What Is Quiet Quitting, and How Does It Affect Your Business?

A disengaged woman sitting at her desk.

In late July 2022, TikTok user Zaid Khan posted a video on the platform describing a new term that has gained significance in today’s work environment.

Khan dubbed it “quiet quitting” and explained further that it means rejecting the notion of going above and beyond at work.

Rather than subscribing to the traditional concept of prioritizing work above all else, quiet quitting is doing just enough to get by at work and nothing more than what’s in the job description.

Quiet Quitting: What You Need to Know

Khan’s TikTok video quickly went viral, garnering more than 4.8 million views, nearly 500,000 likes, 40,000 shares, and 4,500 comments. His popularization of the term struck the chord of many TikTokers, and most commented on their own experiences with quiet quitting.

Is this the new workplace phenomenon, or is it a passing phase? What does the term denote, and how can it affect businesses and employees?

What Is Quiet Quitting?

In essence, quiet quitting is the rejection of the traditional workplace notion that work should take priority above everything else.

Instead, it’s adopting a new belief of only doing what you are contractually required to do at work and nothing more. Instead of working overtime and doing everything possible to please managers, employees perform just enough tasks to not get in trouble with their boss but never more than necessary.

They essentially disconnect from work to reevaluate their priorities.

This definition of quiet quitting has a negative overtone towards it. Most experts argue that the term is misleading because it paints an employee negatively. Some say that quiet quitting is wrong since it shows disengagement from work.

Others say it’s a good thing because it allows employees to value and prioritize aspects of their life other than work, such as spending time with family.

Whether or not quiet quitting is a good or bad thing depends on someone’s beliefs about work. For instance, most Gen Z employees advocate for a healthy work-life balance. They believe that work isn’t the only thing that should occupy their life.

They want to have time and energy for things outside work. Therefore, they are in favor of quiet quitting. Most don’t see the need to go above and beyond at their own expense if no one compensates or recognizes them for it.

On the other hand, Generation X or Baby Boomer employees are likely to think of quiet quitting as a bad thing. They may equate it to laziness, poor attitude towards work, and disengagement from one’s career. Most employees in these two generations consider work and career development a top priority. They are more likely to stay with one employer for years and thus are willing to go above and beyond.

Is Quiet Quitting a New Trend?

The term “quiet quitting” may have recently come into the spotlight, but the behavior is nothing new. Employees have been quietly quitting even before the onset of social media. They just weren’t vocal about it. However, the reasons behind the act were slightly different before.

Most employees in the past quietly quit because of poor pay, lack of recognition, and unrealistic workloads that cause burnout. Today, employees can quietly quit because they desire a better work-life balance and want to carve some time outside work for family and personal fulfillment.

How Employees Quiet Quit

Quiet quitting doesn’t involve the outright ceasing of one’s job. It’s simply mentally checking out from one’s work by only doing tasks in the job description. When employees quiet quit, they still perform their assigned tasks. Therefore, it may be hard to denote a behavior change. There are, however, some signs that may give a quiet quitter away. Here’s how you know you have one on your team:

1. Meeting Minimal Performance Standards  

Quiet quitters don’t do more than the tasks assigned to them. They don’t go above and beyond their job descriptions. They only do enough to achieve the performance standard and have no interest in delivering outstanding work.

2. Isolating From Other Team Members

Quiet quitters rarely interact with other employees, especially outside the work environment. They rarely volunteer or participate in fun organization activities. They may interact with one or two staff members but won’t go out of their way to hang out with everyone. Quiet quitters show the classic signs of disconnection and disengagement from the company.

3. Withdrawal From Non-work Related Activities

Quiet quitters will often be the first employees to cancel non-work-related activities. You will rarely see them in company events, recognition programs, and training, especially if these activities are outside work hours. Quiet quitters may feel you are trying to steal their personal time by hosting these activities during their free hours.

4. Attendance in Meetings but Never Contributing

Quiet quitters may attend office meetings, but they most likely will have their speakers muted and the camera off. They have no interest in contributing to the meeting’s agenda and can’t wait until it ends. Quiet quitters may also be the last to join despite not having important tasks to complete beforehand.

5. Bad Attitude Towards Additional Work

Quiet quitters will likely not react well to extra work, especially if there is no compensation. They may say that the additional tasks are not within their scope of responsibilities and refuse to take them. They might also perform them half-heartedly.

It’s worth noting, however, that employers are not entitled to make their employees perform additional work. Therefore, when workers refuse to do extra, don’t be quick to assume they are quiet quitters. This sign alone doesn’t make them one. Even engaged employees might reject additional work.

6. First One to Leave the Office

Quiet quitters adhere strictly to the 9 to 5 protocol. They won’t arrive at the office earlier than 9 a.m. and will be the first to leave when the clock hits 5 p.m. They may also switch off their work phone and mute their work email to ensure no one tries to contact them during off hours.

What Causes Quiet Quitting

Employees’ reasons for quiet quitting vary depending on their beliefs about work and the way their company treats them. The cause can arise from either the employees themselves or the company. Therefore, you need to speak to the quiet quitters instead of assuming they are lazy, disengaged, or have a poor attitude towards work. First, let’s look at the triggers that may cause quiet quitting.

1. Shift in Priorities

An employee may quietly quit because of a priority shift. They may not value work and career as highly as they prioritize spending time with family or their mental health. They may dial down their efforts at work to achieve a healthier work-life balance. You may notice them leaving at 5 p.m. or refusing to take up additional work because they want to spend the time off work for personal fulfillment.

2. Workplace Burnout

Workplace burnout can cause employees to become disinterested in their daily work or career. The result may be a lack of initiative and a negative attitude towards work. Employees may also distance themselves from the workplace and begin performing at the bare minimum.

3. Not Being Noticed and Appreciated

Employees who don’t feel valued at work won’t see the need to go above and beyond. They likely won’t take up additional work or contribute to growing the organization because no one will notice and recognize their efforts. What will be the point of doing more than the job description if they feel undervalued?

4. Lack of Purpose

Some employees may quietly quit because they don’t feel their work is meaningful. They may disengage because their job doesn’t provide purpose or make a difference for them or anyone else.

5. Lack of Promotion and Raise Over a Long Period

Employees constantly passed on for a raise and promotion might quietly quit. They may feel stagnant in their career and thus give up trying.

6. Not Being Challenged

Employees who don’t feel challenged are often bored and constantly looking at the clock. They won’t feel fulfilled at the end of the day and might become uninspired to go to work every day. In such a case, the best approach would be to give employees tasks that utilize their talents and passions.

How Quiet Quitting Affects Your Business

Employee engagement determines an organization’s success. Therefore, when employees quietly quit, it impacts the company negatively. Here are three ways the act can affect your entity:

1. Disengagement Between Management and Employees

Quiet quitters often isolate themselves from management and other team members. Their disengagement damages the workplace’s unity, thus resulting in dysfunctional company culture. It becomes difficult for teams to work together towards a common company goal since there will be unequal involvement by the quiet quitters.

2. Reduced Productivity

Quiet quitting negatively impacts productivity and performance. Employees who quietly quit will generally spend less time performing their assigned tasks. They may take more breaks and engage in distracting activities while at work. These workers are also more prone to making errors than their engaged counterparts.

3. Lack of New Ideas for the Company

Quiet quitters will be less motivated to contribute or work on new ideas for the organization. Innovation will take a dive, resulting in an organization with stagnated growth.

How Quiet Quitting Affects Employees

Quiet quitting is as bad for an employer as it is for an employee. Here’s how it can affect you as an employee:

1. No Promotion or Compensation

When employees quiet quit, they contribute less to growing the company. The organization stagnates, which also affects the employees’ career development in the company. Quiet quitters are less likely to be awarded promotions or compensation since they don’t offer much to the organization.

2. Bad Career Reputation

With quiet quitting, some leads and managers may take note of disengagement and equate it to laziness or a negative attitude towards work. They, therefore, may not write the staff member a good performance review.

3. Tough Time Getting a New Job

Quiet quitting can also affect the chances of getting a new and better job elsewhere. An employer might not write a quiet quitter a good reference since they didn’t contribute much to the company.

How to Prevent and Address Quiet Quitting

The solution to quiet quitting shouldn’t be to discipline, fire, or suspend an employee. As the employer, you may feel tempted to treat this as a conduct issue, but it’s always advisable to first talk to the employee. Get to understand what caused them to quietly quit. It could be that the employee wants more time for personal fulfillment, thus dialing their efforts. Below are four ways to prevent and address quiet quitting in your entity:

1. Manage Employees Well

As mentioned above, the key to addressing quiet quitting is by first listening to the employee and understanding what’s causing them to disengage. For example, if the employee feels their work has no meaning or purpose, you can help connect the dots on how what they do contributes to the overall growth of the entity. In addition, by understanding where an employee is coming from, you can better address their quiet quitting.

2. Show Appreciation for Employees

Recognition and appreciation can go a long way in motivating employees. Whenever an employee does additional work or stays past their work hours to finish a task, acknowledge their efforts with a bonus or gift. A simple thank you will also do wonders.

3. Hire Based on Attitude and Passion

You want to hire employees who are passionate about what they do. Such staff will go out of their way to deliver good work. You won’t have to monitor them to ensure they perform their assigned tasks. Employees who love what they do are less likely to quiet quit.

4. Ensure Job Satisfaction

Let employees work in areas or tasks that grant them the most satisfaction to motivate them to do more. Another way to increase job satisfaction is by offering competitive salaries. Pay your employees the industry standard, if not higher. While at it, compensate them for any additional work they do.

Closing Remarks

Quiet quitting may be a trending phenomenon in today’s work environment, but this practice has been going on since the beginning of employment. The best way to address it is by having a sit-down with the employee and understanding why they are quietly quitting. As an employer, actively manage your employees. Strive to achieve an open communication channel. Otherwise, you may never notice a quiet quitter in your organization.