Hey, I don’t wanna work here anymore,  whispers a man inaudibly, knocking on his boss’s door, in an Instagram video interestingly titled “Me quiet quitting but not understanding the concept at all.” This hilarious video is one of many posted on social media platforms on a phenomenon called Quiet Quitting. 

As social media becomes a reserve of content on quiet quitting, one is often left wondering, what exactly is it? Or what should employers do if faced with quiet quitters at work? Read the article to answer some questions about quiet quitting.  

What is quiet quitting? 

Quiet quitting is not just a trendy hashtag but a phenomenon birthed in response to poor work-life balance. Many refer to quiet quitting as the act of not going above and beyond at work. Quiet quitters support the idea of strictly sticking to your job description; not less, not more. People supporting quiet quitting refuse to put in extra work hours or make their work the central part of their life.  

Equipped with the tools of social media platforms, quiet quitting quickly became a buzz-worthy topic when younger millennials and Gen Z shared their thoughts on preserving their time outside of work by doing only their job. While some might view quiet quitting as creating healthy boundaries in their workplace, some people consider it negatively.  

There are multiple ways to approach quiet quitting. Emily (@emilybruth) shares various perspectives through which quiet quitting can be interpreted by different groups in an Instagram post.  

Source: Emily Bruth on Instagram  

On the one hand, workers are struggling with a poor work-life balance; on the other, employers are concerned over dwindling productivity in the workplace. While a historic decrease in productivity can raise some serious questions, it seems like a problem created by multiple causes.

Alarmingly, in an attempt to find ways to enhance productivity, many companies have turned to worker surveillance tools. Such attempts dangerously loom over morally gray areas. 

 Illustration: Riki Blanco

Moreover, these surveillance experiments rely on technologies that monitor employee behavior. Not only do these technologies invade an employee’s privacy, but the entire responsibility for productivity seems to fall on employees’ shoulders. Therefore, employers must adopt a holistic approach to enhance and assess productivity, including efforts from all members of an organization and not just a select few.   

Whether you view quiet quitting as a revolutionary movement to balance work and life or view it as a force disrupting workplace productivity, you cannot deny its impact on an organization. 

But is quiet quitting really a new thing? Or has it already been around?  

Quiet quitting can resemble coasting if it is viewed as doing the bare minimum at work. Quiet quitting can also be considered a repackaging of existing employee behaviors made prominent due to multiple events: reduced wages, burnout, and a pandemic! 

A famous report by Gallup posits that at least half of the US workforce is quiet quitting. Employees can move towards quiet quitting if they feel disengaged with their work. Gallup’s survey shows that 18% of 15,091 employees are actively disengaged at work.  

Source: Gallup 

The survey shows that the number of engaged employees in 2022 dropped to 32%, and disengaged employees went up from 16% to 18%. There are several employees who might feel detached from their work. In such a scenario, doing the bare minimum can sound challenging too.  

Burnout from work could be another reason why employees want to only opt for tasks they are required to do

Even though employees were overworked before the pandemic, its onset brought them a wave of urgency and panic. Flexible working hours and work from home also meant that their job now invaded their safe space. According to Gallup surveys, workers’ stress and worry rates reached 60% and 58%, respectively, by March 2020. Stress has been at an all-time high among workers, with even a notification ping triggering them. 

 Lack of reward and recognition at work can also lead to employees distancing themself from work

Continuous efforts that yield no result can frustrate employees to the point of not caring anymore. Rewards encourage employees to do better . Work can seem like a repetitive and dull series of events without any recognition from employers. Disengagement at work can directly result from the disappointment that follows unrecognized efforts.  

There are many factors driving employees to go down the quiet quitting path. Employees are, after all, human—those with needs that should be fulfilled. A theory called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lists five basic human needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. A job can fulfill a person’s physiological and safety needs but cannot lead to a sense of love, belonging, and self-esteem. A vicious cycle of work and unending stress drives employees to become numb. 

Perhaps employees who choose quiet quitting cannot fulfill their love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs through work. As a result, they feel no connection to their job.  

Is quiet quitting an option for all? 

Even though quiet quitting has become viral on social media and is being practiced by employees, it seems it doesn’t come equally to all. Reports show that women are more burned out at work than their male counterparts. Yet, quiet quitting is an option rarely available to women. People of color can face a similar situation where they are scrutinized more than their peers. 

  The responsibility of representation can also push women and people of color to go above and beyond in their workplace.  

Source: McKinsey & Company

What does quiet quitting tell us about leadership? 

An interesting article titled “Quiet Quitting is About Bad Bosses and not Bad Employees” by Harvard Business Review mentions, 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 where they are not counting the minutes until quitting time. 

It is vital that all shoulder the burden of productivity in the workplace. A good leader should efficiently observe and balance productivity with employees’ needs. Several ways can be adopted to manage employees better and help them enjoy their work.  

11 Ways to Manage Employees Better  

  1. Acknowledge: The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging it. Employers should acknowledge that their organization needs to change to make it more welcoming for its employees. Analyzing and acknowledging problems in the workplace will lead to better work conditions. 
  1. Trust is the foundation: Leaders need to work on building trust with their team members. Trust is the foundation of a thriving workplace. Companies should be able to convey that they can go above and beyond for their employees if companies expect the same from them. Harvard Business Review mentions that “by building a trusting relationship with all of your direct reports, the possibility of them quietly quitting dissipates significantly.” Trust can be established by building a positive relationship with employees, staying consistent, and having the required expertise.   
  1. Transparency: Are you honest with job descriptions? Or do you sugarcoat things for recruits and wait for them to figure things out on their own? Being transparent about employees’ requirements is crucial for maintaining employee productivity. You cannot rely on unsaid cultural norms that employees can adopt magically in your office. Similarly, you should clearly spell out the criteria for assessment of employee performance.  
  1. Adopt a new approach towards productivity: As discussed before, productivity is a goal an organization achieves as a team. To engage employees, organizations should realign their productivity goals. In pursuit of productivity, humanity shouldn’t be lost. Often employers do not consider the needs of their employees while trying to get the most out of them. Such an approach can backfire in the form of employees feeling drained, neglected, and ultimately disengaged from their work. Changing how you enhance productivity at your workplace can help improve employee engagement. 
  1. Communicate: Does your workplace function on an arbitrary code that employees are expected to acquire over time? If yes, then you need to step up and communicate your needs clearly to your employees. Proper instructions on which task employers want to be accomplished (and how they want it done) can save a lot of resources. Quiet quitting also rejects the idea of doing work that goes beyond an employee’s job description. Through a proper and transparent onboarding process, a company can let its employees know what they are signing up for. 
  1. Know what your employees need: The hustle culture tends to reduce employees to numbers and hours. As a result, employees are dehumanized, and their needs are rejected. A company cannot progress if its employees have unmet needs. Employees may detach themself from their work because it does not give them a sense of fulfillment. Organizations should actively work towards fulfilling their employees’ needs. 

    Businesses can use a tool like Pietential, which allows them to analyze their employees’ needs in five categories; physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Pietential enables employees to control their privacy and lets employers become aware of employee needs that are not being met. There is a possibility that people shifting towards quiet quitting might consistently not have their love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs being met. By analyzing employees’ needs over a while, Pietential also helps employers see the blind spots that might have been missed otherwise. 
  1. Personalize your interactions: Your employees are individuals with their own identities. Each employee will have different strengths and weaknesses. You should approach them accordingly and use their differences in a positive light.  
  1. Let employees craft their job: You can bring out your employees’ creativity by allowing them to co-craft their job. When employees have a say in defining their roles, they feel a sense of control. Some ways to do this include letting your employees choose their projects and encouraging them to work on things that suit their personalities. 
  1. Care for their mental health: One of the main reasons people are deciding to quiet quit is stress. With work becoming fluid enough to enter people’s personal life and affecting them adversely, managing stress has become a difficult task. A healthy work environment is made up of healthy employees. Employers should promote a stress-free environment at their workplace.
  1. Regular recognition: People need the motivation to work. Efforts being recognized serve as the right motivation to continue giving a good performance. Quiet quitting goes against unrecognized efforts to go above and beyond at work. You can come up with various ways to reward your employees. Rewards can be monetary or non-monetary. A few words of recognition, praise, and acknowledgment go a long way.  
  1. Promote work-life balance: As many on the Internet explain, quiet quitting is an attempt to achieve work-life balance. It is a way to right all wrongs done in the garb of achieving more productivity and giving your best. But quiet quitting is something done on an employee’s end. Hence it cannot be a permanent solution to the problems caused by hustle culture. A better way can be organizations making conscious efforts to help their employees maintain a healthy balance between professional and personal life.  

Quiet quitting has been met with various reactions. However, even if it is seen in the most favorable light, it is only a band-aid, not the entire treatment. If better workplace conditions are to be achieved, organizations must work as a whole. We must not forget what matters the most: we don’t let human creativity die in the face of a work culture focused on constantly churning out results.  

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. What is quiet quitting?

Quiet Quitting is a movement that has taken place in response to poor work-life balance. It is the act of not going above and beyond. 

  1. What is burnout? 

Burnout is a state of excessive physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by a prolonged period of stress. Inefficiency, cynicism, and exhaustion are the most common burnout symptoms. 

  1. Can quiet quitting cure burnout? 

Quiet quitting might seem like a simple solution to the burnout pandemic but it is temporary and doesn’t seem efficient enough to cure the root cause. 

  1. What are some ways to manage employees who might be quiet quitting? 

Managers can build up a relationship of trust with their direct reports. They can show that they care by communicating efficiently and recognizing their work regularly.