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Quiet quitting: an old trend shaking the new world of work

Published:

May 4, 2023

Updated:

December 28, 2023

After the Great Resignation and the Great Reshuffle, companies face a new challenge, quiet quitting. Who has never said: “I’m done going the extra mile. From now on, I’ll only do what my contract requires!”? Most of us have said something like this at least once after a bad day at work. This is what silent quitting is about, doing the bare minimum.

Although this practice isn’t new, it recently took a sharp upturn. Over the last couple of years, workers have stopped hesitating about leaving their position for a better opportunity and a job that matches their needs and values. It first caused the Great Resignation and then the Great Reshuffle. But what are the options for employees who can’t resign? Disengagement is their alternative, and it is a powerful one. It impacts organizations as much as the two other movements. 

In this article, we give you a clear definition of “soft quitting”, the reasons why it is happening, and solutions to minimize it. 

What is quiet quitting?

The definition of quiet quitting

Quiet quitting is a modern term referring to an old way of responding to dissatisfaction at work. Also called “Silent Quitting” or “Soft Quitting”, it is a practice some employees adopt when they are unhappy or unfulfilled in their professional lives. Instead of complaining, striking, or resigning, while they look for a new job, they do the bare minimum required by their contract. Quiet quitters opt for passive disengagement in opposition to “loud quitters” who are actively disengaged. 

Although every business can be exposed to workers’ disengagement, it took a new turn in 2021. According to a Gallup study, employee engagement dropped by 50% in the U.S. workforce in the second half of 2021. But this trend started to spread worldwide in 2022 with a TikTok video.

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July 2022: when the #quietquitting hashtag and the TikTok trend caught fire

The Quiet quitting movement is the best proof workers are the backbone of a company, and their influence can have a huge impact on businesses. Today, this is even more true than before, thanks to social media.

In July 2022, Zaid Khan, an American engineer, posted a video on TikTok. He just discovered the concept of quiet quitting and explained it to his community. He declared, “You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is it’s not. And your worth as a person is not defined by your labor.” 

The video and the hashtag #quietquitting got viral. The movement went global within a few weeks, and the media quickly started talking about it. 

Quiet quitters profile: young employees are more likely to adopt this practice 

All workers can quit quietly, and many have done it in the past. However, this practice has recently become a hot topic because a significant number of people started to apply this way of working. People born after 1989, young Millennials and Gen Z, are particularly eager to do it. 

It has nothing to do with being lazy. Laziness is a character trait, and you can see it in every generation. Silence quitting is a boomerang effect resulting from a lack of employee happiness and job satisfaction. It is about consciously disengaging from the job and the company’s success. It is considered one of the best alternatives for Gen Y and Z while waiting for a better career opportunity.

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Woman with head on desk
Woman burntout at work

Why is silent quitting happening?

The pandemic has made employees reevaluate their work life and career

The Covid-19 crisis has drastically changed people’s vision of work. Remote work enabled them to spend more time with family and friends, build a better work-life balance, and reconnect with what matters the most. Not only do employees wish to keep some flexibility, but they also aspire to reshape their relationship with work. The post-pandemic workforce wants to find purpose in their careers, be aligned with their values, and stop doing jobs that don't fulfill their needs and expectations. Organizations should consider this aspect, but not all of them do. This has led to the Great Reshuffle and Quiet quitting.

Poor workplace connection increases employee disengagement

There are many reasons why people become less invested in their work. The lack of workplace connection is one of them. Workers might not feel aligned with the company’s values, see the purpose of their job, or feel a sense of belonging. 

When employees don’t experience these strong bonds with the workplace, their level of engagement is impacted. It then creates a domino effect with team members, who lose motivation, are unhappy, work less efficiently, etc. 

The consequence of a lack of connection is rarely positive. Most of the time, employee burnout starts rising, resignation letters are sent, or quiet quitting spreads.

The absence of skill development and career opportunities gives workers even better reasons to quiet quit

Millennials are the most educated generation, and there is a high chance Gen Z is following the same path. Obviously, this means these two demographic groups are looking for opportunities to develop their competencies and grow both personally and professionally. It is crucial for businesses to understand this and meet their expectations in this regard. 

Being stuck at a certain level and without being able to widen their skill set is often a cause of frustration, dissatisfaction, and disengagement among young workers. Here again, those who don’t see a chance to evolve in their careers will change how they work. Why would they go the extra mile if they get nothing in return?

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Woman with coffee in hand and laptop in lap
Woman loosing interest at work

Failing to show recognition and gratitude toward employees fosters quiet quitting behaviors

Whether employees go the extra mile or not, acknowledgment is essential for your staff’s mental health.  Managers often underestimate the power of gratitude. Not feeling valued and recognized for the work that has been done and the efforts that have been made is one of the worst sentiments people can experience.

Eventually, team members give up on being thanked and rewarded. They feel taken for granted and unvalued. This is when they start looking for a workplace where their skills will be recognized, and their input is valued. Quiet quitting is perceived as a suitable option if they don’t find this opportunity quickly.

A lack of employee centricity is the core reason for silent quitting

Overall, a lack of employee centricity in the workplace is what has led to quiet quitting. The thing is, young generations of workers are very determined to find a good work-life balance and a job that meets their expectations. Millennials are known to be job hoppers, but quiet quitting is a good alternative when looking for a better opportunity. Gen Z is quite similar. Yet, as they’ve just entered the workplace, they might opt for this option to convince employers, HR teams, and managers to answer their needs.

How can managers respond to the “soft quitting” movement?

Attend management training

Employees’ expectations have changed. This is a consequence of the Covid-19 crisis and a natural process, as each generation of workers is different. Working models have evolved too. Companies went from applying a strict working schedule for everyone to introducing flexible work arrangements such as hybrid work or flexitime. Therefore, leaders can’t expect to manage their teams using old,pre-pandemic approaches successfully. 

As much as training employees is fundamental for developing their skills and helping them thrive, training managers is crucial too. They need to learn how to manage a hybrid team and a multigenerational workforce. Leaders should also understand the importance of an employee-centric approach as it has not always been promoted as an essential factor in the past. They must comprehend the purpose of meeting employees’ expectations and the best practices to do so.

Listen and consider employees’ requirements

To avoid disengagement among your staff, make yourself available and listen to your employees. Being present and accountable is also part of being people-focused. Because a large part of the modern workforce grew up with the advancement of technology and the virtual world, young team members are willing to have a genuine connection with their managers. They expect to be able to talk to their leaders, be heard, and be considered.

Moreover, the most efficient way to keep your workforce happy, satisfied, and engaged is to answer their needs. By doing so, you prove to them that their well-being and satisfaction matter.

💡 Check the article about Millennials and Gen Z in the workplace to know what these two generations wish to see in their work environment.

Woman asleep in bed with laptop and coffee
Employee partaking in quiet quitting

Stay updated and embrace the trends of the future of work

Knowing the trends of the future of work and what employees expect from the workplace is fundamental to avoiding silent quitting. Stay updated about the evolution of the world of work and remember each workforce is unique. 

Quiet quitting was a hot topic in 2022 that is now cooling down. But it was not just a TikTok trend. While the media talk less about it doesn’t mean that workers are engaged and happy again with their jobs. It existed before 2022, and it will still continue after. The goal is to minimize it as much as possible. To do so, managers and HR teams have a key part to play. They need to take it seriously and find solutions to increase and maintain the level of employee satisfaction if they want to retain talent. Most importantly, you need to focus on answering workers’ needs and improving employee well-being. Flexible work enhances both aspects. Request a free demo of the deskbird app if you are still looking for an efficient solution to manage a hybrid workplace and help your team members get the most out of it!

➡️ Stay tuned. In an upcoming article, we will discuss another new practice currently happening in the workplace called quiet hiring. This time, the HR departments have initiated this trend. 

Quiet quitting: an old trend shaking the new world of work

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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