Quiet quitting has done more than take over TikTok. It’s taken over the workforce. Gallup reports that at least half of U.S. employees are proclaiming themselves quiet quitters, and everyone has something to say about it. In fact, very few have stayed quiet about quiet quitting.
The term quiet quitting took off this summer as workforce members began touting online a boundary-heavy approach to work-life balance. Come in when the shift starts, leave when the shift ends, and never volunteer to take on more responsibility. Many of these quiet quitters claimed to be rejecting hustle culture and the corporate ladder climb in favor of finding enrichment in their personal lives.
Far from a novel concept, the phenomenon has been known as “passive engagement,” “keeping your head down,” and a slew of other terms. Since Gallup started measuring engagement in 2017, quiet quitters have remained a majority in the workforce. The difference between 2022’s quiet quitting and its older iterations is the “quiet.” Counter to what the name suggests, today’s trend encourages quiet quitters to be bold with their approach, publicize it, and prompt others to follow suit. In the past, older generations would have indeed kept silent rather than taking pride in their disengagement. At a time when employees were easily replaceable, fear of attracting unwanted attention from supervisors discouraged them from voicing dissatisfaction.
Some quiet quitters are doing so in protest of companies’ failure to reward additional effort. They feel they have gone above and beyond with minimal raises, promotions, or recognition. The term “quiet firing” has arisen to describe this approach from employers. Those championing the phrase provide examples such as denying raises or failure to provide advancement opportunities. Where quiet quitting is a matter of employee disengagement, quiet firing is the employer withdrawing.
The earth-shaking shift in perspectives created by the Pandemic caused the 2022 Great Resignation—where over 40 million laborers not so quietly quit their jobs—generating a subsequent tidal wave of cultural changes. The pandemic that sent workers home and killed thousands every week showed employees how precious their lives were. It emboldened them to take control of every aspect of their lives, including work-life balance. To keep overtime and additional assignments from encroaching on time spent with family and friends, they’ve built walls to keep work out. Due to this shift, companies find themselves practicing “quiet keeping.” They retain underperforming employees because they fear replacements are not quickly available.
According to Gallup, most quiet quitters prioritize their mental health. These employees are burnt out. Many have dealt with months of overtime and extracurricular demands due to understaffing. Employees are withdrawing from workplace environments to preserve energy and time for activities they enjoy outside the office. They hope to slide easily through the workday by keeping their heads down. However, actively disengaging can have adverse effects. It distances employees from a feeling of satisfaction and purpose. It can cause—or reinforce—existing feelings of pointlessness and discontentment, further harming mental wellness rather than conserving it.
Business is also suffering without their discretionary efforts. Productivity is dropping faster than ever. Employees refusing to take on additional tasks hurt morale when some team members continually show more effort than others. Those unwilling to cover work for their colleagues cause vacations to become distressing instead of relaxing. Disengaged workers are also more likely to take shortcuts, causing threats to safety and performance quality.
Additionally, as American workers struggle with increased healthcare, housing, and food costs, their salaries have flatlined. In fact, wages have experienced little growth since the 1970s. The decades-long problem, coined “quiet fleecing” by the Economic Policy Institute, has only exacerbated employees’ frustration. Though production and profits rose steadily before the pandemic, wages stayed stagnant.
Still, some disengaged from the needs of their employees. Supervisors are detached from their team, and employees are disconnected from their work. What can your business do to end the harm caused by this passive-aggressive cycle? Both parties are caught in this cycle, not even clear how or who started it and how to break it.
It’s Time to end the Cycle
Employers may desire to hold on to the firing power they once had, the upper hand in negotiations, but the culture has shifted. Employees have new bargaining chips. They are demanding to be heard, and it’s long past time for companies to truly listen.
To reengage quiet quitters, stop embracing the quiet. Quiet results in no discussion and no communication. Colleagues are not building relationships, nor are employees with their managers. Camaraderie provides a sense of purpose, the feeling of a team working together to accomplish a common goal. But that trust must be earned. When high-performing employees become disengaged, there is a reason behind it. Do not sit silently and allow disengagement to become their new norm.
To address quiet quitting, organizational leaders need to see employee engagement as a key business imperative. Develop enterprise-wide strategies and allocate resources to address it. Involve your employees in speaking their engagement truth.
Find out what employees need to improve their mental and physical health. Learn what is at the root of their burnout and lost sense of purpose. Companies may avoid these questions because of the emotion behind them. Don’t. Post-pandemic, businesses and their employees need to connect to overcome. Encourage employees to be honest about their stress, mental wellness, and needs. The first step is allowing amplification of their voice.
Consider what you can do to meet their needs. Additional benefits may be an option to enrich their lives outside of work. Examine your workflow. Does it have bottlenecks that could be removed or tasks that could be automated or streamlined? Shorter workweeks and hybrid positions are emerging options that could provide rejuvenating flexibility. The possibilities are endless, so think critically about what your company can do to show your workforce that you care.
The ultimate purpose is to determine what gets in the way of employees being able to step up. They have solutions that will improve business results. And leadership needs to listen.
Businesses must embrace the power of connection to leverage the contribution employees can make to help them win. Need help doing so? Please connect with us. Alignment Strategies is here to help. Together, we’ll discuss other strategies you can develop to reengage your workforce!