Quiet Quitting: A Scary and Spooky Workplace Trend That We Can’t Ignore
by Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified
The kids are out trick-or-treating tonight for Halloween, yet you’re facing something way spookier than that overzealous neighbour who jumps out and frightens all the neighbourhood kids: quiet quitting.
Where have all the good people gone? Why are vacancies collecting cobwebs? Why are applicants like aberrations by the time the interview rolls around? Are your interview rooms like abandoned buildings?
Quit quitting isn’t unique to this time of widespread burnout that we link to COVID and its fallout; we had massive vacancies in industries, people switching jobs more frequently, and we saw burnout at an all-time high. Quiet quitting is just the next indicator that these spooky trends are, sadly, not over like a night of trick-or-treating.
Is it a trick? Is it possible a treat is coming?
Let’s dive into the most important things you need to know about quiet quitting and what to do about it.
Is Quiet Quitting New?
Despite its name, quiet quitting has nothing to do with leaving your job. It refers to employees doing what their job requires and nothing more—quitting doing anything extra. You still clock in on time, complete your assigned tasks, and leave when your day is over, not taking on any extra work outside your regular hours. It’s about doing your job but never going above and beyond. Quiet quitting rejects that hustle culture mentality that society has long been subscribed to. It is meant to promote work-life balance and “acting your wage.”
Gallup (2022) estimates that over 50% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in quiet quitting, and that number is only on the rise. Is it just a U.S. thing, though? And is it a “new” thing? Nope. Not even close. HR (human resources) folks call it “on-the-job retired.” The reality is that the number of actively engaged employees is dropping while the number of actively disengaged employees is rising. The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is now 1.8 to 1, the lowest in almost a decade.
See what we mean? Spooky scary stuff!
Frankly, we can’t be all that surprised by this trend. Burnout is not a ghost that’s just started haunting us. Workplaces haven’t gone from showrooms to haunted houses.
Yes, burnout has been at an all-time high since the pandemic, wages are not keeping up with the rising cost of living, and employees have been expected to take on greater work and new roles without a pay raise to match. People are tapped out. What used to be a subtle struggle with the “work is life” mentality is now a direct, outright demand for work-life balance. People don’t just want to “work to live,” not “live to work”; they need to.
What Quiet Quitting Looks Like
The responses to this trend have been divided, depending on whom you ask. Someone might suggest they see laziness and entitlement; others notice low energy and being noncommittal about the future. Intention to leave is the best predictor of turnover; not only are many people going to work with the question, “should I stay or should I go?” We also see a widespread trend of people thinking, “I probably won’t be here long.” In other words, the seeds of quiet quitting have been planted, and all it takes is just enough impetus to move on.
Leaving doesn’t look like the scary thing it once was. Rather than see it as blindly walking through the haunted house, many see it as a costume party; why not try on this new role for a while and enjoy it while it lasts?
It’s a much-needed wake-up call for employers.
Is This a Generational Trend?
This has once again turned into a generational debate. For many, quiet quitting, like so many other workplace issues, is the fault of “lazy millennials.” Yes, this trend was made popular by Millennials and Gen Z on TikTok, but let’s not forget this is nothing new. Nor can one group or one social channel have that much influence. This trend has societal, economic, emotional, physical and philosophical influences.
We have seen this before, labelled with different terms, and perhaps not to the current extreme. At its core, quiet quitting is this: disengagement. Let’s consider the value of the concept of “quiet quitting” as spurring us to action. However, let’s not get caught up in labels or jargon to distract us from the real issue. This new, buzzworthy term is a call to action.
Many have become so accustomed to this hustle culture mentality that such a direct display of rejection of the norm is hard to swallow. In fact, Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary shared his views on CNBC, stating that if you’re a quiet quitter, “you’re un-American.” O’Leary also said, “When you bring somebody in that slams shut their laptop at 5 o’clock, you’re introducing a cancer into your culture.” Yikes.
If you wouldn’t take leadership advice from a Shark (we wouldn’t), then consider how to reject the notion that people aren’t dedicated unless they give everything they can and more that they really can’t (without negative impact on their family, mental health, physical wellbeing, satisfaction, etc.)
Join us next week, where we’ll dive deeper into understanding and responding to quiet quitting, given it’s such a complicated issue, and we’re by no means on the other side of this trend if we ever will be.
What can you do now?
- Spark an internal conversation at work by sharing this article
- Notice and call out surface reasons given for turnover and look at deeper issues
- Give more depth to leadership development to support leaders struggling with the fallout of disengagement every day
- Call out subtle ageism from blaming generational groups
- Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to tackle quiet quitting
Here are more ideas to help us all achieve the balance we are so desperately looking for: