How to spot ‘Quiet Quitting’ and what to do about it

Quiet quitting can be a real problem for businesses as it leads to disengagement and lowered productivity. This post explains what it is and what to do about it.

‘Quiet quitting’ is a term used to describe disengaged staff who still show up for work every day. It refers to employees who have mentally checked out of their job, but still physically show up to work. It’s not always easy to recognise the signs of quiet quitting, as these employees may still be going through the motions and appearing productive on the surface, they are just a lot less likely to go the extra mile.

What are the causes of quiet quitting?

If we’re honest we can all probably sympathise with the concept of quiet quitting. We all have days where we feel less motivated to do what we need to do. This could be triggered by a number of things:

  • where people feel increasingly stressed about their work they can begin to lose motivation and energy. Of course many things can cause stress at work.
  • the Covid pandemic had a big impact on how people view work. They suddenly realised that working remotely has major benefits for work-life balance. People also realised there is simply more to life than work.
  • there may be something going on outside of work causing people to feel less inclined to give their all to their work.
  • of course there are the usual causes of disengagement – poor leadership, a poor working environment and culture etc.

The challenge for organisations comes when more and more people start to feel like quiet quitting and when people start to feel like it more regularly.

What are the common signs of quiet quitting?

In broad terms, people start to quiet quit when they stop going the extra mile. Some of the symptoms that people are quiet quitting might include:

  • they are less enthusiastic about taking on new projects or tasks.
  • they may contribute less during meetings or discussions, perhaps giving the impression that they can’t wait to leave.
  • they are likely to suggest fewer ideas or challenge the way things are done.
  • they are less likely to respond to emails outside of working hours (not always a bad thing!).
  • their job performance is likely to drop off. Whilst they will possibly continue to deliver what is required of them, they are unlikely to go beyond that. Crucially the way they go about their job will change, their attitude and behaviour towards work will change.
  • their attendance may suffer, they may take more days off sick.

One of the challenges with quiet quitting is that it can cause a vicious circle of dissatisfaction. Where employees start to contribute less managers can become dissatisfied with their performance.

Where managers fail to address the issue they are likely to behave differently towards employees they now perceive to be ‘poor performers’. Managers will be less inclined to involve employees, they will be less likely to spend time with them or provide them with interesting opportunities.

As such, disengaged employees who only do the bare minimum will only be given opportunities to do the bare minimum.

What can you do about quiet quitting?

Recognise it is happening

We have worked with organisations where the whole culture could be described as one where people have quietly quit! The point is that quiet quitting can actually permeate the whole organisation where just doing enough is the norm.

This is clearly a slippery slope so it needs to be tackled before you get to this point.

Producing a simple checklist for managers based on the common signs outlined above would enable you to quickly audit the extent of quiet quitting in your organisation.

Monitor levels of engagement

Most managers will know where they have people who are disengaged, although they may not want to admit it! However, you don’t need to rely on managers raising the issue.

We recommend using employee engagement surveys to measure levels of engagement across the whole organisation. A well constructed employee engagement survey will enable you to measure the things that drive employee engagement.

Manage the situation

Quiet quitting is actually a failure of management. Where managers spot the signs of disengagement and take action they are much more likely to prevent it from worsening. Ironically, the solution to disengagement is to engage with people.

Managers should have a really constructive conversation with people to express their observations and concerns and then invite employees to open up about why they might be feeling the way they are.

The thing with quiet quitting is that people are choosing not to leave so the situation will not resolve itself by waiting for them to resign so you can replace them with someone ‘better’.

In conclusion

Quiet Quitting is a bit of a trendy buzzword at the moment, but is a symptom of underlying disengagement at work. Low levels of employee engagement have a serious impact on business performance so it needs to be addressed as a matter of importance and urgency.