Chances are you’ve heard of quiet quitting—aka soft quitting, silent quitting—at some point over the last few months. The idea exploded over on TikTok in March this year and was popularized by the video-streaming platform. But what does it actually mean? Critics say it’s Gen Z’s way of doing the bare minimum at work, discarding the idea of spending energy on going above and beyond. Advocates say that it’s an effective way to set healthy boundaries, restoring a good work-life balance.
The motivations may be disputed, but what’s certain is that the term is widely reducing productivity and having negative impacts on businesses—a mind-blowing 82% of millennial workers say that quiet quitting appeals to them. Let’s take a closer look at this viral trend, and what it means for your organization.
What is quiet quitting?
When employees are technically doing the requirements of their job, but not putting in any extra effort, chances are they’re quiet quitting. Quiet quitting is the reaction—or antidote—to hustle culture. It’s the art of avoiding burnout by not taking work too seriously. COVID shook up the world of work and made people reflect on how we relate to our jobs. For younger generations, a main takeaway from this was an increased appreciation of flexibility and work gratification, giving rise to the passion economy. This widespread reevaluation, combined with statistics showing that global employee stress is at a new all-time high, have resulted in the popularization of quiet quitting.
Putting in minimal effort at work isn’t a new phenomenon, but the fact that it's become a widely-recognized buzzword gives us an opportunity to reflect on the current status of employee engagement and productivity. A recent Gallup report showed that only 15% of employees are actively engaged at work—the recent popularization of quiet quitting only highlights this. If quiet quitting is a reaction to high levels of burnout, we need to consider it a warning of an employer-employee disconnect, and a sign to listen to employees in order to deliver what they really want.
Let’s find out how to achieve this.
6 ways to boost employee engagement and prevent quiet quitting
1. Earned wage access
Not every company can afford to improve employee compensation, particularly during the current recession—which is understandable. What you can do is implement earned wage access. EWA is a form of on-demand pay, meaning that employees can access up to 50% of their wages before payday—and it costs nothing to you or your workforce.
This is empowering for employees and can also be extremely helpful in footing unexpected bills. Employee benefits and perks such as EWA are crucial not only to boost retention but boost productivity as well. Financially stressed employees are shown to be more distracted and less engaged at work, hampering productivity and business success as a result.
2. Employee feedback loops
Work perks are great for short-term employee satisfaction, but they won’t fix the problem of quiet quitting; you need to provide a holistic, evaluative approach to addressing employee needs. Employee feedback loops are a reciprocal form of communication, requiring effective input from both employer and employees. They encourage active listening from both sides, and building up a strong rapport and relationship encourages employees to be open and honest.
Start with performance reviews to create this feedback loop. Provide constructive feedback to your employees while also allowing them to voice their concerns. It’s a surefire way to increase engagement and satisfaction.
3. Well-being check ins
Well-being check ins come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s up to you to work out which works best for you and your employees. Whether it’s a monthly interview or a weekly survey, they provide a platform for employees to discuss work-related well-being, without actually talking about work. Ask questions about their work-life balance, compensation, and workload—and encourage honest answers by ensuring confidentiality. The answers you receive will help you develop an effective strategy to retain engaged employees who feel that their wellbeing is a priority for you.
Aside from the check ins, you can increase employee wellbeing by encouraging breaks and keeping an eye out for excess workload. A proactive approach by employers is highly valued by employees.
4. Promote learning opportunities
Providing career growth opportunities is crucial to encouraging employee engagement, but remember that not everyone has the same career goals. To make sure you’re including everyone in encouraging development, try embedding learning into your company’s strategic objectives.
You might want to establish a mentor program to encourage peer-to-peer work, invite subject matter experts to speak at your offices, or provide tours of different parts of the company to help employees understand the specific role they play—and how they fit into the wider organization. However you do it, providing learning opportunities is a brilliant way to engage employees and reignite their ambition, resulting in increased productivity and a more energetic workforce.
5. Exit interviews
Despite efforts to keep staff turnover low, it’s inevitable that some employees will eventually leave. When they do, you can turn it into a productive experience by carrying out effective exit interviews. To make the most of these interviews, you need to find out exactly why an employee is leaving. Don’t ask targeted questions about specific people or situations, and ensure the employee is feeling entirely comfortable to be open with you.
Here are some key questions to ask:
- What prompted you to start searching for another job?
- What does your new position offer that influenced your decision to go?
- Did you feel you were equipped to do your job well?
- Would you consider returning to this company? If not, why not?
- Did you feel supported by our company culture?
- Do you think your job has changed since you started?
- In terms of overall positive or negative experience, where would you rate your time with us on a scale of 1-10, with 5 being neutral?
Now that we’ve looked at some ways to encourage employee engagement, let’s dive deeper into quiet quitting and find out where it comes from.
Causes and effects of quiet quitting
Quiet quitting essentially comes from a disengaged workforce. This might be because of poor compensation, a toxic work environment, or excess workload. Whatever the reasons, quiet quitting causes employees to stop going the extra mile, and simply fulfill minimum job requirements. While this may not sound all that dire in and of itself, sometimes that snowballs into workers who have completely “checked out” of their jobs and aren’t motivated to succeed anymore.
What causes employees to "quiet quit?"
- Lack of growth opportunities and the feeling of being stagnant. Having a clear career path is important to many employees, which you can encourage by actively providing them with the tools and opportunities to achieve their goals and increase motivation. Remember that not everyone will have the same trajectory, so be as accommodating as you can.
- Toxic workplace. A company where business goals are presented as far more important than employee wellbeing will be particularly vulnerable to quiet quitting. Employees who feel that only the result, rather than the process, of their work is valued will put in the minimum effort required to tick boxes.
- Poor compensation. Employees must feel that the work they’re doing correctly corresponds to their salary. Low pay means low effort. However, if you’re not in position to increase monetary compensation, focus on other ways of showing your gratitude and appreciation. It can be just as valuable.
- Poor communication. Actively listening to employees and acting on this information boosts retention, engagement, satisfaction, you name it. Good communication involves holistic efforts, in both work-related and personal concerns. Quiet quitting feeds off employer-employee disconnection.
- Excess workload. Not much more needs to be said on this one. Make sure each employee has a manageable workload and offer support during scheduled busy/stressful spikes in workload.
Now that we've been through the causes, let’s look at the main effects of quiet quitting on both employers and employees.
How does quiet quitting affect my company?
- Reduced productivity, the definitive marker of quiet quitting, can be really damaging to a company as it reduces quality and quantity of employee output.
- Disengagement is also a clear outcome of quiet quitting. It translates to a lack of motivation and a general feeling of dissatisfaction which can (paradoxically) jeopardize employee mental health. Employee disengagement affects everything from profitability to workplace morale.
- Impaired career growth for employees is another symptom of this lack of ambition. Employees are less motivated to pursue career goals and this stagnancy becomes a vicious cycle.
- Cost to employers: unproductive employees are costing companies significant time and money. A recent study found that quiet quitting costs US businesses $450 to 500 billion annually. The resulting high employee turnover is also extremely costly: training and onboarding new employees is a long and expensive process.
- Mental health for employers and employees. While employees who are quiet quitting might be saving on their own mental health, they might be placing further burdens on those who aren’t. Employers who are dealing with extra stress may also suffer from worse mental health.
These effects prove that there is no right answer to the controversy of quiet quitting—and open communication is the only way forward to find a balance that suits everyone.
Transform your workplace by engaging your employees
Managing workplace complacency needs to be a priority in order to fight the effects of quiet quitting. With the tips and suggestions we’ve outlined, you can improve your workplace and turn it into an environment where employees thrive.
Want to find out more about balancing worker demands with rising costs? Have a look at our guide.