Gone are the days when most employers could count on employees competing to go “above and beyond” to rise faster in their organizations. Employers now face “quiet quitting,” a trend that emerged in July 2022 from a viral TikTok video to become a phenomenon noted on Wikipedia and discussed in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.
Quiet quitting is more than employees setting boundaries or intentionally putting a hard stop to their work day or work week so they can create a work/life balance. Checked-out quiet quitters simply slack their way through their workweek by doing the bare minimum needed to keep their jobs, thereby overloading their coworkers, frustrating their supervisors, and draining productivity from their employers.
According ResumeBuilder.com’s August 2022 survey of 1000 U.S. employees,
- 21% of surveyed employees admit to “quiet quitting” stating that they do only the bare minimum at work;
- 5% admit doing even less than they’re paid to do;
- 8 in 10 “quiet quitters” report they’re “burnt out”;
- 46% of “quiet quitters” don’t want to do more work than they’re compensated to do or to compromise their work/life balance;
- 1 in 10 employees report they put in less effort than 6 months ago;
- 1 in 3 who have reduced effort have cut back the hours they spend working by more than half.1
What created quiet quitting?
Some describe quiet quitting as a coping mechanism that employees intentionally choose to reduce internalized stress.2 Others see it as a direct result from employees gaining “COVID clarity” concerning life priorities while working from home during the pandemic. They note that large numbers of employees became unwilling to sacrifice to “get ahead” with their employer, particularly after other employers desperate to fill vacancies wooed them with flexibility, higher wages, and greater benefits if they jumped ship.3 Still others view it as an outgrowth of employee cynicism and entitlement, with employees no longer believing they need to work hard to “get ahead.” Gallup’s 2021 survey reports that only 33% of employees feel engaged in their jobs.4
Don’t quiet quitters fear being fired?
What are employers doing and how have quiet quitters reacted? According to the majority (52%) of quiet quitters, their employers have “definitely” or “probably” noticed they’re putting in less effort.1 While 65% of quiet quitters admit they risk being fired, 97% state it would be “a little” or “very” concerning to lose their job, and yet this doesn’t appear to motivate them to change their behavior. According to the survey 91% of quiet quitters state their employers could motivate them to work harder, with 75% suggesting higher pay would do the trick. Another 48% stated that more paid time off would motivate them to work harder.1
The cost—to the workplace and the rest of us
Employees doing only the minimum impacts productivity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “productivity fell at a 4.6% annualized rate last quarter…on the heels of the first-quarter’s 7.4% plunge, the sharpest decline in 74 years.”3 This contrasts with a pre-pandemic average increase of 1.3%.3
Employers, forced to pay more money for less productivity, charge more money for their products and services and pass these costs on to consumers, adding to inflation.
Four decades of management consulting have taught me that employers can spend hours struggling to motivate dis-engaged employees or instead work smarter to find employees who demonstrate accountability because they find satisfaction in work. In Managing for Accountability’s chapter 3 (https://amzn.to/3IKB0Yw), I outline how to find employees who like work and want purpose in their work life by asking questions such as: “If you were offered two jobs, what would lead you to choose one job over the other?”; “If you had to rank the order of the top three things you’re looking for in a good job, what would they be?”; “Please describe your work ethic”; “Are you more motivated by intrinsic or extrinsic factors?” and “Please describe what accountability means to you.”5
If you’re a quiet quitter
Finally, if you’re quiet quitter, consider the long-term effects to yourself. What’s your payoff from working with a fixed eye on “am I getting enough to do this next task?” Do you withhold your best and avoid stretching your skills? Has your workday become lackluster? Are you doing yourself and your career a disservice? If not, perhaps you can re-engage even as you set realistic boundaries that allow you work/life balance.
5 Managing for Accountability: A Business Leader’s Toolbox, https://amzn.to/3IKB0Yw.
If you found this article useful, you might enjoy “Post-pandemic Management: Employees have changed; here’s what employers need to figure out,” https://bit.ly/3Oif5cy.