Quiet Quitting: what is it and what can we do about it? 

‘Quiet quitting’ is one of the latest buzz phrases to hit social media!   Whether you’ve heard of it, or whether it’s all new to you, managers and People professionals need to understand what quiet quitting is, how to spot the…


News12th Oct 2022

‘Quiet quitting’ is one of the latest buzz phrases to hit social media!  

Whether you’ve heard of it, or whether it’s all new to you, managers and People professionals need to understand what quiet quitting is, how to spot the signs and what you need to be doing about it. 

What is it? 

Quiet quitting, on the face of it sounds like a team member secretly making plans to leave the organisation, but is this what it really is?  

Here’s my take…. 

It’s where your once passionate, fully engaged, motivated and high performing employee suddenly becomes quiet and stops putting in that extra effort and exceeding expectations.  There’s perhaps a shift in how they interact with colleagues and sometimes their lack of participation during team meetings is increasingly visible.  For want of a better phrase ‘their silence has become deafening’. Certain behaviours could be construed as a ‘Poor Performance or Conduct’ Issue but ultimately, It’s a sign or warning that somethings not right somewhere and change is afoot! 

Quiet Quitting is almost definitely linked to job dissatisfaction and more so post pandemic. The way in which many of us think about work and the priority we place on it has changed dramatically. Some of us have started to question our work-life balance as well as what we really want from a job. Combine this with the current cost-of-living crisis and we have a potential recipe for disaster as employees start to feel like all of their hard work and effort isn’t actually providing them with the satisfaction they are looking for and they become unhappy, disengaged, demotivated and the ‘dream job’ they once had is fast becoming a distant memory and so, they start to withdraw and do only what is expected of them and no more, whilst at the same time casually keeping an eye on the Job Boards.  

What are the signs of quiet quitting?

If your line managers are being assertive the signs should be fairly easy to spot however, here’s some of the things to look out for in a ‘Quiet Quitter’: 

  • they would previously have been the first to volunteer for a project or put forward ideas at a brain-storming session, but they’ve been unusually quiet and unresponsive lately 
  • they appear disinterested or are no longer contributing to or supporting the team 
  • they are arriving late and leaving early whereas previously they may have arrived early and left late – demonstrating a change in behaviour could be a key sign of an employee “checking-out”
  • they may be pushing back and refusing to go beyond the tasks listed in their job description 
  • there may be a noticeable drop in willingness to go above and beyond 
  • they might be less keen to assist colleagues and adopt a “that’s not my job” type attitude 

What causes it? 

There are a number of factors that needs to be considered however, more often than not, it is the feeling of being undervalued, lack of work-life balance or even the dreaded burnout. It’s not all on the employee either as Line Managers have their part to play in supporting and listening to team members in the workplace and working with them to create a sense of purpose.   

On the surface, for some employees it seems to be driven by a desire to take back control and re-prioritise what’s important to them which does suggest a “stepping back” attitude. All in all, what it ultimately comes down to is ‘Employee Engagement’ and employees will start to ask themselves: 

  • Do I feel valued by my line manager and colleagues? 
  • Do I feel satisfied in my role and are there opportunities for progression? 
  • Are both my personal goals and that of the business aligned? 
  • And am I achieving a healthy work life balance?  

If the answer to any or all of the above is ‘No’ then the chances are you have a ‘Quiet Quitter’ on your hands! 

What can Employers do to reduce this trend in quiet quitting? 

There may be an immediate impulse to treat this as a performance and conduct issue, however, employers do need to dig a bit deeper and potentially ask some probing questions of themselves as well as of their teams. Here are some things to ask yourself and consider: 

– Do you have an “always on” culture?

  • the use of communication devices such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets have made this even easier, and worse may have increased the expectation on the part of employers that their teams will be available at any time day or night. Employers should ensure their teams are taking breaks, switching off and encouraging them to take their annual leave entitlement. Remember tired, exhausted employees are not going to be the most productive! It’s in the employers’ best interests to make sure that their teams are well-rested. 

– Get to know your teams

  • Have regular catch ups, staff surveys, team meetings or even coffee chats can be a great starting point to open dialogue and get to the root of any engagement issues.  
  • Are they bored? Remember that sometimes this is more about QUALITY of work than QUANTITY of work, for example – an individual who requires mental stimulation in their role will very quickly become bored if they’re spending the majority of the day on routine/mundane tasks.  
  • Can you give more responsibility? Can you look to amend job roles to give employees more control over what they do and how they do it? 
  • Is there a perception of being under-valued? We’re in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, and there’s a bit of a fight for talent at the moment. If employees are feeling the pinch and have realised that roles with similar skills requirements and levels of responsibility have better pay and benefits, then they could potentially have checked out due to feeling under-valued and resentful. When was the last time you bench-marked your roles? If you’re not able to compete in terms of salary and benefits, then look at other ways to recognise and reward employees. 
  • Are they feeling overwhelmed? It is essential to find this out! Burnout hits different people at different stages, just because one employee has a heavy workload and doesn’t feel “stressed” doesn’t mean that all employees can cope with the same workload. Keep it personal! Remember that setting boundaries helps everyone to be more productive and avoid burning out.  

In conclusion, ‘quiet quitting’ does seem very similar to a withdrawal of discretionary effort rather than a really new concept.  In most cases, this is down to respect, acknowledgment, appreciation, and being valued by the Management team. If people feel valued and respected, they will find very little reason to quietly or noisily for that matter, quit! 

The team at AAB People are experts in helping employers find solutions tailored to their individual businesses, needs and concerns, please do get in touch if we can help with this or any other employment related matter. 

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