Quiet Quitting; Everything Leaders Should Know (The Good and Bad)


Sep 1, 2022 • 12 min read

quiet quitting

Have you heard the viral phrase of ‘quiet quitting’?

It’s a new trend from TikTok that’s popular among millennial and Gen Z workers. With more than 11.3 million views for all videos with #quietquitting hashtag on TikTok, quiet quitting has become a hot discussion lately.

It was New York musician Zaid who trended quiet quitting first on the platform. He explained it on his short video as “you’re still performing your duties but no longer subscribing to the hustle mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is your worth as a person is not defined by your labor”.

That video appears to have resonated with global workers as the hashtag amassed thousands of new videos with their own interpretation of quiet quitting.

From setting health boundaries at work, acting your wage, muting email notification outside office hours and there are those who brought up the idea as ‘taking back control of your time and standing up to employers who expect you to do more without pay you more’, the interpretation lists go on as more people relate to this phase on their daily job.

So, What is Quiet Quitting?

Even though the phrase includes the word ‘quitting’, it doesn’t essentially mean employees quitting their job. It’s more about doing the bare minimum the job demands, hitting the job requirements, but not going above and beyond what the job description entails. It also means stop working after working hours and no longer putting relentless productivity above their wellbeing.

Quiet quitting makes employees feel less stressed and implies less chance of burnout because they’ll do just what is contractually required based on the job description, and nothing more.

In a nutshell, this phrase means setting boundaries at work and ditching the hustle mentality and focuses more on one’s work life balance.

Maria Kordowicz, PhD, associate professor in organizational behavior at the University of Nottingham and director of the Centre for Interprofessional Education and Learning, describes quiet quitting as “doing the minimum required to get by in one’s job without letting it seep into other areas of our lives.” She also said that the rise in quiet quitting is linked to a fall in job satisfaction.

The recent statistics from Gallup Global Workplace report for 2022 showed that only 24% workers in Indonesia were engaged at their work, ranking at 4th place out of 9 countries in Southeast Asia.

The low engagement rate can be caused by a feeling of not being connected at work, exhausted from the work and a lack of work-life balance. A company's culture also plays a big role in employees’ attitude towards their job.

Ed Zitron, who runs a media consulting business for tech startups, believes this term comes from how the businesses exploit their employees and take advantage of the hustle and overwork culture to ask them to go above and beyond with no additional compensation or rewards.

In short, employees are no longer willing to commit all their energies to work when their efforts are not rewarded or acknowledged. Because why bother giving maximum effort for an employer who doesn’t value it, right?

Why are Employees Doing It?

There are a lot of reasons why employees do quiet quitting at their workplace. Some of the reasons that are worth checking are as follows.

1. They’re being fed up

One of the reasons why many employees choose to do the bare minimum the job asks is because they're fed up with too much work, low pay and high bills to pay; thanks to inflation.

Many jobs don’t provide people with a reliable or livable income, but they still hold the position because financial security is what basic humans need to survive. In the context of the workplace, if working harder doesn’t give promised rewards, what's the point of trying so hard?

And when employees aren’t seeing any wage increases (at least in line with living cost or inflation, while the wealth flowing upwards rather is being shared), it can be demoralizing. As people care more about mental health these days, quiet quitting can be the response to stay sane.

2. Coping strategy

Maria Kordowicz suggests that this condition is a sort of coping strategy that people might use to protect themselves from overwork but not getting paid enough and end up getting burned out.

Doing the bare minimum as suggested by the job description allows people to relax a little bit, see family and friends more often, practice self-care and the list goes on.

For some employees, they are brave enough to start an honest conversation with their line manager that they’re feeling overwhelmed and burned out.

Managers, by default, usually will offer anything that they can do, but then no follow up was made. While the managers keep their expectation for the employees to go above and beyond on a daily basis, it won’t work out when they are burned out.

3. Lack of acknowledgement

People tend to put a lot of effort in order to get the job done, but many times they experience a lack of acknowledgement and undervalue which can lead them feeling demotivated and turn into quiet quitters.

For a couple of years, employees have been working from home (with little to no assistance from the office) which makes many people work longer working hours and are always on stand-by.

This situation has created blurred boundaries from working hours to daily lives. As a response, employees can feel overworked, stressed and burned out. A lack of acknowledgment, even after a job done, can give an extra trigger and make employees choose this path.

4. Changes in priority

Leaders can count on employees' changes in their priority. As pandemic kind of reset our whole perception about life, employees too can shift their long overdue hustle culture to give more priority to their life outside working hours.

But this doesn’t mean they hate work or think that work is not important. They just reorganize their priorities and do the most during the work hours and leave everything work-related after that to enjoy life.

How to Manage Quiet Quitters

It should be easy to spot someone who slipped into quiet quitting mode, especially for the line manager who used to have close coordination for daily tasks.

Not putting the same effort as they do, disengaged from work, or not doing things they always do before like replying emails even after work hours or doing additional work at the weekend for the sake of organizations can be few of the visible signs.

But, rather than forcing disciplinary action, it is best to fully understand why they act like that and explore what can be done to solve the issue.

Line managers can start asking questions with informal discussion to build a positive relationship rather than make them feel judged for doing things they are asked to do based on the job description.

And while employers can be mad about the situation and feel it’s better for the organization to cut off the quiet quitters, take this situation as a reminder about how ineffective your current engagement strategies are.

So, Tom Cornell, senior psychology consultant at HireVue suggests that leaders should be careful not to punish the quiet quitters before fully understanding what the drive of this behavior is.

This is because when leaders choose punishment over conversation to know the reasons, it will ultimately push the employee to quit for real, leading to loss of a talent and a decline in workflow and business productivity.

What can Leaders Do to Prevent Quiet Quitting?

Leaders or managers can start asking ‘why they do such things’ by looking at the current condition at the workplace. Because there is no universal reason why an employee may quiet quitting, so you need to think of how to prevent it from happening inside your organization.

This trend is also linked to a bigger issue since the top talent shortage has become prevalent in today’s workplace. So how can leaders foster a culture that keeps employees engaged and prevent them to choose as quiet quitters?

1. Initiate conversation for each team

Leaders for each team or division can initiate an honest and open conversation with everyone on the team about how they could help them feel valued and appreciated in the workplace. Start asking about how they’ve been doing lately, how they feel about their current workload, any blockages and anything related to daily tasks.

And when they openly talk about it, don’t just give lip service to make them feel good temporarily. Make it clear that you’re ready to support them because employees want real action to help them overcome any issues in their day-to-day work.

Because when they think they have your support but then nothing happens, it’s only a matter of time that they become quiet quitters and eventually leave the company for better opportunities.

2.  Publicly recognize a job well done

Everyone loves getting recognition at work, but not many employees get it even after doing something remarkable at the workplace.

Leaders should not limit their recognition and praise to the employees who achieve some targets, but also can do the same for employees who consistently work in excellent manner and complete all the tasks within normal work hours.

3. Rethink your company’s values

In today’s workplace, both company and employees have equal power to choose whether they’re a match for the position or not. It’s not easy to find the right talent for the position, so if you think that the employee turnover rate is increasing constantly or number or employees that indicated as not-too-engrossed in go beyond and above, it’s fair to rethink your company’s values and how you treat the employees.

Enlightened companies usually give employees control in their job, feel pride in their work and give a fair wage. But those efforts are sometimes not aligned with increasing living costs and inflation which make employees feel shortchanged. Money is important, but they also want to be valued and respected for what they do.  

4. Evaluate your exit interviews

Lastly, exit interviews give you data on what it's really like to work at your organization. Employees tend to give honest feedback when they’re leaving the company and this is where leaders can identify things to improve employee engagement and retention.

What Should Leaders Do About Quiet Quitting?

Although this new phrase can sound ominous to the management, it's somewhat should be seen as something that has one seriously misaligned with your core company culture.

It is because quiet quitting is a form of disengagement that makes employees setting boundaries at work to take care of themselves.

With the pandemic causing a high rate of burnout globally reported by McKinsey in May 2022, this could be the sign for the upper management to do something before they actually leave the position.

Managers and leaders can see this as an opportunity to re-engage their employees by letting them prioritize their to-do lists and at the same time keeping the teams running efficiently. You need to realize that they still do their best during work hours, but then detach themselves from any work after the hours end and prioritize more about their life.

Whether quiet quitting is a good or bad thing for an organization, if people start realizing their worth, focus on their mental health and see no effort from the company to compensate them better, it can be demoralizing and lead them to find better opportunities.

Companies, of course, can open the vacancy to fill the position and get someone new, but losing a top talent can be a great loss both financially and productivity for the company.

Moreover, before bringing in new talent, it is important for organizations to do regular and honest reviews of current’s culture to help increase employee experience and retention. It’s because, unless companies put the employee engagement at the heart of the business, quiet quitting will eventually lead to increased employee attrition.

To put it plainly, something needs to be changed with the way you engage your employees. Perhaps, it’s time to digitize your employee engagement strategy with something that will allow you to constantly engage with and motivate your employees in a way that they would love and create a better experience.

Here at Tada, we provide game-changing employee engagement solutions to retain your best talents. Request our demo now to find out more how we helped the biggest e-commerce platform in Indonesia maintain and keep their 6,000+ employees engaged.

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