What is quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting refers to the phenomenon where employees fulfill only the duties specified in their job description and choose not to take on additional responsibilities without an official promotion and pay raise.

Two interpretations of quiet quitting are popular across social media platforms and media outlets. The first refers to the deliberate reduction of career ambition in favor of work-life balance. The second refers to performing only the bare minimum required to receive a paycheck.

Is quiet quitting real? 

Quiet quitting rose to prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people everywhere began to prioritize health and mental wellness over work. Studies have recently revealed that more than half (59 percent) of American workers are experiencing at least moderate levels of burnout. Pair increasing stress and poor mental health with current high rates of inflation and it’s no wonder #quietquitting currently boasts over 97.6 million total video views on TikTok.

Social scientists proposed a phenomenon known as the “cohort effect,” to explain how a life-changing event, shared by an entire population, commonly prompts a generational shift in mindset. 

Whether we define quiet quitting as the refusal to go above and beyond for your company, or as climbing down from the career ladder to refocus on a greater work-life balance, it’s clear that the concept has emerged as a challenge to hustle culture.

Why should HR leaders care about quiet quitting? 

Quiet quitting captures a growing sentiment of unhappiness in an organization, and it’s up to people leaders to find ways to end quiet quitting and improve employee satisfaction. Quiet quitters can provide perspective for HR leaders, calling attention to the need for greater communication and people-led retention strategies that can help end quiet quitting 

HR leaders should care about quiet quitting because:

  • It can be indicative of burnout and stress. It’s no secret that in the wake of the pandemic, people and businesses are wrestling with a global crisis in mental health. Burnout is often a symptom of dysfunctional work dynamics, work-life imbalance, and lack of support. Ultimately, it could be a sign that a team member is suffering.
  • Company culture and infrastructure may contribute to quiet quitting. It’s worth considering why your team seems unmotivated: Is their role challenging them enough? Does your team feel that their voice is heard? Are your policies to blame? Considering these possibilities can help HR leaders foster a culture of community and collaboration within an organization and re-engage people.
  • People may feel unappreciated or unsupported. If a member of the team feels underappreciated, they’re far more likely to disengage from their role. Provide managers with the time, training, and tools they need to have regular one-on-one meetings with their team members. Frequent check-ins go a long way to showing your people you care, help reduce stress, and boost engagement.
  • The skills gap and talent shortage. Despite a looming recession, people are still quitting their jobs and joining the Great Resignation. According to research on the Great Resignation, they’re leaving the workforce to start their own business or become freelancers. This only compounds the ongoing skills shortage. Businesses rely on talented professionals to thrive, especially in tough times. Now is the time to make hard decisions and understand what kinds of benefits and work cultures will motivate your best people to stick with you—and attract the professionals with the skills your business needs.

The good news is that quiet quitting presents a unique opportunity to introduce new strategies to support your team–so that productivity flourishes naturally.

How can you prevent quiet quitting?

Make your people and their wellbeing your top priority. Listen to their concerns and struggles and respond with action. If people are feeling burned out, emphasize the importance of work-life balance in your company cultures. This can mean offering more flexibility in allowing team members to set their own schedules (if possible). It can also include offering remote work opportunities or support in the form of subsidies for childcare, health packages, or mental wellness.

How does quiet quitting affect company culture? 

When people are burned out and disengaged, it can decrease morale and cause more people to check out. If quiet quitting is on the rise in your organization, think of it as an opportunity for a company culture refresh. Align with company-decision makers to create a people-focused business strategy that emphasizes a healthy culture, prioritizes wellbeing, transparency, and team work where every voice feels heard.