Why Re-Engaging Your Workforce May Be the Best Cure for Quiet Quitting

Catherine Tansey
October 11, 2022
quiet quitting, company culture, hybrid workplace, hybrid office

First there was the Great Resignation. Now, we have quiet quitting.

If it seems like the pandemic-driven workplace movements keep on coming, that’s because they do.

Quiet quitting isn’t actually about quitting

Popularized on TikTok, “quiet quitting” is a phenomenon that describes employees who choose to opt out of work outside of the scope of their role, as well as avoiding working outside of their agreed-upon work hours. 

It actually has nothing to do with resigning, but rather has been described as “quitting going above and beyond.” 

Is it just a lack of employee engagement? 

According to research and advisory firm Gallup, quiet quitters “fit Gallup's definition of being ‘not engaged’ at work—people who do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job.” Their September 2022 findings suggest that quiet quitters make up at least half of the American workforce.

Sources like Gallup say quiet quitting is just a new name for an old problem—a disengaged workforce. 

While critics decry it as lazy, disappointing, or “doing the bare minimum at your job,” supporters claim it’s actually just about doing your jobnothing more and nothing less, and say quiet quitting is necessary to safeguard work-life balance, mental health, and your identity outside of the office. “Back in the day it was called a regular work shift,” says a top comment on TikTok. 

Others believe it's a generational shift prompted by Gen Z, where individuals increasingly view "work as work,” and not the source of one’s self worth. 

What’s to blame for quiet quitting?

People’s priorities have changed over the course of the past few years. Faced with the global uncertainty of the pandemic, racial violence and social unrest, sky-high inflation, and a housing crisis, people have reconsidered what’s most important to them—and for many, it’s not their job. 

So, many left, fueling the mass exodus of workers of the Great Resignation. Yet resigning wasn’t an option for all. 

Related content: 6 Strategies for Retaining Top Talent: How to Future-Proof Your Company Against Turnover

Some have instead opted for “quiet quitting,’” in an effort to reclaim work-life balance by enforcing clear boundaries. This may look like signing off at 5:00pm sharp, declining to attend non-essential meetings, or clearly communicating to management that a certain project is outside of the job description.

The growing pains of modern workplace challenges

Against the backdrop of these global and societal challenges, the workforce is still working through the growing pains of the transition to hybrid and remote work, and dealing with delays and inefficiencies caused by supply chain shortages—barriers that make it difficult to remain productive.

The enduring need for development opportunities and strong workplace communication

Gallup’s research on quiet quitting suggests that it’s not a disdain for the workplace or working in general that quiet quitters harbor, but rather frustration with some workplace actions and practices established by employers.

The advisory firm’s findings suggest that quiet quitting is reflective of poor communication, a lack of clarity around expectations, a lack of growth and development opportunities, and a mismatch between employee and org values. 

While explicitly giving quiet quitting a name may be new, it’s important to keep in mind that discontent around workplace communication, development opportunities, and value alignment is not a new phenomenon. 

Quiet quitting is the employer’s problem, not the individual’s

Quiet quitting is an organizational issue, not a workforce one, as U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh points out:

"If you are an employer, you should catch on early enough that your employees aren't satisfied, aren't happy, and then there needs to be a dialogue, a conversation." 

Leaders who dismiss quiet quitting as lazy are embodying a lazy position themselves by not thinking critically about why it's happening.

Rather, it’s essential to first help employees feel heard, then re-think workplace policies.

Related content: How to Insulate Your Team Against Burnout When Returning to Office

The cure for quiet quitting is to re-engage and support your workers

If companies want to stop quiet quitting in its tracks, the onus is on the organizations to better engage their people.

Broadly speaking, engagement is the connection and commitment an individual feels to their company and role, and the desire to positively influence outcomes on an individual, team, and organizational level.

It’s also the best cure for quiet quitting—and a good number of other workplace issues. 

Re-engaging employees: Where to start 

1. Improve communication

  • Get a better understanding of the employee experience by regularly asking questions—via soliciting anonymous feedback, holding frequent check-ins across roles and departments, and more.
  • Encourage managers to sit down with direct reports for a weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one. 
  • Use surveying tools to centralize the collection feedback to spot trends over time.

2. Provide regular feedback

  • Experiment with introducing shorter, more iterative review cycles in addition to your annual review. 
  • Use reviews to provide formal feedback, both positive and developmental. 
  • Encourage in-the-moment feedback and use tools that enable instantaneous praise to support a culture of continuous feedback. 

3. Encourage time off

  • Burnout is a major contributor to the quiet quitting phenomenon; regularly check in with employees to make sure they feel that their workload and expectations are reasonable. 
  • Time away from work helps prevent burnout, so build a culture where taking time off is expected and respected.
  • Normalize using PTO by encouraging managers and senior leaders to take advantage of the benefit. 
Related content: How Gathering Feedback Will Improve Your Office Culture and Employee Experience

To combat quiet quitting, companies don’t need to reinvent the wheel. But, they do need to acknowledge the very real structural issues that are causing the problem, and work to build processes and culture that keeps employees engaged and reduces risk of burnout. 

Creating a people-centric culture of open, regular communication, respecting work-life balance, and leaning on the right employee performance management and feedback tools and tech (like Eden’s performance management and surveying tools), can help re-engage employees, prevent quiet quitting, and build better workplaces. 

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