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What Is Quiet Quitting?

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Posted by: David Garcia August 08, 2023

Quiet quitting is the new buzzword that has been all over the news and social media. It carries a connotation of laziness and follows the notion that “no one wants to work anymore.” But proponents of quiet quitting say that couldn’t be further from the truth. Many workers feel disenfranchised or exploited by today’s labor practices. They see quiet quitting as their way of fighting back. Luckily, there are several steps employers can take to prevent quiet quitting. 

The Origins of Quiet Quitting and Is it Just a Trend?

The concept of quiet quitting is nothing new. In earlier eras, quiet quitting has also been called “rule-to-work.” It’s been expressed in many forms throughout history, including plays, books, newspaper articles, political drawings, catchphrases, and in the modern day, memes and TikToks. 

The term “quiet quitting” was coined in 2022 during The Great Resignation – an ongoing global social movement where workers resigned from jobs en masse in search of better employment opportunities. In the US, some of the most common factors that lead to resignations include low pay, the expectation of unpaid overtime, lack of respect for work-life balance, and lack of benefits like affordable healthcare or paid parental leave. 

While many view quiet quitting as an alternative to actual resignation, others see it as a standard-practice work philosophy. It’s most often driven by the belief that work should be fairly compensated. 

The Common Signs of Quiet Quitters: How it Works

Many US businesses have been structured to rely on some degree of free labor from their employees. Exceptional performance, such as “going above and beyond for the customer” or “burning the midnight oil,” is the baseline expectation in many workplaces. 

From an employer’s perspective, expectational employee performance is understandably desirable. Employers want hard workers willing to go the extra mile and take one for the team. In the decades past, workers could expect compensation for their dedication and loyalty in the form of raises and promotions within a company. Employees benefited from long-term company loyalty. However, many workers are finding this is not today’s reality.

The US has an aging workforce – by 2026, people over 55 are expected to make up a quarter of the workforce. This means people stay in their positions longer, which translates into fewer opportunities for advancement for younger workers – and less incentive to overperform.

Quiet quitting may look like:

  • Not responding to emails outside of work hours
  • Refusing tasks outside of the job description
  • Requesting additional pay for taking on additional responsibilities or leadership positions
  • Not participating in optional social events
  • Refusing to work outside of paid hours

How to Handle Quiet Quitting in Your Workplace

Transactional loyalty is the reality of today’s labor market. This describes loyalty due to reciprocity, i.e., you meet my needs, and I’ll meet yours. Many of today’s workers – regardless of age – are no longer willing to give their all to employers who don’t meet their needs. 

Quiet quitting is a labor action that often stems from a worker’s dissatisfaction with their working conditions or compensation. Similar to striking, it’s a way for employees to confront an imbalanced power dynamic with their employer. Addressing the root causes of employee dissatisfaction intentionally can stop – and even prevent – quiet quitting. For employers to do this effectively, they must understand the motivations and values of their workforce.

In 2020, Millennials (ages 25-40) and Gen Z (24 and under) made up nearly half of the workforce. Gen Z alone will rise to 30% of the workforce in the next decade. These age groups – particularly Gen Z – have grown up in a rapidly shrinking and interconnected world. This reflects in their values and what they seek in an employer. 

Here are several areas of interest for workers across the age spectrum. Employers can improve employee engagement and retention and eliminate quiet quitting by focusing on the following:

Fair and Equal Pay

Younger workers often have a reputation for being entitled, but the reality is that many are hardworking and very eager to prove themselves. The caveat is they aren’t willing to be taken advantage of. A survey of recent Gen Z grads showed 62% were more likely to work for a company that was committed to fair and equal pay. 

Foster Professional Growth

Young professionals aren’t just eager to prove themselves and learn and grow in their field. Companies that provide mentorship and training programs are especially attractive to new workers. These programs also benefit companies with well-trained, engaged employees. 

Tell Them Why

Nobody likes arbitrary tasks. Ensure employees understand why they’re doing something and be receptive to feedback on improving things. Employee engagement increases when they’re able to shape and improve processes. Nothing will disengage an employee faster than having their ideas shut down. 

Promote Work-Life Balance

Quality of life is a major priority for workers of all age groups. They’re increasingly looking for companies that support a healthy work-life balance. After the rise of telework, many employees found they could do their jobs as well or better from home – saving them time and money each day on their commute. Mandatory in-office work is unpopular across the workforce, especially when it isn’t necessary. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does the Term Quiet Quitting Mean?

Quiet quitting refers to the work philosophy of minimal performance. Employees who have quiet quit will do exactly what is required of them – no more and no less. They follow the job descriptions to the letter and are not willing “go above and beyond” or perform unpaid labor. 

What Are the Signs of Quiet Quitting?

General signs of employee dissatisfaction are also often indicators of quiet quitting. One of the biggest things to look for is a change in employee behavior. This may look like an employee who usually overperforms but is now refusing overtime and is non-responsive outside of paid work hours. 

What Are Examples of Quiet Quitting?

People who have quietly quit are unlikely to perform any extra duties outside their job description. They are likely not working or reachable outside of paid hours, and they’re not volunteering for extra responsibilities. These employees are intentionally not going to “take initiative” or exceed expectations in any way. 

What Is the Quiet Quitting Strategy?

Quiet quitting is the strategy of only doing what you are paid for. It means not giving away any free time or effort. Many turn to quiet quitting because they didn’t benefit from overperformance. They may have found no gain to offset the cost of additional effort and stress.

Final Thoughts

Quiet quitting represents a modern response to dissatisfaction in the workplace. With the rise of younger generations, employers who want to retain engaged employees must adapt. Taking extra care during the hiring process can also help reduce issues. ScoutLogic’s background screening services efficiently vet candidates, so employers can focus on building the best team possible.

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