Understanding—and Addressing— ‘Quiet Quitting’ in the Workplace

By now, you’ve probably seen the new buzzword “Quiet quitting” floating around. Coined in 2022 and popularized through TikTok, the term refers to an employee who remains working but reduces their performance to the bare minimum required to keep their role. 

On the other hand, critics of the term say that “quiet quitting” is simply accomplishing the essential duties and refraining from going above and beyond the job description without adequate compensation, avoiding the glamorization of hustle culture.

Whether a result of a favorable job market for employees or a new shift in priorities to a more sustainable work-life harmony, if you suspect quiet quitting is taking place at your organization, it could be time to take action. Instead of coming down harshly with written warnings or other punitive measures, consider a supportive leadership approach, addressing the root causes of employee dissatisfaction.

Keep reading for a few suggestions to get you started.

On the macro level:

  • Implement employee wellness programs designed to reduce stress and improve physical and mental well-being, such as an incentivized movement challenge or free access to a mental health app like Headspace.
  • Add some perks, such as a sponsored weekly, in-house yoga class or a program led by an instructor certified in mindfulness-based stress reduction methods.
  • Encourage employees to take vacation time to reduce burnout. If an employee doesn’t feel empowered to take time off, there could be underlying issues in your company procedures that need to be addressed.
  • Add training programs so that employees can have a chance to develop new skills. 
  • Add an education reimbursement program where employees can return to school and earn a degree or certificate related to their job.
  • Ensure that employees’ health plans include a substantial mental health component.
  • Partner with a child-care and/or senior-care agency to reduce the stress of finding support for families who need it. Providing care support will especially help women re-enter the workforce, as they have been impacted most by the increased care demands brought on by the pandemic.
  • Bring back the company holiday party, annual picnic, or movie night so employees can socialize with each other again. If you have a fully or partially remote team, a virtual party during work hours is also a great option, and there are companies that can help you facilitate one that’s fun for all.

On the micro level:

On the individual level, and especially for team members you suspect could be quiet quitting, it’s a good idea to conduct a formal process of setting goals.While this is generally accomplished during annual or seasonal employee performance reviews, it doesn’t have to be. It can be very effective to sit down with an employee and simply ask what they want to get out of this job and what they want their future to look like. Have a conversation with team members. 

Goal-setting encourages well-being and can give an employee something to strive for. In addition, refreshing goals quarterly can help a team member re-engage with their role. It can also help a supervisor identify an employee who might be happy doing another job, creating the opportunity for a reassignment that is advantageous for both parties.

Increasing Employee Engagement

Anything that can help to refresh and rejuvenate your employees will help reduce a culture of contempt in your organization. While many of these approaches come with some associated costs, it’s essential to consider the alternative cost of an underperforming team or even the cost of a new hire. So start your approach with an initiative that will have the most significant impact on the well-being of your team—and unless you’re already doing most of the above, that probably isn’t a pizza party or free SWAG.