Is "quiet quitting" the latest workplace trend or actually just a redefinition of employee disengagement for the latest generation of employees? Here at Ovation Incentives, we've over 20 years of experience helping organisations improve company culture and employee engagement. Find out more about what quiet quitting means, its causes and impact and what you can do to prevent it in your business and how focusing on employee engagement can help.
What is quiet quitting in the workplace?
Quiet quitting means an employee will not go the extra mile. They will work their contracted hours and only do the job they have been hired and are paid for — nothing more! It is a subtle form of disengagement where the employee physically shows up for work but mentally and emotionally disengages from their responsibilities and tasks. It is a misconception that these employees quit their roles. The idea is they reject the notion of going ‘above and beyond’, only doing what is required.
We’ve seen how quiet quitting has grown from a TikTok trend to a global discussion about 'hustle culture'. But is there anything new about all this? Is quiet quitting not just an example of disengaged employees?
What has caused quiet quitting?
Toxic productivity and hustle culture
To understand quiet quitting, we need to understand where work culture has been over recent years. It can be argued quiet quitting is a backlash to the recent 'hustle culture' having been prevalent over social media and in our society, where every waking hour feels like it needs to be accounted for. Working harder, faster and for longer hours have been glorified as a route to success. The problem with this is it isn't sustainable and will inevitably lead to burnout and exhaustion.
The Great Resignation
During Covid-19, we also saw 'The Great Resignation', where many people left or switched roles. These times made many of us reassess what was important to us. Everyone had their own reasons for leaving. However, these were often due to a poor work life balance, burnout, long commutes and a lack of flexible working conditions.
Quiet quitting has become a popular trend with Generation Z, who have seen the negative effects many of these factors have played on the physical and mental health of others. Although setting personal boundaries, rejecting stress and prioritising your mental health are healthy, quiet quitting takes this further by encouraging people to consciously disengage from work. This could damage career development and the working relationships with management and their colleagues.
How common is quiet quitting?
The prevalence of quiet quitting is difficult to accurately measure, as it involves subtle behaviours that may not be readily apparent or reported. However, research and anecdotal evidence suggest that quiet quitting is not uncommon in the modern workplace. According to a Gallup study conducted in the United States, about 70% of employees are not actively engaged in their jobs, which could include various forms of silent disengagement or quiet quitting.
Is quiet quitting a problem for employers?
Highly engaged employees are vital to the company culture and organisational success. When you have highly engaged employees that go the extra mile and have a positive mindset then this will improve business outcomes and will lead to higher employee retention.
On the other hand, quiet quitting can be a sign of deeper problems within the organisation. They should be viewed as a warning sign of low levels of job satisfaction and poor employee well being within the organisation, which make it harder to achieve collective company goals. To drive employee engagement, you'll need senior leaders to help improve the overall employee experience. To motivate employees, encourage employees and get everyone on board with the company's mission.
How does quiet quitting impact individuals?
Quiet quitting can present itself in various ways, such as reduced productivity, decreased motivation, lack of enthusiasm or initiative, withdrawal from team activities or social interactions, increased absenteeism, and a general sense of apathy towards work. The employee may not openly communicate their dissatisfaction or concerns but instead may exhibit passive behaviours that signal their disengagement.
Whilst quiet quitting may be a way for some to reclaim their work life balance, it can actually negatively impact the well being of the individual. According to Gallup, a huge 60% of employees worldwide feel emotionally detached from their jobs and 19% are actively miserable.
What are the signs of quiet quitting?
Spotting the signs of quiet quitting can be difficult, particularly in a hybrid work or a work-from-home model. The first step we'd recommend is to measure employee engagement so you can understand what's really going on with your employees. But how do we measure employee engagement?
Measuring employee engagement
Here are some common methods to measure employee engagement:
Employee engagement surveys are one of the most common and effective ways to measure engagement. These surveys typically consist of a series of questions that ask employees about their job satisfaction, motivation, and overall engagement levels. Surveys can be conducted anonymously to encourage honest responses and can be administered online or in person.
Conducting one-on-one interviews with employees can provide qualitative insights into their level of engagement. Managers or Human Resources can conduct these interviews to gather feedback, understand employee perspectives, and identify any challenges or areas that need improvement.
Observation and Feedback
Managers and supervisors can actively observe and provide feedback on employee engagement through regular interactions and performance evaluations. This can involve evaluating an employee's participation in team meetings, their enthusiasm towards tasks, and their overall level of involvement and contribution.
Absenteeism and Turnover Rates
Monitoring absenteeism and turnover rates can provide indirect insights into employee engagement. High levels of absenteeism or turnover may indicate low employee engagement, as disengaged employees are more likely to be absent or leave the organisation.
Monitoring employee productivity and key performance indicators, such as output, quality of work, and meeting deadlines, can also provide an indication of their engagement levels. Engaged employees tend to be more productive and perform at a higher level.
Gathering feedback from peers and colleagues can provide valuable insights into an employee's level of engagement. Peer feedback can be obtained through methods such as 360-degree feedback, where feedback is collected from multiple sources, including supervisors, peers, and subordinates.
Encouraging employees to self-assess their own engagement levels through self-assessment tools or questionnaires can provide insights into their perceptions of their own engagement. This can be used as a supplementary method to gather employee feedback.
It's important to use a combination of methods to get a comprehensive understanding of employee engagement levels in the workplace. Regularly measuring and monitoring employee engagement can help organisations identify areas of improvement and implement strategies to enhance employee engagement, leading to a more motivated and productive workforce.
How can employers improve employee engagement?
Improving employee engagement is critical for organisations to enhance productivity, reduce employee turnover, and create a positive work environment. Once you've measured the levels of employee engagement in your organisation, you'll need to take action if levels are low. Here are some employee engagement strategies that you can introduce to increase employee engagement.
Open and transparent communication is key to employee engagement. Employers should ensure that communication channels are clear, accessible, and inclusive. Regularly share organisational updates, provide feedback, and encourage employees to express their ideas and concerns.
Recognition and Rewards
Recognise and appreciate employees' efforts and achievements. Acknowledge their contributions publicly or privately, provide regular feedback, and offer rewards and incentives to motivate and encourage their performance.
Encourage your employees to learn and develop new skills. Offer training programs that can help personal growth as well as career growth. Professional development opportunities alongside proper training can help employees to feel more competent and confident in their current roles. Raising your teams' self-confidence can be a big factor in raising employee motivation and help to boost employee engagement.
Work Life Balance
Encourage a healthy and improved work life balance by promoting flexible work arrangements, offering paid time off, and setting realistic workload expectations. Support employees in managing their personal and professional responsibilities to reduce burnout and boost engagement.
Employee Wellness Programs
Implement wellness programs that focus on physical, mental, and emotional well being. Provide resources such as counselling services, mindfulness programs, or gym memberships to support employees' overall health and well being.
Involve employees in decision-making processes, projects, and initiatives. Seek their input and empower them to contribute their ideas and suggestions. This fosters a sense of ownership and engagement among employees.
Positive Work Culture
Foster a positive work culture that is inclusive, diverse, and respectful. Promote collaboration, teamwork, and a healthy work environment that encourages creativity, innovation, and open dialogue.
Train and develop managers who can effectively communicate, motivate, and inspire employees. Strong leadership plays a crucial role in creating an engaged workforce.
Employee Surveys and Feedback
Regularly conduct employee engagement surveys and seek feedback from employees to understand their needs, concerns, and suggestions. Use the feedback to make data-driven decisions and implement changes to improve employee engagement.
Support employee engagement
To really help your team's engagement efforts, managers play an important role in helping to re-energise disengaged employees. Having regular and clear communication will help managers to know what their team members are working on and what are the challenges they are facing.
Setting aside time for weekly or monthly one-to-one catch-ups for employees and their direct supervisors can do wonders for engagement levels. These meetings give an opportunity for employees to openly discuss how they’re feeling, whilst managers can actively listen and provide employees with helpful advice and support. They also encourage managers to gain a clear understanding of the employee's goals and motivations, allowing them to discover the discretionary effort the individual is capable of and allowing them to get the best from them and help them become engaged employees.
Having these meetings frequently keeps employees engaged by giving them a voice and knowing that their managers are genuinely interested in their work, well-being and career development.
How to prevent quiet quitting
To prevent quiet quitting, you'll need to improve employee engagement throughout your entire organization. To grasp the overall sentiment amongst your employees, you'll need to have sufficient employee engagement research and engagement metrics to make informed, data-driven decisions on how best to engage employees.
Introducing employee engagement initiatives will help the overall employee experience and result in better business outcomes and business success in the long term. Having regular employee feedback can help you spot the warning signs early. Improving employee engagement is the most important factor in preventing employees from quiet quitting.