What is Quiet Quitting and How Should You Respond to It?

Quiet quitting is a hot topic these days, especially for leadership, managers, and human resources. So, what is quiet quitting? You might be surprised to learn that it has nothing to do with resignation letters or the reasons employees quit their jobs. It’s worse.

Quiet quitting has everything to do with employee engagement, psychological detachment, and people choosing to be more intentional about how they spend their lives.

Gallup estimates that quiet quitters make up at least half of the U.S. workforce. That means one out of every two employees is doing the bare minimum to get by, unwilling to go the extra mile for your organization.

Recent Top Workplaces research supports a similar narrative: 

  • 42 percent of Top Workplaces Research lab participants have seen evidence of quiet quitting at their organizations.
  • Large organizations (+1,000 employees) are feeling it the most, with 65 percent reporting evidence of quiet quitting vs. 39 percent at small organizations. 
  • 68 percent of responders who rank employee turnover as a primary concern also indicated higher levels of quiet quitting. 

The good news is that you can take action to mitigate the root causes of quiet quitting and re-engage your employees. So, let’s dive in, starting with how we got here in the first place. 

Where did the term ‘quiet quitting’ come from?

While the buzzword might be new, the concept is not. On the heels of the pandemic and Great Resignation, “quiet quitting” became popular on social media platforms in 2022. Now, the hashtag #QuietQuitting has more than 236 million views on TikTok. So, the big debate: Is quiet quitting a short-term trend, or is it here to stay? 

How the pandemic and ‘great resignation’ lead to quiet quitting

The pandemic changed the world of work, possibly forever. And while quiet quitting isn’t a new term, increased focus on employee well-being, burnout, and work-life flexibility have surfaced the topic in new ways. 

A recent Top Workplaces research study of 240,000 U.S. workers indicates that, on average, approximately one in three employees are struggling: 

  • 22 percent feel that work interferes with their personal lives.
  • 28 percent are anxious or upset because of work.
  • 29 percent feel work stress negatively impacts the rest of their lives.
  • 38 percent are overwhelmed at work. 

Other concerns also impact quiet quitting, including a tight labor market and remote work. Let’s explore the primary arguments for and against quiet quitting, as well as how it impacts employees and companies. 

Arguments in support of quiet quitting

For some, quiet quitting is all about setting boundaries. Overworked and under-appreciated employees say that refusing unpaid overtime, working beyond a job description, or answering work messages outside of business hours enables them to achieve a better work-life balance. Others believe quiet quitting is one way to protect mental health and avoid burnout while prioritizing friends, family, and personal interests.  

Criticism of quiet quitting

Workplace experts and organizational leaders argue that quiet quitting might feel good to employees in the short term, but it harms their long-term professional development and career growth. In a viral LinkedIn post, Arianna Huffington commented, “Quiet quitting isn’t just about quitting on a job; it’s a step toward quitting on life.” While the Huffington Post founder and Thrive CEO doesn’t condone “hustle culture and burnout,” she says work often gives people meaning and purpose. Rather than quiet quitting and “going through the motions” day in and day out, she argues the goal is to find a job that inspires, engages, and brings joy. 

Which demographics of employees are quiet quitting?

A recent ResumeBuilder study revealed that 25 percent of workers ages 25-34 are the largest population of quiet quitters. That means as many as one in four said they do the expected work but nothing more. Here’s what the research indicated about quiet quitters in other age groups: 

  • 17 percent, ages 18-24
  • 23 percent, ages 35-44
  • 16 percent, ages 45-54
  • 8 percent, ages 55+ 

How quiet quitting impacts organizations

The potential effects of quiet quitting on organizations are significant. SHRM reports that 70 percent of HR professionals believe productivity will take a considerable hit. Other concerns include quality and morale. And in a slowing economy, companies can’t afford separation, whether it’s turnover or quiet quitting. 

That’s not all. Quiet quitters create conflict with coworkers who pick up the slack and are frustrated by a lack of collaboration. This fuels dissatisfaction among employees and impacts workplace culture. 

How employers have reacted to quiet quitting

With the threat of quiet quitting on the rise, employers are scrambling to respond. Some have been more successful at finding win-win solutions than others. 

Some are communicating

Building trust-based relationships with employees is a popular way to reduce quitting. Through open and honest communication, managers invite employees to raise concerns, express needs, and discuss career paths. 

Some are quiet firing

Like quiet quieting, “quiet firing” has been in recent headlines. Rather than firing employees, managers take a passive-aggressive approach, denying raises, promotions, professional development opportunities, and more. In other words, employees are managed out rather than managed up. 

And others terminate quiet quitters

While the great resignation led to more open jobs and employees in the driver’s seat, the looming recession poses a big risk for quiet quitters who could be the first to go when the economy shifts. 

How employers can better respond to quiet quitting

No two cultures are exactly alike. When targeting quiet quitting, the best first step is to find out what’s on the minds of your employees. The best way to do that is to ask them. When you understand leadership’s role in driving company culture makes it easier to mitigate quiet quitting. 

Here are four tips to help you reduce the signs of a bad work culture and inspire employees to join in rather than check out.  

Listen to your employees instead of retaliating

Employee-manager conversations are the most effective way to prevent or respond to quiet quitting. Listening to your employees instead of retaliating against them allows companies to gather valuable insights. The more managers learn about their employees, the more companies can respond appropriately. 

Ditch a hustle culture for a people-first culture

Great leaders — such as those at Top Workplaces — understand the benefits of building a people-first culture, from engagement and retention to productivity, innovation, efficiency, and more.

Recalibrate job responsibilities

Address understaffing or high work volumes at the source and experiment with ways to improve efficiency, interdepartmental cooperation, and open-mindedness.

Focus on improving engagement

At its core, improving employee engagement is an effective employee retention plan that also minimizes quiet quitting. Successful employee engagement strategies also boost productivity and encourage referrals. Top Workplaces research identifies several culture drivers that influence employee engagement: 

  • Employee recognition: Giving (and receiving) genuine appreciation is central to well-being. 
  • Meaningfulness: When employees feel they are part of something meaningful, their work feels effortless.
  • Values:  When your culture is built on solid values, your organization can better handle challenges.
  • Inclusion: Employees who feel included demonstrate higher advocacy and loyalty.
  • Potential: People are motivated to use their talents to make the best contribution. 
  • Communication: Employees feel respected when they understand the “why” and believe leadership truly gets what’s happening daily.

Identifying quiet quitting in your organization

Capturing data-driven employee survey insights is an effective way to measure where your culture stands and learn what’s on the minds of your employees. In addition to making better people decisions, the benefits of an employee engagement survey include: 

  • Maintaining connections with employees
  • Allowing employees to be heard
  • Showing employees you listen and value their input
  • Building trust and loyalty

How Top Workplaces can minimize quiet quitting

Employees want to love where they work and want to work for Top Workplaces. Based on employee feedback, the nation’s leading employer recognition program can help your company to minimize quiet quitting. It also offers several other benefits, including opportunities to:

Visit the Top Workplaces awards page to find organizations that prioritize people-first cultures. Then, see how you can improve employee engagement with Top Workplaces while earning valuable employer recognition.  

Does your company believe in the value of employee engagement and a people-driven culture? Get recognized for it! Nominate your organization for Top Workplaces, the employer recognition program that offers awards in 60+ regional markets and national awards for culture and industry excellence.

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