Why “Quiet Quitting” Is More Than a TikTok Trend

Why “Quiet Quitting” Is More Than a TikTok Trend

The trend toward quiet quitting -- the idea spreading virally on social media that millions of people are not going above and beyond at work and just meeting their job description -- is growing exponentially as "quiet quitters" make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce.

Why “Quiet Quitting” Is More Than a TikTok Trend

The Great Resignation made waves, then came quiet quitting.

While not a new concept, the term 'quiet quitting' has recently gained popularity on social media as some employees reject the hustle culture and set job boundaries. The trend sparked a fierce debate on social media among newspaper columnists, business leaders, and knowledge workers. Are quiet quitters the new crop of wise workers who embrace and protect their right to work-life balance? Or are they simply coasting through work under a new name?

Or are they burnt-out workers who are better off simply quitting their job?

man rubbing his eyes in frustration with his work

What is quiet quitting?

There’s no single definition of the term quiet quitting. For some, it means setting boundaries and not taking on additional work; for others, it just means not going above and beyond. Most, however, agree it does not necessarily mean you’re leaving the job.

However, quiet quitting could be a sign that an employee is not happy in their position, does not feel appreciated, or is experiencing burnout. It may also mean they are ready to change positions or may be currently looking for another job. Quiet quitting is a “residual impact” of Covid-19 and the Great Resignation, where employees felt empowered to take control of their work and personal life.

During the Great Resignation, employees started thinking about their careers, salaries and how they are treated at work. Lack of advancement opportunities, low pay, and feeling disrespected were the top reasons Americans quit their jobs in 2021, according to a Pew Research Center survey, and a 2021 survey from Gallup found that only 36% of people reported being engaged with their job.

Why are employees quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting may be a popular term, but this practice isn't new. Workers have engaged in this behavior for years, whether it was because of poor pay, unmanageable workload, burnout, or lack of growth opportunities.

The pandemic brought quiet quitting into the spotlight as it flipped work culture upside down. A Global Talent Trends 2022 report showed us that more people had time to think about and question their careers and are seeking more work-life balance, and seven out of 10 employees experienced burnout in the last year, according to Asana's 2022 Anatomy of Work report. The report findings also showed that employees suffering from burnout are less engaged, make more mistakes, leave the company, and are at a higher risk for low morale.

Because of this, people are taking to social media to promote their discontent. A TikTok clip described that work does not have to be life, and people should start to reconsider their work-life needs. Quiet quitting is in line with a larger reevaluation of how work fits into our lives and not the other way around. As Gen Z is entering the workforce, the idea of quiet quitting has gained traction as Gen Zers deal with burnout and never-ending demands. And employees who are 18-34 are more likely to feel burned out than the rest of the workforce, according to a Talkspace/The Harris Poll Employee Stress Check 2022 Report.

Recent survey data from Gallup found that U.S. employee engagement is falling across all generations. However, worker engagement was lowest among Gen Z and younger millennial workers who were born no earlier than 1989, at just 31%. Notably, 54% of workers included in the Gallup survey who were born after 1989 were classified as workers who are "not engaged."

"It's on leaders to genuinely and authentically understand where people are coming from," said Simone Ahuja, a Fortune 500 strategic consultant who focuses on fostering innovation. "One of the things supporting innovation is radical prioritization by employees, managers, and leaders."

What are the signs of quiet quitting?

  • Missing meetings
  • Arriving late or leaving early
  • Reduced commitment to tasks
  • Less respect for deadlines
  • Withdrawing from team activities and any optional activities
  • Less display of passion and enthusiasm
  • Obvious disengagement on a regular basis
  • Barely aligning to performance standards
  • Self-isolation from team culture
  • Not speaking up or taking action to improve issues  

In a nutshell, employees who are quiet quitting are not interested in their career path at the company they are in; they are in “survival mode”. For whatever reason, they no longer feel invested in the future of the company, brand, output, or department. When an employee has no desire for a positive outcome of their efforts, they simply mentally check out and perform tasks for pay.

woman listlessly typing and unhappy with her job

How do you measure quiet quitting?

Despite the “quiet” descriptor, it is possible to determine if your employees are participating in the viral trend. Measuring quiet quitting will help you understand what changes need to be made to create a more positive company culture to counteract burnout.

Frequently surveying your employees. Research has shown that simply asking your people how long they intend to stay is more than twice as accurate at foretelling their future turnover than machine-learning forecasts. And surveys give employees the chance to feel heard. Not having a regular survey sends a clear message: you don’t care about people’s opinions. The act of filling out a survey gives them a specific channel for expressing voice.

Tracking employee engagement data. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, so it’s important to create a plan to track employee engagement. Measuring this key metric allows organizations to identify profiles of what engaged employees look like, as well as to identify opportunities to improve levels of engagement. These metrics are a vital indicator of employees’ level of connectedness and motivation. It goes without saying, but an engaged employee is more productive, contributes towards the company vision more purposefully, and has higher levels of commitment, therefore, less likely to suffer burnout.

Measuring productivity. Tracking employee productivity and efficiency is a proven strategy to understand how your employees are working, and make data-backed decisions on how to improve their processes and productivity. Not only can you get statistics on relevant employee performance metrics, but you can also quantify your team’s work efficiency when you track productivity. This powerful business intelligence on your employees’ activity can then be used to reshape the organizational structure to suit every onsite or remote employee on a real-time basis, thus increasing engagement and satisfaction. Bottom line, if you’re not actively measuring productivity, you won’t be able to address quiet quitting in your organization.

Re-energize your team members by shining a spotlight on their achievements! Download our free guide to get started.

employee spotlight guide

How to turn quiet quitters into high performers

Over the past two years, companies have had to rethink their workplace strategies and HR policies as employees moved en masse from the office to remote work.

This shift has undoubtedly impacted the employee experience, as Gartner noted in its report on 2022 HR trends that “disruptions have already made long-term and hard-to-reverse impacts on workforce health — that is, the health of employees, the state of trust between individuals, teams and leadership and the work environment (e.g., feelings of inclusion)."

Moreover, we know the employee experience is intrinsically linked to the customer experience. Happy employees are more likely to have positive interactions with customers and be more invested in positive outcomes. Achieving this outcome requires companies to make ongoing investments to ensure employees have access to the tools, resources, and support they need.

Prioritize employee wellbeing. To stay competitive, companies must be proactive by checking in with their teams before the next challenge arises. In a survey of 2,000 US. workers by The Recovery Village, 87% reported symptoms of mental health and 78% say they had to miss work due to mental health challenges — and missed work means missed revenue.

Employers can think beyond standard wellness to bolster employee wellbeing. By expanding the definition of wellness to more than just physical health, employers have an opportunity to offer more comprehensive employee benefits.

Organizations can help foster their employees' wellbeing by thinking more holistically and focusing on workplace wellness. For example, an organization can create programs that support their workers' mental health, provide critical team-building activities with their colleagues that can inspire stronger collaboration, and offer a flexible work schedule with guilt-free paid time off.

Financial wellness is another aspect of employee wellbeing. An Ellevest-commissioned survey in 2021 found that almost half of women (49%) said financial stress took a toll on their mental and emotional health, yet only 32% of employers offer financial literacy to their employees (1,600 full-time employed US adults were surveyed). This is a considerable gap that employers have a chance to fill with options like budgeting workshops or financial literacy training.

Engage your remote workforce. While working remotely has its fair share of benefits, like saving time and money on commutes and encouraging better work-life balance, it also has some downsides. Because remote teams are not in the office, these workers often feel less engaged and connected to their company, which can hurt productivity and performance.

“Keeping remote workers engaged is a necessary part of leading a remote team, company or employee,” said Rachel Jay, senior career writer at FlexJobs. “Without the ability to have organic conversations in the break room or at each other’s cubicles, it takes a more concentrated effort for remote workers to engage with others … A lack of engagement can lead to isolation and loneliness, a lack of passion for the company’s vision or goals, and feeling unhappy and unappreciated.”

When managers and company leaders prioritize employee engagement and teamwork, regardless of an employee’s location, the organization as a whole thrives.

Meet the needs of today’s employees. Employee engagement depends much more on purpose in the workplace these days. But perks still have their place in engagement and curbing turnover.

What’s critical now: Recognize and respond to the different working situations – remote, hybrid and on-site – and what can make each more comfortable and inviting to employees. For instance, almost half of employees who are in the office say fitness perks such as yoga studios and office gyms, and access to designated quiet space in open space offices are preferred perks, according to the study from Framery and Feelback Group. At the bottom of their list now are things that used to be attractive hiring perks: communal game areas and drinks on tap.

But that doesn’t mean those particular perks work for every workplace. Organizations will want to work with executives (to determine the financial ability to provide perks) and front-line managers (to determine the ability to execute) to find your ideal perks. Finally, you’ll want to survey employees to find out what will keep them engaged.

Poor employee engagement and wellbeing are parallel to quiet quitting

While quiet quitting promotes healthy boundaries, mental health, and building a life outside of work, it can also be the perfect excuse that bored and unmotivated employees have been looking for to totally withdraw. No organization wants to have employees quietly quit on them. But it's important to remember that employee happiness and motivation goes both ways. The employer and the employees are responsible for working together to create an environment where everyone feels appreciated and valued.

Addressing employee engagement and striving for a culture of belonging are critical pursuits with benefits for the organization, leadership, and employees. Attend to them, and you'll mitigate the risk of having employees quietly quit on you as this viral trend is a clear statement of the changes that both young professionals and the new world of remote working are bringing to the workforce.

Want to get ahead of the trend? Chat with our engagement experts to see if Cooleaf is right for your team!

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