What is Quiet Quitting and How Can You Prevent It?
December 13, 2021
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What does it mean to quiet quit? The phrase refers to employees doing the bare minimum at work. They show up and complete their assigned projects but aren’t likely to go above and beyond. These employees may not actually have any intention to quit but may take a better opportunity if it comes along. In other words, they’re a disengaged employee.
While the term quiet quitting became commonplace during the pandemic, the idea isn’t new or novel.
Gallup found that “quiet quitters” make up half of the U.S. workforce, while 18 percent are actively disengaged and 32 percent are engaged. This can be problematic, as employee engagement levels can impact things like retention, productivity, and profitability. For example, the lost productivity of actively disengaged employees is equal to 18 percent of their annual salary.
Discover quiet quitting risk factors and strategies to mitigate this trend and boost engagement and productivity at your organization.
In this post:
Why is quiet quitting so prevalent?
Employee engagement was steadily increasing between 2009 and 2020 before it began falling over the past two years.
This decrease in engagement aligns with the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought many new challenges for employers and workers.
Quiet quitting causes include the following:
- Burnout. More than 1 in 3 workers have dealt with burnout over the last two years due to pandemic-related stressors, staffing shortages, and blurred boundaries in remote work. For example, 44 percent of remote workers say they log into work earlier or stay online later because they worry their manager doubts their productivity. Long hours and high stress aren’t sustainable and many employees are cutting back to let go of the hustle culture mentality.
- Cost-of-living crisis. Inflation is historically high but worker compensation hasn’t kept pace. Employees may be experiencing financial stress and some may be taking on additional work to make ends meet, which can impact the amount of energy they can put into work.
- Economic uncertainty. Voluntary quit rates increased throughout the Great Resignation as people left jobs for higher pay, opportunities for advancement, and work-life balance. But with a looming recession, many workers are prioritizing job security to minimize their chances of being laid off. This may lead many workers to stay in their roles and do just enough to remain employed until the economic outlook improves.
- Quiet hiring. Between the Great Resignation, talent shortage, and hiring freezes, workers are being asked to take on additional responsibilities—often without an increase in job level or pay (i.e. “quiet hiring”). Your team members simply may not want to take on extra work without the proper incentives.
Of course, quiet quitting can also be indicative of an employee who’s actively looking for a new role. It wouldn’t be unusual for someone to pull back at work once they’ve decided to move on.
How to prevent quiet quitting
Quiet quitting isn’t necessarily an issue in itself because it means your team members are doing the jobs they were hired to do. But you may feel the pinch if your previously engaged employees are now quiet quitters. High employee engagement is indicative of a happy, satisfied team—which typically leads to better business outcomes.
Investing in a positive employee experience can improve engagement to help you prevent quiet quitting.
Read more: 9 Strategies to Improve Employee Engagement
1. Collect and address employee feedback
Quiet quitting doesn’t always begin quietly. Your team members may be sharing their frustration and challenges, but feel like nothing has been done to address them. In fact, fewer than one in five employers consistently takes action on feedback, making team members feel unheard and unvalued. This can cause them to shut down in the workplace.
Proactively collect employee feedback through surveys, one-on-ones, and employer review sites—then act on it. This is the single best way to improve the employee experience and prevent quiet quitting because empowers you to make the changes that matter most to your team members.
2. Build career paths
Your team members are more likely to put in extra effort when they know it will benefit them as much as it benefits your organization.
Take the time to learn your team member’s career goals and align them with organizational goals to create employee career paths. Be explicit about the skills and experience needed for employee growth and include a development plan to aid each team member in their professional aspirations. Then make ensure to promote team members when the opportunity arises so they see their efforts paying off.
3. Award fair, competitive pay
Employees aren’t going to volunteer for additional work if they don’t feel properly rewarded for their current role and responsibilities. This may be happening more and more as companies struggle to keep up with rapid wage growth and employees struggle to keep up with inflation.
Most organizations (73 percent) agree that compensation is a key driver of employee engagement. Stay on top of compensation trends in your industry as well as internal pay equity within your organization to ensure fair, competitive pay for your team members. This includes conducting a compensation review when a team member’s responsibilities change—even if their job title doesn’t.
4. Offer praise and recognition
Employees feel less motivated to go above and beyond at work when their efforts go unrecognized. In fact, 20 percent of employees say feeling underappreciated for their contributions is hindering their engagement at work.
But employees who receive daily feedback from their manager are 3x more likely to be engaged than those who receive feedback once a year or less.
Build a culture of recognition where managers and team members freely praise and recognize one another for contributions both big and small. This can be as simple as a “thank you” over Slack or a shout-out during an all-hands meeting. Recognition can be contagious so this initiative should be fairly easy to keep going over time.
At WorkRamp, we have a #props Slack channel where team members can share praise and shoutouts for colleagues. This is one of the most active channels we have, and team members regularly share messages to recognize coworkers, express gratitude for support, or recognize employees for accomplishments and contributions.
5. Promote employee well-being
Many people have faced significant challenges over the past few years and your team members may be quiet quitting in order to protect their own well-being. It’s important to give your employees the space—and resources—they need to take care of themselves.
Supporting employee well-being can lead to happier, healthier, more productive team members who are better equipped to put in their best effort. Things like comprehensive healthcare benefits (including mental health care), flexible work arrangements, and boundaries that support work-life balance can all help improve well-being. In fact, 63 percent of those with good work-life balance are willing to go above and beyond compared to only 29 percent of those with poor work-life balance.
Engage your team to combat quiet quitting
A great employee experience can lead to a highly engaged team that’s more willing to give extra discretionary effort. Stay in sync with your team so you can understand what your employees want and what they need to build a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship within your organization.
Want to learn how WorkRamp’s All-in-One Learning Platform can help you improve the employee experience and prevent quiet quitting? Contact us to schedule a free demo.
Complete the form for a custom demo.
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Jen DewarWorkRamp Contributor
Jen Dewar is a marketing consultant in HR technology, focusing on developing educational content for HR professionals and recruiters. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion, lifelong learning and development, and treating people like people throughout candidate and employee experiences. Outside of work, you can find Jen snowboarding in Tahoe, enjoying a glass of wine in Sonoma, or hanging out at home with her family.
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