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Quiet Quitting: An Employer’s Guide To Mitigating This Workplace Trend

by Karyn H. Rhodes | SHRM-SCP, SPHR on Sep 13, 2022 9:28:32 AM

You’ve probably seen the phrase quiet quitting in the headlines recently. But if you’re like many companies, you may not entirely understand this trend and what you can do to prevent its impact on morale and performance at your company. Here, we’ll break it down for you.

In this article, we’ll detail what quiet quitting is, how you can identify an employee at risk, and steps you can take to slow or stop this movement in your workplace. After reading this, you’ll be better prepared to implement changes in your organization to improve your culture and its effect on your workers.

What is quiet quitting?

Despite the word “quitting” in the term, quiet quitting doesn’t actually mean employees are leaving your company. Instead, quiet quitting occurs when an employee limits the amount of time an employee puts into their job. So, instead of going above and beyond, they simply do what their job description requires of them and no more. And right now, 21% of workers say they’re just doing the bare minimum.

While there’s no single reason behind this trend, COVID-19 seems to be at least partially behind it. That’s because many employees shifted to remote work, where it can be challenging to draw a firm line between work and personal life. With burnout and stress at all-time highs during the pandemic, many employees have responded by taking a step back from work for their mental health.

Another contributing factor is that younger generations in the workplace prioritize a better work-life balance. For many of these millennials, the term to describe the current movement isn’t really quiet quitting but, instead, setting boundaries. These workers no longer believe that work has to be your life, and are choosing to prioritize themselves over their jobs.

Whatever the cause, when an employee scales back, it can have an impact on your organization, which we’ll discuss next.

How does quiet quitting affect my workplace?

When an employee quietly quits, they may start reclaiming time for themselves. So, for example, they may take a lunch break instead of eating at their desk or no longer check emails at night. And that can be a good thing because you want your team to focus on taking care of themselves. But you may also experience some negative consequences that can start to have an impact on your workplace.

For example, enthusiasm or passion for their job may decrease. Or they may contribute less to projects. This level of disengagement can reduce productivity. As a result, other employees have to pick up the slack, causing friction among coworkers and lower morale. In that way, quiet quitting can have a ripple effect throughout your organization.

How can I spot quiet quitting?

While no worker is 100% engaged in their role all the time, there are some signs you can look for that can indicate an employee is pulling back. These include:

  • They come in late or leave early
  • Workers skip optional or mandatory meetings
  • Employees stop collaborating with colleagues
  • They participate less in corporate events
  • Employees don’t reply to emails in a timely manner

What can I do to combat quiet quitting?

The most important step you can take is to address the underlying issues that are causing employees to quietly quit at your company. That may be burnout or a better work-life balance. Or it could be feeling undervalued. Whatever is behind it, here are 10 things you can do to help show workers you value their mental health and well-being.

  1. Allow generous time off. Time away from work is one of the most important employee benefits so ensure you’re giving them the opportunity to take a break from work when they need to. And, equally important, make sure they use it.
  2. Encourage feedback. Allow workers to speak up and voice concerns about work culture. Show that you’re listening by implementing changes or adding resources such as an EAP that can help them address their stress.
  3. Connect with workers. Don’t wait for the annual review to have a dialogue. Check in frequently – even informally –  so you can address issues as they occur. And this doesn’t have to just be about work; take your staff out to lunch or have a cookout and talk about something else.
  4. Set healthy boundaries. For example, encourage workers to leave work at a reasonable time each day and to avoid checking email at night or over the weekend – and do the same yourself to set an example for your team.
  5. Show appreciation. Acknowledge accomplishments and thank your team for their contributions and the impact they have. A good way to do this is to start your team meetings with shout outs. Or provide company swag, food, or gift cards if you prefer more tangible recognition.
  6. Be flexible. Understand that workers may have periods when they focus more on their lives outside of work. Offer flexibility if they have family commitments or other issues outside of work that they need to attend to, whether that’s different hours or telecommuting.
  7. Review pay. Inflation in July was 8.5%, yet the average raise for 2022 is 3.4%. Salaries that aren’t competitive or have miniscule raises for those with high workloads will lower motivation. And be sure to offer training or mentoring so workers can gain added skills to help them advance.
  8. Reassess job descriptions and requirements. Address workloads by making sure you’re not expecting more from workers than what they were hired to do; if you are, then consider paying them more or hiring more people.
  9. Offer mental health days. Whether paid or unpaid, a mental health day allows employees to reset and refocus and shows workers that you’re taking their health and well-being seriously.
  10. Hire a corporate wellness consultant. A wellness consultant can help you create programs and training strategies to help employees manage their health and lifestyle at both work and home. By extension, they can help you create a culture of well-being.

How to Best Address Quiet Quitting

Whether you’ve experienced signs of quiet quitting already at your workplace or are worried the trend may gain traction among your employees, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to mitigate disengagement among employees. For more ideas on how to help your employees amid rising stress levels, read our guide on mental health in the workplace.

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