Quiet Quitting – What It Is and How to Avoid It

by LESLIE SPEAS

During the pandemic, quiet quitting emerged as a much-publicized trend. The term was driven by Gen Z workers who helped it go viral on TikTok. So, what exactly is it? Quiet quitting refers to doing the minimum requirements of one’s job and putting in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm than is absolutely necessary. In short, it is doing the bare minimum to get by. 

Is this new? Not at all. It’s really just another word for employee engagement – or lack thereof. And before engagement was a thing, it was called presenteeism. This meant that someone was at work physically, but not really present mentally. 

A 2022 Gallup survey suggested that at least half of the U.S. workforce consists of quiet quitters, with the percentage being particularly high among workers under age 35. So, what is the root cause of quiet quitting? A large part of it stems from employees not feeling like their organization or manager cares about them. To overcome this, it’s important to understand that there are really three human needs (aka rules of engagement) that need to be addressed in the workplace.

  1. We want to see meaning and purpose in our work and understand how our work matters to the organization, our manager, and the customers we serve.
  2. We want to be recognized for our unique contributions.
  3. We want to have a good relationship with our leader and feel that he/she cares and wants to help us grow.

If you are in a leadership position, to get a pulse on where your employees are as it relates to these needs, you could consider a one-on-one where you ask them open-ended questions such as:

  • What would help you to see more meaning and purpose in your work? 
  • How do you like to be recognized? 
  • Are you feeling appreciated at work? 
  • Am I meeting the team’s needs as a leader? What could I do better or differently? 

Once you have attempted to address the needs of your employees and move them towards engagement, it may be necessary to move those that are still in quiet quitter mode out of your organization by holding them accountable for performance and behavior. 

If you are personally in quiet quitter mode, this is no way to be! It’s not fair to you or your employer. Here are five things you can do to try to get yourself back on track. 

  1. Be direct. Set clear boundaries and expectations with your manager. Direct communication is more likely to lead to positive change than passive-aggressive maneuvers. Try to enhance the relationship and ask them to help you with finding meaning, purpose and appreciation in your work. 
  2. Cultivate work friendships. Camaraderie and mutual support make the day-to-day more fun and can help keep you from burning out. 
  3. Identify your strengths and lean into them. We are much happier when we are working in our areas of strength. If you don’t know yours, find out what they are and focus on using them wherever possible.  
  4. Be proactive. Don’t wait to be told what to do – look for opportunities to create value. 
  5. Update your resume and start networking. If the above tips don’t work, it may be time to start looking for another opportunity. 
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