What is “Quiet Quitting”? And Why It’s Trending on Social Media

Ever had a job where you clocked in, kept your head down for 8 hours, and clocked out? No staying extra hours to finish out a project or volunteering for tasks beyond your assignment workload.

This is what Millennials and Gen Z are calling quiet quitting. Learn why it’s trending on social media and how companies should address it.

What’s quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting is a term that took off on TikTok in a video by content creator Zaiad Khan.

@zaidleppelin On quiet quitting #workreform ♬ original sound - ruby

In the video, which currently has 3.5 million views, the Tiktoker explains what quiet quitting is: A rejection of hustle culture and a reclaiming of work-life balance.

Shortly after, other TikTok users shared their thoughts and experiences with quiet quitting – the hashtag now gaining 97.6 million total video views.

So while the term includes the word “quitting,” it actually has nothing to do with it.

Confusing, I know. When I thought of quiet quitting, I pictured employees slowly backing away from their desks and sneaking out of the building Homer Simpson style, never to be seen again.

Instead, quiet quitting involves completing your work responsibilities without going above and beyond. This looks like logging out at 5 p.m., not seeking additional tasks or projects, and taking regular time off.

According to a Gallup survey, around half of the U.S. workforce is already quiet quitting, with work engagement dropping in the second quarter of 2022.

A recent article by the Washington Post dove into the trend and examines how women and people of color are already at a disadvantage in the workplace.

They face harsher punishments for mistakes, they have higher burnout rates, and they’re less likely to be promoted. As a result, quiet quitting could hold them back further. So, for many people of color, it’s something they can’t afford to do.

For others, it’s a form of rebellion. And for some, it’s an odd term to describe something they’ve done for decades.

How Companies Should Address Quiet Quitting

In an NPR article, critics of this term say that quiet quitting is a misnomer for setting boundaries at work and having a healthy work-life balance.

They also argue that this term highlights how many companies exploit employees and set an expectation of overperformance without adequate compensation.

This conversation comes following the Great Resignation, an economic trend in which employees quit their jobs in masses in 2021.

This was reportedly driven by low or stagnant wages, high cost of living, health concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a desire for remote work. Not to mention burnout.

With this in mind, instead of seeing quiet quitting as a trend that’s harming the workplace, employers should see it as an opportunity to improve their workplace culture.

The fact is: Employees are only “quiet quitting” as a result of a poor workplace environment – and there’s data to support this.

A workplace study by HBR states that quiet quitting is a reflection of “bad bosses” rather than employees’ unwillingness to go the extra mile.

Their researchers found that managers who ranked highest in balancing business needs with employees' needs had the highest percentage of employees willing to go the extra mile – 62% to be exact with only 3% quiet quitting.

This is a stark contrast to the managers who ranked the lowest in the category only having 20% of their employees willing to go the extra mile and 14% quiet quitting.

An employee who receives adequate support from their manager, is given growth opportunities, and is rewarded for their work will be motivated to perform at the highest level.

It’s up to employers to create the environment in which that happens. It starts with setting boundaries surrounding work hours – this can look like a no-contact policy around out-of-office times.

Management training is also important as that will likely have the strongest impact on the employee. Training on growth coaching, skill development, and pay transparency will help toward building trust with employees and promoting a positive work life.

In addition, set quarterly career chats between managers and their direct reports to discuss areas of interest and focus, current or expected challenges, and more. The more engagement managers build with their teams, the lower the likelihood of quiet quitting.

What to Do if You’re Managing a Quiet Quitter

If you realize you have a quiet quitter on your team, the first thing you should do is realize it’s likely due to a lack of trust between you and your employee.

Where do you go from there? Work on your relationship.

One of the best ways to do this is by having regular 1-on-1s in which you build your relationship. Find common ground, listen actively, pay attention to their interests, and share resources to support them in their growth.

In addition, set quarterly career chats to discuss their current trajectory. Here are key areas to discuss:

  • Interests and values
  • Strengths and gaps
  • Job satisfaction
  • Career goals

Once you have a clear understanding of what they’re working toward and what’s missing in their role, create an action plan together on how to meet their goals.

From there, set up a check-in schedule in which you’ll discuss progress, obstacles, and opportunities.

Next, be consistent and reliable. Think about it from a personal note – would you keep a friend who didn’t keep their word and on whom you couldn’t rely? Probably not. So, why should employer-employee relationships be any different? If anything, these traits are even more important as they influence your career.

Lastly, treat your employees like people. Being an engaged employee doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean giving your all. Work-life balance is a key part of job satisfaction and if that’s not a current priority for your team, you’ll end up with a long list of quiet quitters.

In most cases, a quiet quitter is simply an employee who doesn’t have the right support. Once you offer what they need, you’ll have an engaged performer on your hands.

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