.
For leadership, the quiet quitting trend may cause them to worry about more than just employees not coming into the office early and leaving late because when workers start disconnecting in this way, they may eventually end up quitting for real. At a time when firms are struggling with a skills shortage, many businesses cannot afford to lose staff.
Strong Company Culture Will See Trend Taper Off
One of the best things employers can do in the long term is to maintain regular assessments of their company culture and an evaluation of employee experience. This helps identify issues before they become problems, which can aid both recruitment and retention. Any time employees silence their voice in an organization, they deprive themselves of the opportunity to drive through positive change.
Indeed, allowing this trend to continue unfettered will impact more than just the individuals taking part in it. Aside from drops in productivity, there could also be increased attrition as the rot spreads. No business that works hard to build an inviting and positive company culture based on values will want to see those efforts eroded in this way.
Making employees comfortable enough to voice their concerns before they get to the stage of quietly changing work behaviors is key. Loudly encouraging staff to vocalize how their organization can better serve their goals will help them feel a sense of belonging. It gives them a stake in where the company is going.
The Future World of Work
No one has a crystal ball, but leaders and industry professionals can make informed predictions, one of which is that employers will need to evolve with the times, especially with the new, current generation of workers who have different ideas about financial rewards, equity and inclusion, and their lifestyles.
Get the balance right, and there will be no need to regard employees who want a flexible work/life balance as anything but trailblazers for a sustainable and modern world of work that provides growth and success for employees and companies alike.
Annie Rosencrans is the Director of People and Culture at HiBob. She oversees all things HR for HiBob’s North American team while serving as a strategic business partner to the global sales function. Rosencrans loves HR tech and has led people operations for several high-growth organizations, including New York-based start-ups Namely and Knotel. She brings a breadth of experience across the HR field, focusing on HR transformation and change management. To learn more, visit www.hibob.com.