How employers can combat quiet quitting

Disengaged employees could be detrimental for businesses at a time of full employment. John Cradden outlines how employers can deal with the scourge of quiet quitting.

Quiet quitting is where employees make an active choice to fulfil the bare minimum of their job requirements and no more.

This means they stop going above and beyond what is demanded of them, such as taking initiatives, working overtime or volunteering for extra projects and responsibilities. It may also manifest itself as not speaking up in meetings, or even greater absenteeism.

“At a time when employment levels are at an all-time high, employers may be worried about disengagement and how they can help overcome it”

The term came to popularity through a TikTok video that went viral in 2022, and some see it as a continuation of strong work trends that followed the Covid-19 pandemic, including the ‘Great Resignation’ and the growth in hybrid working.

HR expert Caroline Reidy says that, while the term itself is new, it’s another name for an age-old problem: disengagement. A Gallup poll estimates that employee disconnection now causes a $7.8trn loss in productivity. 

At a time when employment levels are at an all-time high, employers may be worried about disengagement and how they can help overcome it.

Here are some ideas:

Establish maintain healthy boundaries

The proliferation of work-based communication channels and social media platforms means that it’s all too easy for work to breach its traditional boundaries and leak into your personal time, whether that’s dealing with calls and emails outside of contracted working hours, or even during vacations.

Every employee needs to switch off and good managers should encourage this, such as by:

  • emphasising that answering after-hours calls or emails is optional
  • setting up an on-call system
  • establishing a way to mark messages as urgent and defining the guidelines of what constitutes an appropriate after-hours emergency
  • rewarding employees for staying late by allowing them to leave early another day

Encourage feedback loops

Listening to your employees and validating their feelings and experiences can go a long way in preventing team members from checking out or losing faith in their leaders.

There are many ways you can do this, including regular ‘check-in’ meetings and conversations with employees, and confidential online surveys. The key is to ensure you are following up on any feedback you get and instigating real actions in response.

Watch out for excess workloads

Sometimes it’s necessary to work overtime and most employees will accept this, but you need to watch for employees who are constantly overworked, as this is unsustainable in the long-term. If you need to ask employees to step up, you should make it clear that it’s a short-term measure and ideally optional.

Properly compensate your team

It could be that the issue for potential quiet quitters isn’t about their willingness to do extra work but that they feel the likely rewards are not worth the effort or that they are underpaid to begin with. If employees are not rewarded in some way, there is a risk of them feeling they are being taken advantage of. These rewards can be monetary or non-monetary, including bonuses, benefits and flexible working hours.

Crystalise career paths

A common issue for quiet quitters is perceived roadblocks to career progression, or a flagging sense of pride in what they do. The other side of the coin is that in this ever-changing business world many jobs will evolve beyond their original descriptions when the roles were first advertised. Sometimes this might happen more quickly than expected, leaving some employees feeling a little unsure about their long-term future. In both cases, sitting down with employees and having honest discussions about role growth can help you manage expectations and give your workers more clarity about where they fit in your long-term growth strategy.

Employee recognition

It’s easy to make a link between quiet quitting and feeling underappreciated by your employer, with the result that some employees can end ‘fading’ into the background. So, when good work is being done or employees have stepped up, it’s important to visibly recognise and reward their achievements.

Create a sense of purpose

Surveys show that younger workers have a desire for meaningful work, not just a stable job and good pay. Take the recent Deloitte 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey ; Striving for balance, advocating for change, which revealed that for both Gen-Z and millennials, there was a direct correlation between job loyalty and the respondent’s level of satisfaction with the company’s commitment to societal impact, diversity and inclusion and sustainability. If you are already working on some of these themes, then maybe it’s time to start shouting out about your efforts.

Develop a healthy engagement culture

Caroline Reidy of the HR Suite talks about creating a culture of healthy engagement that is less about what she terms “hustle culture” (i.e. bragging about working long hours or being super busy) and more to do with helping your employees see how their day to day activities are contributing directly to the success of the organisation. It’s also about stimulating innovation and ideas by “encouraging staff to consciously connect the dots between their priorities and overall organisational outcomes”.

John Cradden
John Cradden is an experienced business and personal finance journalist and financial wellbeing content designer.