Quiet Quitting: What it is and How to Respond in a Healthy Way

Posted by Seraine Page on Mon, Oct, 24, 2022

Now that the “Great Resignation” is over, a new issue is hitting workplaces: quiet quitting.QuiteQuting

Quiet quitting is when you find burned-out workers doing the bare minimum necessary to keep their jobs.

Not exactly a great way to keep morale up or production going smoothly, right?

This post offers insight for leadership to respond including cutting back on extra demands, eliminating weekend communication, getting feedback from unhappy employees, and potentially looking at firing “quitters” if they don’t pull their weight or have a good attitude most days.

Read on if you need advice on dealing with quiet quitting in your workplace.

Why Is Quiet Quitting Happening More Now?

Here’s a shocking stat from Gallup: Fifty percent of the U.S. workforce are quiet quitting.

That’s insight from a poll of over 15,000 workers, showing that the divide between workers and employers is growing larger.

The action of “quiet quitting” isn’t a new one, but the frequency with which workers apply it these days is. For those who are sick of their jobs — but not quite ready to pull the plug on the paycheck — quiet quitting seems to be working well for them.

After two-plus years of pandemic stressors and increased responsibilities, workers are tired. Plus, the disconnect socially and physically from work thanks to hybrid or remote work situations has made it even more challenging to engage workers.

More than that, workers are too burned out to do more than what’s required of them at work or even participate in extracurricular work activities. This often looks like the employee who is “checked out” when it comes to anything outside the scope of their job position.

Dissatisfied employees are becoming more of the norm. Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace Report found that workers are dealing with high rates of daily sadness, stress, and worry.

Mental health has further taken a dive since the pandemic, too.

New research from the Boston University School of Public Health found that elevated depression levels persisted into 2021, and even worsened, climbing to 32.8 percent. The equivalent to one in three adults feeling depressed. When you’re feeling depressed, it’s hard to get out of bed some days, let alone do above and beyond what your job requires.

 So what is an employer to do if this is happening more often in the workplace?

Quiet Quitting: How Unhappy Are Your Employees?

Even with the threat of a recession, millions of workers are leaving their workplaces in droves. But for those who can’t leave and are deeply unsatisfied, it can be a struggle to even put on a “happy face” for work. For employers, knowing this can sometimes be just as unsettling as hearing about an employee quitting.

The aforementioned Gallup poll also found that 60 percent of workers reported being “emotionally detached at work” and 19 percent even described themselves as “miserable” in the workplace.

How do you know if this is how your own workers are feeling? There are some clear signs to keep an eye out for.  

Signs of disengagement include:

  • Withdrawal
  • Complacency
  • Absenteeism
  • Lack of debate
  • Apathetic responses
  • Poor communication
  • Refusal to learn or improve skills

These signs may appear over time and can be also invisible to the untrained manager. These workers, if left unattended for too long, can undermine others’ work performance and start to negatively impact the organization’s overall bottom line.

Letting it go without intervention isn’t the answer. Employers willing to face the situation head-on can get a better grasp on what’s making workers complacent.

What’s the Best Way to Respond to Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting is as much of an employer problem as it is an employee problem. Research indicates quiet quitting is often the result of poor management.

While no organization is exempt from having at least a few unsatisfied employees, the problem is when that feeling spreads beyond a few people. It means that morale is low and retention issues will start arising quickly.

Use the signs of disengagement to better connect with your workers’ needs.

Here are some ways to positively respond to quiet quitters:

  • How healthy is your workplace? - If disengaged and unsatisfied workers are becoming a problem for your company, it’s time to take a step back for an assessment. Looking at every level of your organization and the operations of each level can help you assess opportunities for change, growth, and more. Engage your managers in the process to get the best wide-lens and close-up view of what’s going on.

  • Cut back on demands - Think about your workplace and the roles of your workers. Is the demand too much for them? Do you need to hire more qualified workers to help out? Bring in a freelance team to alleviate the load? Take fewer client projects? Look at ways that leadership can make work a bit less demanding if burnout is the problem.

  • Eliminate weekend communication - If your company touts work-life balance as one of its biggest benefits yet department managers are sending employees work-related messages at all hours on weekends, the message is misaligned. Look at ways to better set healthy boundaries around the weekend and after-hours communication.

Related: Why Setting Healthy Boundaries at Work is a Must

  • Get real feedback - Good managers are well-connected to their team members. They understand their strengths, goals, professional aims, and personal life circumstances. It’s essential for managers to have open communications with their workers about reducing burnout. Ongoing communication and understanding can encourage employees before they get too disengaged.

  • Think about meeting styles - You’ve probably seen the memes or heard jokes about “attending another that could have been an email.” Unproductive meetings are a top complaint of many workers — especially if they don’t need to be there. Try out different methods for meetings (30 minutes or less, no meetings on Fridays, etc.) and see how workers’ attitudes shift.

  • Have a meaningful conversation - No one likes to think of themselves as just another cog in the wheel. Managers should find ways to connect with their team members on a friendly level to keep them more engaged. Gallup found that just 15-30 minutes of one-on-one meaningful conversation can make all the difference.

  • Offer career coaching - Perhaps the quiet quitters of your organization are feeling bored. If that’s the case, consider offering career coaching. Or, encourage the use of free courses to reinspire their love of learning.

  • Fire the quiet quitters - While this isn’t exactly a positive outcome, it may have a positive ripple effect on your team once the quiet quitter is gone. Like a bowl of fruit that has one moldy piece of fruit, it can spread quickly to the others. Remove it before it gets too moldy and you may very well keep the other fruit untouched and fresh. The same goes for your team when it comes to quiet quitters who are toxic; removing them from the workplace can be a good thing.

As mentioned before, some folks are just going to quiet quit and there’s not much anyone can do about it. A successful company and powerful leadership will do everything in its power to reinspire and re-engage its workers. Take the time to evaluate ways to better serve your workers and boost morale by improving your workplace culture and worker needs.

Looking at quiet quitting as another unique HR challenge is one way to approach it. When it feels a bit discouraging, just remember that 50 percent of the workforce is doing this. It’s not just your company.

Lastly, look at ways to connect with other HR pros and leadership to brainstorm solutions for dealing with quiet quitting. It can create a network and opportunity to connect now and in the future when it comes to strategizing with other brilliant folks on ways to keep your company — and the economy — as healthy as possible.

How is your organization handling quiet quitting? Share your insights down below!

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Topics: Healthy Workplaces, Wellness at Work


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