Quiet quitting is causing a stir, with millions of workers claiming they only get the bare minimum done at their jobs to cope with the demands of their work life.
Some say that it’s simply a new name for plain old work dissatisfaction – so you should ignore it and not give it a second thought.
But what if those workers have a point? What if there’s more we can do to improve our employees’ work lives and environments?
The quiet quitting and lying flat movements are here, so you should do your best to address them and remotivate employees.
In this guide, we discuss the background and impact of quiet quitting and the top strategies for increasing employee engagement and morale.
Quiet quitting is the practice of doing the bare minimum at your job, putting in only the time and effort that’s absolutely necessary.
For example, workers might be performing their day-to-day responsibilities but not participating in extracurricular activities, such as non-mandatory meetings, staying late, and team-building events. They don’t see any reason to go the extra mile.
The term “quiet quitting,” less commonly known as “soft quitting,” originated on TikTok in early 2022 and spread quickly throughout social media. It’s primarily used by workers who are tired and overpressured and feel like their job isn’t going anywhere.
Some people describe quiet quitting as the opposite of hustle culture.
Hustle culture is the idea that people have to push themselves past their limits and work 24/7 to succeed professionally.
Most workers who popularized the phrase “quiet quitting” are either Gen Z or millennials, and data supports that those generations are indeed more affected by this movement.
Although some older workers may also be experiencing the same phenomenon, they tend to use different terminology, such as “dissatisfaction” or “retiring in post.”
One of the most widespread discussions surrounding quiet quitting is whether or not it’s even a real phenomenon.
There’s plenty of research to support the trend of quiet quitting.
The same Gallup study cited above found that at least 50% of the American workforce describes themselves as quiet quitters.
Another study found that the percentage of actively engaged workers dropped from 36% in 2020 to 32% in 2022. It also revealed that the percentage of actively disengaged employees rose from 16% in 2021 to 17% in 2022.
This means that about one in six workers is completely disengaged, and only one in three workers is actively engaged.
Of course, a common argument is that quiet quitting is simply a new name for an old problem. Some say that this is just worker dissatisfaction under a different guise.
Either way – whether it’s a brand-new trend or a new way to describe an older issue – we believe the quiet quitting trend is important because it brings serious issues to light.
Some professionals say quiet quitting isn’t “real” per se but rather a desperately needed term for suffering workers.
People found a term to describe what they’re feeling. These people are burned out, overworked, and disengaged from their business for reasons like discrimination and toxic behaviors.
It’s important to note that this behavior is not laziness. These people are giving up on “hustling” and forward progression because they don’t see the point.
Whether you call it quiet quitting or worker dissatisfaction, there’s a huge problem to be addressed.
Companies need to do more to engage their employees and provide a healthy work environment that motivates and excites them to do their best – not just clock in, clock out, and gather a paycheck for doing the bare minimum.
Let’s examine how quiet quitting looks in the real world.
It’s simple enough to use terms like “doing the bare minimum” or “giving up,” but here are some more concrete examples of this behavior:
Quiet quitting behavior
The reason behind it
Sean, a 26-year-old sales representative
Not coming to team celebrations after hitting his quota
He’s burned out and overworked due to unrealistic expectations
Jai, a 34-year-old marketing manager
Sticking to her exact job responsibilities and not taking time for detailed worker feedback
She’s overwhelmed by pressure and “hustle culture”
Chris, a 30-year-old remote data entry worker
Not taking part in group discussions or attending non-mandatory meetings
They feel like their job isn’t going anywhere
Sarah, a 65-year-old warehouse supervisor
Clock-in/clock-out behavior – showing up and going through the motions
She feels disrespected and unvalued
An important example to note is Sarah, the 65-year-old warehouse supervisor.
Many people like her exist, and most of them wouldn’t define their actions as quiet quitting. They’d call it old-fashioned dissatisfaction, and their colleagues may even refer to it as “grumpiness.”
It’s the same issue and has the same ramifications, which means that there’s a lot more quiet quitting going on than we realize or are able to measure.
People are quick to compare quiet quitting to the lying flat movement in China. The two have striking similarities and started around the same time.
Let’s take a closer look.
Lying flat is a movement started in China that rejects the cultural pressure to overwork yourself, focusing instead on life satisfaction. It’s both a lifestyle and a social protest movement.
The term emerged in February 2020 but became popular one year later, in April 2021. Some people say it came about because the pandemic put extra pressure on people who were already stressed.
Although quiet quitting and lying flat aren’t exactly identical, they share quite a few commonalities and are both radically changing the newer generation’s view of work.
Here’s a quick summary of their key similarities:
Better work-life balance
More satisfaction and fulfillment
Fewer demands and reduced stress
Freedom from expectations of hustle culture
The main distinction between the two lies in their cultural differences.
Quiet quitting originated in the US, so many believe that it’s tied to American values like individual rights, independence, and freedom.
Young workers feel like they face low work autonomy, mountains of debt, increasing inflation, and work expectations that all oppose these values.
China faces similar pressures, but it affects the country’s culture differently. An expectation of hard work with little reward is enforced and not questioned.
China’s 996 work culture exemplifies this expectation. In the 996 working schedule, employees work from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. six days a week. This work practice has seen a lot of negative press, famously with Jack Ma, the chief executive of Alibaba.
People in China start facing these expectations at a young age, too. Similar pressure is put on students, meaning that Chinese people deal with these responsibilities, burnout, and a lack of free time from childhood far into adulthood.
In China, lying flat is much more than being dissatisfied with working conditions; it’s a total cultural rebellion.
Some believe that quiet quitting is a new trend brought on by a lazy modern workforce, but others view it as a cry for help.
Adam Walls, a business artist, believes that quiet quitting is an obvious response to poor work environments and leadership.
We believe the best thing you can do is to recognize the issue and collaborate with your people to make things better.
There doesn’t need to be pointless push and shove. It’s time to re-engage your workforce.
Turn to questionnaires and feedback to understand your workforce
Send out pulse surveys to understand why your employees are quiet quitting
Reduce overwork, stress, and burnout
Proactively combat burnout by promoting a positive culture and offering flexible work
Refine roles and responsibilities, creating more accountability and transparency
Define job roles and responsibilities to prevent employees from doing each other’s work
Build positive, inclusive environments
Reduce bias, toxic behavior, and discrimination to make your company one where people want to work
Hire from the inside and give your employees internal mobility
Ensure your employees have a path within your organization and not every open role goes to external hires
Offer more career development opportunities
Show your employees you value them by providing them with career growth opportunities
Create engagement initiatives
Implement a strategy specifically for raising engagement
Offer better compensation and benefits to your employees
Make sure to provide your employees with decent pay and relevant benefits
The first thing to establish is whether or not your workforce is quiet quitting.
We recommend sending out questionnaires and pulse surveys to gather valuable insights and feedback. These help you better understand the current situation and lead you toward a solid solution.
For example, your survey might discover that the problem stems from tight work deadlines. But if you review the feedback in detail, you can work your way toward a solution, such as spacing the deadlines more evenly.
Here are some example questionnaire questions:
“How do you feel about work today?”
“Do you feel excited about working here?”
“Do you feel like your work is recognized?”
“Does our company culture foster a supportive environment?”
“What practices do we need to change?”
“How can we improve engagement at work?”
Listen to this feedback, implement the suggestions, and let your employees know you used their ideas.
Acting on your workforce’s suggestions is a great practice that boosts employee morale, motivation, and company loyalty.
There are several effective ways to announce implemented feedback, such as:
Periodic “town hall” meetings specifically for announcing feedback
A Slack board just for discussing used feedback
Surveys and questionnaires help you build an organization that not only combats quiet quitting but also puts people first.
The World Health Organization now officially recognizes burnout as an occupational phenomenon. Burnout causes exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and feelings of detachment, so it’s no wonder that it causes quiet quitting, too.
For example, a consultant working more than 60 hours per week decides the bare minimum is all he can give after seeing the consequences of that lifestyle.
Or a sales rep returns after a two-day vacation to see she still has to meet her quota – counting those two days.
Unrealistic expectations like these destroy morale and motivation, leading to disengagement. Reducing burnout in your organization is crucial in reducing quiet quitting.
Here are some of our top recommendations for mitigating overwork and burnout:
Build a more positive company culture – discourage toxic behavior and promote timely recognition (more on this later)
Encourage mental health breaks and time off – ensure employees take time off for their well-being and destigmatize mental health breaks
Consider implementing alternative working arrangements – empower employees to get work done when they’re most energetic by offering flexible or remote work
Be more mindful of employee workloads – downplay the importance of multitasking, and keep an eye on overflowing workloads
For the whole in-depth guide, read our blog post on employee burnout.
Clearly defined job roles and responsibilities have a large impact on quiet quitting and your business as a whole.
People need to see how they contribute individually to the organization’s overall goals; otherwise, they may feel like a tiny cog in a giant machine. And that’s not motivating or engaging.
Clear roles and responsibilities also help prevent employees from taking on responsibilities that aren’t theirs. A lot of quiet quitting occurs because workers do tasks simply so that they get done, regardless of whether they’re part of their job.
For example, a project manager might stay late to finish messaging a handful of clients even though that’s the account manager’s responsibility.
Sticking to your job duties greatly reduces stress and quiet quitting and is a key component of setting boundaries at work.
Refining your job roles also benefits your hiring initiative. Taking the time to write out your current roles and their individual responsibilities improves future job descriptions for potential candidates.
Negative environments play a major role in quiet quitting. Employees don’t put their full effort into a toxic workplace and cannot properly connect and engage with the company.
For example, a worker facing discrimination daily decides to keep their head down, do the bare minimum, and get out. They’ve adopted the approach of ruffling no feathers and simply getting a paycheck.
You can help by discouraging toxic behavior, discrimination, and biases and building a more positive workplace.
Encourage positive communication – promote an open-door policy and practice nonviolent communication
Build a culture of recognition – appreciate and recognize employees frequently and in a timely manner
Offer accommodations – provide accommodations for your workers, such as a quiet workspace for neurodivergent employees or flexible work for working parents
Reduce bias with skills-based hiring – hire employees based on talent and capability, and reduce unconscious bias in the recruiting process
Unconscious bias affects employers in ways they may never expect and can include bias against candidates based on their age, race, gender, hometown, and even name.
Switching to a skills-focused recruitment process enables you to create an inclusive culture from day one at your business.
You can also use skills tests such as the Culture Add test to hire people who align with your company. So once you build an inclusive, positive organization, you can hire like-minded people with fewer toxic behaviors and higher empathy.
When you feel like your job is going nowhere, you start down the path of quiet quitting. People feel like putting in the effort is useless because they aren’t progressing anyway.
Limited career growth makes an employee feel like they’re in a “dead-end job” – and it’s even worse when every good role gets filled by external candidates when they’re sitting right there.
Internal mobility motivates and engages your employees by showing them that they’re a valuable part of the organization. It’s no wonder that businesses that excel at internal mobility retain employees twice as long.
You can facilitate this process by having an excellent internal talent marketplace. This is a space where you can post open roles, and employees can apply for them directly in your system.
Following up on the last point, many employees quiet quit because they feel neglected and see their careers going nowhere.
This means you should not only hire internally but also invest in career development opportunities. Care about your employee’s professional growth, and show them that you want them to succeed.
Tell them: “We see a future for you.”
According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.
Ask about employees’ aspirations and goals during regular 1:1 meetings. You can suggest roles they’d be suited to or skills they should develop.
Then, take it a step further and help your people create PDPs.
Encourage the use of professional development plans within your business to help your employees lay out their goals and create strategies for achieving them.
This practice can prevent both quiet quitting and actual quitting, reducing employee turnover as a whole.
For the full guide, check out our blog post on professional development plans.
Try launching an engagement initiative specifically to boost your workers’ motivation and connection.
This could be a team-building event, a party, a trip, or even an awards ceremony.
A real-life example is the software company Atlassian’s “ShipIt Day.” It holds a “ShipIt Day” once a quarter that gives employees the opportunity to work on anything they’d like for 24 hours and put all other responsibilities on hold.
Atlassian says this program:
Increases employee collaboration
This sort of autonomy enables employees to explore whatever motivates and engages them the most. Not only is that excellent for morale, but it also leads them to career growth and discovery.
At the end of the day, employees work for the money – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Sometimes, active engagement can be achieved through great compensation and benefits.
Offering a better-than-average salary for certain roles engages employees and has the added benefit of making your business more attractive, which increases your job applicants.
It’s also important to provide salespeople with a fair base salary so that they aren’t relying too heavily on commissions.
Try to offer excellent benefits that align with the employee, such as better childcare assistance for working parents.
Benefits are only as useful as they are relevant, and many workers may feel detached because no benefits actually benefit them.
For more on this topic, read our blog article on proper employee incentives.
Regardless of whether or not quiet quitting and lying flat are “new trends,” they’ve called our attention to a serious issue: widespread dissatisfaction among workers.
We believe we should strive to improve the employee experience by building a positive culture, reducing negativity and bias, and offering career growth opportunities.
For more information on promoting a healthy, positive workforce, read our blog post on the benefits of diversity in the workplace.For insights into your people’s personal motivators and how you can specifically engage them, check out our 16 Types test.
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