Quiet quitting is the latest social media and workplace phenomenon. Understated and subtle, it acts as a silent storm brewing beneath the surface of your usually hardworking team. Suddenly, they become disengaged, disinterested, and bored. Are they burnt out, or are they simply quiet quitting?

In this article, we explore the definition of quiet quitting, look at the signs and symptoms in your team, and look at how to overcome these challenges. Spoiler: A lack of work-life balance is a big part of the reason employees are quiet quitting, and should be addressed by businesses as a matter of urgency. The annual Randstad Employer Brand Research 2023 Global Report highlights this as a key driver of employee attrition, as well as other important reasons to be aware of as to why an employee may leave their workplace. 

Read on to learn how to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to this issue.

what is quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting, also known as silent resignation or ‘acting your wage,’ is a phenomenon in which individuals gradually disengage from their work or responsibilities without explicitly resigning or voicing their dissatisfaction. It gained popularity on the social media app TikTok and has since been recognised as a widespread business issue.

Silent resignation has the potential to undermine productivity, reduce team morale, create a loss of creativity, and minimise the overall success of an organisation. Quiet quitting can be a precursor to employee attrition. However, it has also been linked to burnout and feelings of being overworked.

Did you know: It is estimated that up to 50% of the US workforce may be quiet quitting to some degree? This could cost the economy $8.8 Billion.

the quiet quitting phenomenon

Users have been sharing their experiences with quiet quitting on social media, including their reasons for partaking, and often encouraging others to do the same.

Many explained that they felt unappreciated and unsupported by their employers, and as such, ‘gave the same energy back.’ These employees have been sharing their side of the story, shedding light on the subtle yet impactful ways in which they were disengaging from various aspects of their lives.

The TikTok trend not only brought attention to quiet quitting, but also highlighted the importance of open communication, mental health awareness, and strategies for maintaining motivation and commitment. It served as a reminder that sometimes, the most significant issues can hide in plain sight, and acknowledging them is the first step toward finding meaningful solutions.

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the generational gap

Quiet quitting highlights the stark difference between Gen-Z and Millennials compared to their Baby Boomer and Gen X co-workers. Older employees tend to have a ‘rise and grind’ mentality, preferring to hustle their way through the corporate ladder and cling to traditional notions of loyalty to a single company.

In contrast, younger generations, Gen Z and Millennials, often exhibit a different approach to work. They value work-life balance and prioritise personal growth over blind dedication to a single company. However, Gen Z and Millennials are less likely to express their needs than their older co-workers. This can lead to quiet quitting as younger employees disengage silently, searching for workplaces that align more closely with their values and expectations.

Find out more about what the different generations value in the workplace through our research. 

signs your team is quiet quitting

The challenge is that it can be difficult to recognise silent resignation. By definition, it is silent, and as long as employees are meeting their minimum agreed output, it can be challenging to change this behaviour.

However, if your employees are continually exhibiting the following behaviour, you may need to check in on their well-being to ensure they are not quiet quitting:

●  lack of enthusiasm. If your employee seems emotionally distant and loses passion for their work, they may be quiet quitting. A lack of enthusiasm is usually the first sign of it, so keep an eye out for this one.

●  resistance to change. If your team is resistant to embracing change or struggling to adapt to new ways of doing things, this also might be a sign of quiet quitting. Learning to perform a task in a new way takes time and effort which quiet quitters may not be willing to invest.

●  increased absenteeism. Unexplained absences, more frequent sick days, un-evidenced appointments, or a sudden increase in personal leave usage can also indicate disengagement.

●  decreased communication. Team members may stop replying via instant messenger, be slow to respond to emails, or avoid in-office conversations. They may also avoid conversations about their development or other workplace topics.

●  minimal participation. Employees may become increasingly passive if they are quiet quitting. You may notice they speak up less in meetings, contribute fewer ideas, or do not volunteer for new projects.

●  hard stops every day. Although employees are entitled to only work scheduled hours, there may be times where working a little over their scheduled hours may be necessary. However, those who are quiet quitting are known to log in the moment they are scheduled and log out as soon as their shift is over, regardless of whether their work is completed.

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how to overcome these challenges

The good news is, you can prevent quiet quitting and overcome the associated challenges through empathy, communication, and clear management expectations.

set clear expectations

Ensuring employees have a clear understanding of your expectations prevents quiet quitting by enhancing transparency and honesty. You should provide regular feedback, team meetings, and performance evaluations to help employees track their progress and make necessary adjustments.

prioritise wellbeing

Not prioritising employee wellbeing is a big part of the reason employees fall into quiet quitting. They feel unappreciated and invisible to their employer, which sends a clear message that their mental and emotional health is not valued. This can lead to disengagement and minimised participation.

To prioritise wellbeing, try:

● recognising your employee’s contributions;

●  encourage wellbeing programs such as using an employee assistance program (EAP);

● speak openly about mental health;

● check-in regularly;

● champion flexible working schedules;

● lead by example;

● encourage regular breaks and utilising personal leave;

● encourage lunchtime walks and other physical exercise.

Prioritising workplace wellbeing contributes to more productive employees, stronger workplace relationships, and a better overall work atmosphere. According to our global report, work atmosphere is the fourth most important workplace driver globally. When you consider this, you can begin to see the benefits of prioritising wellbeing.

be mindful of workload

In a culture that glorifies overwork and long hours, employees often find themselves trapped in a relentless cycle of striving to meet unrealistic demands. This negative cycle will exhaust your employees, ultimately leading to disengagement and burnout. Employees may use quiet quitting as a way to protect themselves from burning out.

To address this issue, you should openly communicate with your employees about their workload, set realistic expectations, and encourage a healthy work-life balance.

Bare in mind, quiet quitting will also increase the workload of the rest of the team. When one person isn’t pulling their weight, the rest of the team needs to pick up the slack. This can impact team morale and output, increasing disengagement and reducing overall effectiveness.

Did you know: According to our global research, employees recognise a healthy work-life balance as being the second most important driver when looking for a new role.

As a manager, you should be mindful that your behaviour sets the expectation and tone for the office; If you work all hours of the day, your employees may feel they expect that of you. Encourage your employees to be mindful of their limits, and if you notice someone works late every single day - check in and ask why.

communication is key

Communication works both ways with your employees. For example:

your communication with your team

You should make an effort to communicate with your team every day. Schedule time to check in with your employees to discuss their wellbeing, workload, and personal lives if you have that kind of relationship.

These daily interactions don't have to be lengthy; even a brief chat can go a long way in building connections and demonstrating your genuine interest in their welfare.

It is especially important to keep in regular contact with employees who work hybrid or remote models. As you won’t see these employees on a day-to-day basis, regularly checking in will bridge the gap and encourage a feeling of belonging.

how your team communicates with you

Be visible and accessible to your team so they can bring up any issues they have. Be open, honest, and proactively address any issues your team raises. For example, if they raise any factors that contribute to overworking and burnout, you should seek to fix those matters immediately.

use exit interviews

Exit interviews help you understand the reasons for why your employees are leaving. They serve as a valuable feedback mechanism, providing insights into the employee experience, company culture, and potential areas for improvement within your organisation.

During an exit interview, departing employees have the opportunity to candidly share their thoughts, concerns, and feedback about their time with the company. If your team expresses feeling disengaged with the business, they may have been underperforming while looking for a new job. If this is a theme with a lot of your leavers, you may need to address the quiet quitting issue.

consider their salary

It's no secret that salary is a fundamental consideration when individuals choose an employer. In fact, it consistently ranks as the number one reason why talent decides to join or leave a company. So, it's essential to recognise the connection between salary and the rising trend of quiet quitting.

If your employees are not being properly compensated for their time, they may be more likely to quiet quit. You can prevent this by ensuring employees are fairly compensated for their time, as well as encouraging a healthy work-life balance. 

the final say on quiet quitting

Quiet quitting has become a hot topic of conversation in the last few years. This subtle phenomenon is often underestimated and has become a focal point in discussions surrounding employee engagement, mental health, and workplace dynamics.

Employees may use quiet quitting to protect themselves from burnout and poor working practices. To prevent this in the first instance, you should encourage a healthy work-life balance, champion mental health initiatives, support flexible working strategies, and actively communicate with your team.

To prevent quiet quitting, you need to actively communicate with your workforce, be mindful of their workplace, prioritise wellbeing, and set clear expectations. Preventing quiet quitting is a two-way street, and employees should also communicate their needs to their managers to ensure they get everything they need to thrive.

If you’re looking to gain deeper understanding into the needs of your workforce, check out our global report on employer branding to help retain your workplace talent, prevent burnout, and create an attractive employer brand.

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