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What Is Quiet Quitting? An Explainer

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Published On: September 15, 2022

Whether in person or scrolling through news headlines, it’s likely that many have recently become acquainted with the term "quiet quitting." Although the trendy phrase has many definitions, the mindset behind quiet quitting is simple: employees are unwilling to take on more responsibilities outside of their job description without being adequately compensated. 

The Data on Quiet Quitting  

According to a recent poll from Gallup, so-called “quiet quitters” make up at least 50% of the current U.S. workforce. What’s more, Gallup found that this trend toward quiet quitting is worse among younger workers, specifically Gen Z and younger millennials (or those 35 and under), who work remotely. 

Gallup also posits that the decline in engagement and employer satisfaction is recent and a meaningful change from pre-pandemic years. According to Gallup, “Younger workers have declined significantly in feeling cared about and having opportunities to develop–primarily from their manager.”  

Notably, Gallup also found that the percentage of engaged employees under 35 dropped by six percentage points from 2019 to 2022. In that same period, the percentage of actively disengaged employees increased by six points. Also of interest was that less than four in 10 young remote or hybrid employees clearly know what is expected of them at work. 

Unpacking Quiet Quitting  

Some employers view this trending behavior as laziness and a lack of ambition to go above and beyond to aid organizational success. For many, this hustle culture cultivated by Generation X and Y has set the expectation among employees that they must exceed their goals and bring unmatched value to deserve promotions and pay raises. 

However, other employees perceive quiet quitting as a healthy way to set boundaries with their managers and coworkers to establish respect for their time and work-life balance. 

"It's clear that quiet quitting is a symptom of poor management," Gallup said. The organization recommends that company managers do a better job communicating with their underlings. "Gallup finds the best requirement and habit to develop for successful managers is having one meaningful conversation per week with each team member—15-30 minutes." 

What is important to remember about quiet quitting is that employees are more likely to take on this mindset in response to burnout and stress. 

Contrary to popular belief, quiet quitting is not about underperforming or not exceeding expectations regarding already assigned tasks–instead, it is about doing those tasks well within the allotted 40-hour work week and not taking on additional responsibilities that would require more time without any increase in pay.  

According to a recent report from Deloitte, being overworked and underpaid is customary for entry-level and mid-level employees to move up the corporate ladder; however, Generation Z believes their time should be valued and respected by their company proportionally to their pay and outlined job responsibilities. 

Employees are not saying they will not do their job, instead they are voicing an unwillingness to bend backward to support organizational success. The newly adopted mindset has thrown out the hustle mentality and focuses on the honor culture–respect for employers' and employees' time. 

How to Manage “Quiet Quitters”  

There are several indicators that management can look for when determining if employees are "quiet quitters.” Some of those traits include low engagement, tardiness, and minimal performance levels.  

Employers should expect their employees to do their job well. However, they may have to adjust how they manage their employees to ensure that overall company performance does not suffer in the long term.  

Managing quiet quitters is a new catchphrase, but the concept is simply taking the same preventative measures to reduce employee burnout. There are several strategies to help support employees who are showing symptoms of quiet quitting; for instance, several studies—including those from Deloitte and Gallup mentioned above–underscore that employee engagement and buy-in significantly impact performance. 

What’s more, employers should regularly set time aside for one-on-one conversations with their employees regularly to listen to how they manage their time, what tasks they need help with, what areas they want to grow in, and how they can add value to the company. Nurturing proactive employee engagement and buy-in is a great way to manage burnout and stress, as well as an effective tactic to avoid quiet quitting. 

Additionally, employees should feel that they are contributing meaningfully to their organization–meaning within the workplace is one of the strongest combatants to quiet quitting. Ask your employees if they enjoy their job, if they find purpose in it, and how they want to grow professionally.  

Employers must also respect employees’ time outside of the office, including on holidays, vacations, and outside office hours. Even limiting contact outside office hours and not sending emails before 8 a.m. or after 5 p.m. is a simple switch.

  Looking for more exclusive content? Browse what’s new on the Mployer Advisor blog, or listen to the latest episode of This Week in Benefits on mitigating the risk of burnout in the workplace.  

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Abbey Dean

Director of Content, Mployer Advisor

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