Should employers be worried about 'Quiet Quitters'?



A new trend is emerging in the work world, which may concern businesses worldwide. Known as 'Quiet Quitting', the idea, born out of TikTok posts and which some are saying was initially inspired by China's Lay Flat movement, is the practice of only doing the bare minimum required in your job description to achieve a better work/life balance.

Thanks to social media, the trend has gone viral and can involve anything from turning down additional projects to refusing to answer work messages outside of working hours. The concept is that an individual is not actually 'quitting their job'; instead, they are quitting the notion of going above and beyond to reduce stress while still getting paid the same wages.

Why are people becoming quiet quitters?

Aside from the fashion to jump on the bandwagon of something trending online, there may be a valid reason behind this growing phenomenon.

During lockdown, many people suffered burnout as they tried to juggle the pressures of work, family commitments and the mental stress of being confined at home. Conversely, others enjoyed the benefits of lockdown in the form of hybrid or remote working and greater family and leisure time, giving them a taste of what they had been missing out on when working long and antisocial hours over and above their contracted role before Covid.

On returning to the office and more regular work routines, many individuals who had experienced a preferable work/life balance during the pandemic acknowledged that perhaps they didn't want to return to what they felt had been expected of them by their employers pre-Covid, such as volunteering for additional responsibilities or generally being available 24/7, and this is where the idea of quiet quitting was devised.

Why not just change jobs?

It is perhaps noteworthy to consider the fact that, at the start of the year, 31% of people surveyed had said they would quit their job even if they didn't have another one to go to and around 50% said that they would consider moving company to improve their wellbeing.

However, this new trend for quiet quitting could suggest that with the continuing cost of living crisis and the recent slowing of the job market across many industries, people are becoming less blazé about leaving their jobs and instead are opting to reduce their commitment to their current position to retain some financial security while improving their wellbeing at work.

Equally, it can be viewed that the trend is not just about disliking your job but more of a rebellion across the board about what companies expect from their staff as standard behaviour during and outside of working hours.

A lose-lose situation?

Presenteeism is vital to both productivity and company culture, and quiet quitters have made it clear that they aim to be as disengaged as possible and only do what they must to keep their job. In addition, a workforce including quiet quitters can create a hostile working environment where others may be influenced to follow suit, leading to a downward spiral of reduced productivity and deteriorating company culture.

The most significant issue could be for quiet quitters themselves. According to research, the overriding factor people now place importance on in their career is 'workplace happiness'. While many quiet quitters are using the trend as a protest against employee expectations, ultimately, some quiet quitters are just not happy in their roles, and quiet quitting (as opposed to actually quitting) could see people remain in jobs they dislike. In such cases, individuals would perhaps be better off finding a role that engages them and is more aligned with their authentic selves.

How can businesses combat quiet quitting?

According to a recent Gallup survey, 60% of people are emotionally detached at work, and 19% are miserable. This lack of job satisfaction has been attributed to unmanageable workloads, lack of manager support and excessive time pressures, which spills over into leisure time, where unhappy employees will take their poor temperament and low morale home with them.

Companies who want to improve employee engagement and create a positive work environment must address their D,E&I and CSR offerings to help improve mental health in the workplace and offer staff flexibility, fulfilment and support to enhance their well-being and reduce stress or anxiety caused by work. 

Business leaders should acknowledge the growing trend of quiet quitting and realise that the world has changed in the wake of the pandemic. Demonstrating an understanding that people want a better quality of life by encouraging workers to 'switch off' after a certain time at night and at the weekend, setting realistic targets and rewarding additional effort so that employees feel valued can all go a long way to boosting morale which in turn can improve productivity and engagement.

For those already managing quiet quitters, expert advice suggests that rather than move straight to disciplinary proceedings, engagement may be regained through conversation and support. A solution could be found if the employee can express their reasons for their dissatisfaction at work, and the business could retain an experienced employee.

The future for quiet quitting

While companies will always have a handful of employees who choose to do the least amount of work possible, the current trend for quiet quitting may be short-lived if it is just a reaction to how expectations at work have changed in the last couple of years.

Providing that organisations address the problem head-on and take steps to deal with the causes, quiet quitting could be something we are talking about as a distant memory in a few months' time. However, businesses should be mindful that if they only pay lip service or try to ignore the problem completely, they could create long-term productivity issues as the quiet quitters continue to rebel.

If you are looking for a role with a better work/life balance or if you are looking for top talent to join your team, contact our expert recruiters at McGregor Boyall today and find out how we can help you!