Quiet quitting, according to Wikipedia, is a term born on Gen Z’s favourite social media platform TikTok. Although given the name you might think employees are quitting without notice (ghosting the job, as it were), quiet quitting is a silent protest where employees “do the minimum amount of possible work while keeping the job” in order to avoid burnout.
This description, while basically correct, is misleading. Quiet quitting isn’t about doing the bare minimum; rather, it’s about employees setting boundaries in the workplace and no longer being willing to go above-and-beyond for little to no reward.
Employees aren’t tolerating duties beyond their job description, working overtime for no extra pay, or attending company events after-hours anymore. The Washington Post quotes one employee who says that the ethos of quiet quitting is just “doing what you’re paid for”. Furthermore, employees are working to untangle their “identities from their job. . . leaving them with more time and energy to invest elsewhere”.
Before it was known as quiet quitting, we called it disengagement.
Of course, not all employees who are setting work-life boundaries are necessarily disengaged, but quiet quitting can certainly be a sign that something else is afoot at your organization.
There are lots of cues that may indicate your workplace culture has become toxic and an environment where quiet quitting is the norm. Ask yourself these questions:
- Have people resigned recently/in the last year seemingly out of the blue?
- Have vacancies been filled or are other employees filling the gaps within your organization?
- Is your employer reputation struggling, e.g. you get bad reviews on places like Google and Glassdoor or are having a tough time recruiting?
- Are your employees increasingly apathetic or even cynical about their work/the organization?
If you’re worried that your employees may be disengaged, here are some things you can do:
- Complete regular check-ins to touch base with your employees and see how they’re doing.
- Offer employees flexibility to create their own schedules and prioritize tasks as they see fit.
- Suggest they take time off as needed.
- Remind employees how their work contributes to larger goals by celebrating wins, big and small.
- Keep communication as transparent and clear as possible.
The term quiet quitting is a bit misleading, since quiet quitters aren’t actually quitting your organization.
They are, however, trying to shift the power between employee and employer.
CBS News argues that “quiet quitting may represent an evolution of the Great Resignation, with [employees] pushing back against blithe employer expectations that they'll obediently put in more hours each week without additional compensation”.
Organizations that are trying to prevent quiet quitting in their workplace are likely missing the point. Your employees are staying—they’re just trying to prevent themselves from burning out.
Whether it’s a symptom of the times or a part of a bigger trend of shifting power in the workplace, organizations should support their employees' boundaries and ensure that they have all of the tools to do their jobs successfully without feeling overworked, unappreciated, and underpaid.