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What Really is Quiet Quitting & What Causes It

The term quiet quitting has certainly gained both attention, and one might even say, popularity this past year. Like all things that “go viral,” there is a lot of misconception around what quiet quitting really is.

Quiet quitting is not quitting without giving notice. It is not laziness, unproductivity, or not meeting the requirements of a job. It is not being uncooperative, disruptive, bad-mouthing a company, or creating a toxic environment. Simply put, quiet quitting is meeting all the requirements of a job, but choosing not to go above and beyond without tangible rewards. According to Harvard Business Review, “Quiet quitters continue to fulfill their primary responsibilities, but they’re less willing to engage in activities known as citizenship behaviors: no more staying late, showing up early, or attending non-mandatory meetings.” Employees who are “quietly quitting” likely log off at the end of the day and do not log back on until the start of the next day. They likely ignore work-related calls, texts, and emails in the evenings and on the weekends. And more than likely, they do not subscribe to the theory that you must put work ahead of your personal life.

According to a Gallup survey of workers age 18 and older taken in June 2022, quiet quitters “make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce—probably more.” According to the same survey, it is particularly high among workers under age 35 (Gallup).

As a business owner, how do you prevent quiet quitting from becoming a problem in your organization? According to the article, “Quiet quitting isn’t what you think (and how employers should handle it),” Payscale, December 27, 2022, quiet quitting exists because of burnout, lack of rewards and recognition, and no clear path to advancement.

What Can Organizations Do to Prevent Quiet Quitting?

The main thing a business owner can do to prevent quiet quitting is to examine the culture of their company and, perhaps, even to do some self reflection. Is your company one that expects your employees to come early, stay late, and work unreasonable hours? As a leader, do you send emails at all hours of the night? Do you contact work colleagues well beyond normal working hours? Do you make employees feel bad when they take PTO? Do you give your employees more work than any reasonable person can truly handle?

As a leader, you must set boundaries for your employees, and you need to lead by example. Make it a priority to be aware of how much work your employees are given. If you see work piling up for an individual, consider how you can help or reassign some of the work. Before sending out an email at 8pm with a laundry list of requests, ask yourself, "can this wait until tomorrow?" Respect your employees’ personal time. Do not put ‘prioritizing a healthy work-life balance’ as merely a bullet point on your company website, but make it a part of the company’s culture and your leadership style.

Make a concerted and consistent effort to recognize and acknowledge your employees’ hard work and efforts. Annual performance reviews are a wonderful opportunity to reward employee’s hard work via salary increases, promotions, and/or bonuses, however, that isn’t enough. A year is a long time, and there are likely plenty of times in that year that your employees should be recognized and acknowledged - right then and there! This recognition doesn’t need to be on a grand scale; it just needs to be done. Easy and simple ways to do this - acknowledge employee accomplishments in a team meeting, through an email blast, or on social media. Write a handwritten thank you note or give them a quick call to acknowledge their stellar work. Treat them to a cup of coffee, take them to lunch, or send them a small gift. A small gesture can go a long, long way - especially when it is genuine.

Finally, have ongoing conversations with your employees to discuss career goals and development. Define a clear path for advancement to continually challenge your employees and keep them engaged in the work they do. This could mean transitioning your team members to new roles where their skills and talents can be further developed or this could mean giving them new opportunities and responsibilities in their current role that they are excited about doing.

The key to preventing quiet quitting from becoming commonplace in your organization is to truly focus on your people. Check in with them. Show you appreciate them. Be realistic about the expectations you place on them. Keep them engaged, challenged, and happy to come to work each day.

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