In July 2022, Zaid Khan, a 24-year-old software engineer from New York, posted a video on TikTok that described “quiet quitting.”
“I recently learned about this term called ‘quiet quitting,’” he begins. “You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond.”
The video soon went viral, racking up millions of views and inspiring other TikTokers to share their experiences of quiet quitting. At the time of writing, #quietquitting has over 100 million views on the video-sharing platform and the topic has spurred a heated debate about employee wellbeing and the future of work.
What is quiet quitting, what factors are driving the current backlash to “hustle culture,” and what steps can you take to combat the impact of quiet quitting on your organization?
What Is Quiet Quitting?
The theory behind quiet quitting is simple. Employees continue to go to work and perform their required duties, but nothing more. That means no unpaid overtime, no out-of-hours emailing, and a refusal to take on additional responsibilities. Employees that feel overworked, underappreciated, or burned out might opt to “quiet quit” in pursuit of a healthier work-life balance.
The term “quiet quitting” might be a relatively new one, but the concept of employees questioning just how much they owe their employers and fighting for better workers’ rights is not. The labor movement fought hard for decades to secure the working conditions we take for granted today, be it fairer wages, the five-day working week, or stringent health and safety laws.
More recently, we’ve seen workers rebel against toxic and high-stress working environments. In 2021, the “lying flat” movement gained momentum in China. This movement implored workers in the nation’s most highly competitive sectors to reject the immense pressure to strive for workplace success at the cost of their own wellbeing.
At the same time, the Great Resignation saw more than 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021. The mass workforce exodus was linked to low pay, lack of career opportunities, shifting priorities, and employee burnout.
The Lying Flat Movement. The Great Resignation. Quiet Quitting: Each of these could be viewed as a backlash to hustle culture, which glorifies hard work and an “always-on” mentality. In a world where work-related stress is among the top sources of all stress, and Americans are increasingly reporting stress-related symptoms like anxiety, anger, and fatigue, movements are being made.
Further, the American Institute of Stress reports that job stress costs U.S. companies more than $300 billion per year, thanks to accidents, absenteeism, reduced productivity, employee turnover, workers’ compensation, and medical, legal, and insurance costs.
Ultimately, it’s not in anyone’s interest to ignore quiet quitting.
What Can You Do to Combat Quiet Quitting?
Organizations that want to empower their workforce to lead a happy life while also delivering their best work would do well to address the concerns of quiet quitters, taking steps to help, and not chastise.
1. Promote Work-life Balance
It sounds obvious, but make sure your employees know you support them in achieving a healthy work-life balance. That means encouraging them to shut down their laptops and leave the office on time, take a proper lunch break, switch off from work at the weekends, ignore out-of-hours emails, and take their full entitlement of paid annual leave.
As a leader, you also have an important part to play in setting a good example. If you give off an air of being permanently frazzled or appear to be working at all hours of the day, your workforce will feel pressure to do the same. Take that week-long holiday, attend your workplace socials, and leave early to collect your kids from school when you can.
It’s one thing telling your employees to enjoy a flexible working environment, but quite another to create a culture in which they feel comfortable doing so.
2. Monitor Workloads
Your job would be so much easier if your employees simply told you when they were feeling overworked or close to burnout. But there’s a whole host of reasons why they might not feel comfortable doing so. Worries about confrontation, letting teammates down, or missing out on future career opportunities preclude these types of discussions. Instead, workers suffer in silence, often feeling isolated, stressed, and under-appreciated.
To combat this, managers should take some responsibility for monitoring their employees’ schedules. That doesn’t mean keeping tabs on them every minute of the day (see “micromanaging”) but they should have a good understanding of the key projects their team members are working on. This way, they can help employees prioritize or deprioritize certain assignments and allocate work fairly.
It’s expected that managers hold regular one-to-ones with all team members, and addressing workload concerns should be a key component of these meetings.
3. Employee Feedback
The quickest way to find out whether or not an employee is truly happy and fulfilled in their roles is to ask them. One-on-one manager meetings are one way of doing this, but you can’t guarantee total honesty — particularly when an employee’s problems lie with the manager themselves.
Employee feedback surveys are a great alternative, enabling you to gather honest and anonymous feedback from your entire workforce.
Conducting an employee feedback survey sends a clear message that you care about your workers’ well-being and value their opinions, but it will also provide you with the insights you need to make positive changes within your organization. Research suggests employers who take employee feedback seriously enjoy better retention rates, reduced absenteeism, improved productivity, and higher worker morale.
4. Address Career Growth
Your employees may resort to “quiet quitting” when they feel frustrated by a lack of career progression, and you can’t really blame them.
People don’t put in extra hours, go above and beyond the requirements of their role, attend networking events, and seek out growth opportunities for no reason. They want to know that their hard work and commitment are paying off, be it in the form of a pay raise, a new position, or the acquisition of new skills.
To reassure your workforce that their efforts are not going in vain, addressing long-term career growth should be a top priority. Employees should be able to talk openly about their career goals, but it’s also vital you communicate transparently and honestly about the opportunities (or lack of) they might have at your organization. Don’t string your workers along with empty promises of pay raises, bonuses, and career progression. Performance reviews should be a regular and structured affair, and workers should know what to expect in exchange for their hard work and loyalty.
By Laura Ross