In the last several weeks, the term "quiet quitting" has exploded on the internet and in workplace conversations. Odds are if you use social media, you've heard the phrase more than once as of late.
What exactly is quiet quitting? Contrary to how it sounds, it doesn't actually mean quitting a job. It's doing precisely what a job requires and nothing more. Some might say it's doing the bare minimum.
While the topic has only recently become a trend, it's a new name for behavior that has existed for a long time. In a new survey on employee engagement, Gallup finds that quiet quitters make up at least half of the U.S. workforce. It seems as though there isn't a sector or industry that is untouched by quiet quitting. While this may be true, some industries are more likely to be affected due to their nature, especially in tech.
Quiet quitting doesn't have to be - and shouldn't be - the norm. There are ways to spot it, and better yet, to prevent it among your employees. Let's take a closer look at the philosophy behind quiet quitting, why it occurs, and what can be done to avoid it.
What is Quiet Quitting?
While the verified original source of the phrase "quiet quit" is unknown, its popularity first began in 2022, starting on TikTok. In this viral video, the creator describes quiet quitting as this: "... you're not outright quitting your job, but you're quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You're still performing your duties, but you're no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is it's not, and your worth as a person is not defined by your labor."
In other words, when employees don't put in any extra effort it may be considered "quiet quitting." Another popular explanation for it is "acting your wage", which means that the amount of work an employee puts in reflects the amount that they're paid.
Positive or Negative?
There is not one conclusive definition for quiet quitting, and depending on your perspective, it has two very different meanings.
For some, quiet quitting is a positive way of setting healthy boundaries. It's about realizing that life is more than a job and rejecting workaholism. With this mindset, quiet quitters are simply prioritizing a work-life balance by protecting mental health, prioritizing family and friends, and avoiding fatigue.
For others, quiet quitting is a negative concept. It's a form of laziness by refusing to go above and beyond and not being a committed, valuable team member. Another way to describe it is being actively disengaged.
Regardless of the perspective, all can agree that the term quiet quitting doesn't mean leaving one's position. It just means sticking to the job description and not exceeding those expectations.
So how do you know whether or not your employees are quiet quitting? How do you spot it? Here are a few behavioral examples:
Workers who are quiet quitting might always clock out exactly at 5 pm, or whenever the day is expected to end. This occurs regardless of busyness or important deadlines.
They may decline to take on any additional responsibilities. This includes side projects and volunteering for committees.
Quiet quitting employees are often unavailable and difficult to get in touch with. This can happen in the office during business hours, and it can also mean they don't answer emails or take phone calls after work or on weekends.
They may not put in extra effort for their required day-to-day responsibilities. As a result, their work could be mediocre, and their productivity and contribution could be low.
Lastly, employees who are quiet quitting may be emotionally disengaged and disinterested in building relationships within the workplace.
It's important to note that not all of these behaviors are bad behaviors. For example, being unavailable on weekends can actually be considered a healthy habit. However, if most or all of these are present and reoccurring, then it strongly suggests that the employee is actively disengaged.
Why do Employees Quiet Quit?
There are several factors that may be contributing to half of the U.S. labor force engaging in quiet quitting.
The Covid-19 Pandemic
One possible reason for quiet quitting is that it's an extension of the layoffs during the Covid-19 Pandemic and The Great Resignation. In 2020 when the pandemic first began, many people lost their jobs. Although the economy has improved, employees have not forgotten how they dedicated so much of their life to a job only to be fired. They may be hesitant to fully engage because of their past experiences and disillusionment.
Another potential cause that stems from the Covid-19 Pandemic is a shift in priorities. With the pandemic came so much uncertainty and loss. People realized that life can change in an instant, and suddenly spending all their time and energy in an office building seemed less important than it did before.
A Worker's Job Market
At the moment, there is unprecedented job security. The labor market leans in employees' favor with a high demand for workers and few firings and layoffs. The risk of termination is low which means the incentive to work harder is also low. Even if an underperforming worker were to lose their position, there are many alternatives desperate to hire. Quiet quitting could very well be a result of this.
In most cases, quiet quitting is less about an unmotivated employee and more about inadequate management. Successful managers can create a work environment that makes employees want to engage and put forth the effort. Their failure to do so is often reflected in the performance of their employees.
Harvard Business Review gathered data on managers' impact on quiet quitting and found that incompetent managers have 3-4 times the number of quiet quitters than successful managers. Employees who feel undervalued and unappreciated are not likely to go the extra mile. The same goes for if they are overwhelmed with their workload, experiencing burnout, and feeling like their employer doesn't care. Effective managers care about their workers' well-being just as much as they do about tasks.
How do You Prevent Quiet Quitters?
As mentioned above, quiet quitting is often a sign of poor management. If you have reason to believe a team member or members are quiet quitting, now is an opportune time for self-evaluation.
Assess the workplace culture you're creating. Do you make every effort to let team members know they're valued? Is honest and open communication encouraged? Building trust is critical for having enthusiastic and engaged employees, and it can be as simple as having one meaningful conversation.
Evaluate the workload and check if your goals are realistic. Is it possible that there is too much stress and pressure on your workers? When is the last time you checked in on everyone's capacity for their assignments? Help your direct reports avoid fatigue by having reasonable expectations, and also encourage them to use their vacation, personal, and sick time.
Quiet Quitting in Tech
Speaking of burnout, there is potential for it in every job, but some industries are more susceptible than others. This is especially true for software development. There is currently a significant shortage of technical talent that amounts to 40 million workers, and it's expected to grow to 85 million by 2030. With a lack of skilled developers, development teams may be overworked and weary, which can lead to quiet quitting if these issues are not addressed.
If this applies to your software development group, it may be beneficial to outsource projects to trusted and talented tech teams. Talentcrowd is a tech recruiting agency that gives you access to qualified, skilled developers. They are outsourced, and fully remote, and yet they are able to integrate seamlessly with your company because they're specifically matched to your project based on their experience and expertise. You can trust them to successfully complete tasks so that stress and workload are reduced for both you and your workers.
Quiet quitting may be popular right now, but with the right precautions, it can be prevented. Good management is the key to having engaged, enthusiastic, and effective employees. Take the time to seriously evaluate your company culture, workloads, and expectations to see where you can make improvements, especially if you are in a high-stress environment like tech. If you find that your teams are struggling, consider partnering with Talentcrowd to avoid burnout and reduce the potential for quiet quitting.