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Quiet Quitting — And What You Can Do About It

The buzzy term among professional circles this summer was “quiet quitting” — and while it’s not necessarily a new phenomenon, it’s back in the spotlight as we continue to figure out what work looks like in changed business landscape.

Quiet Quitting Defined

Allow us to clear one thing up: “quiet quitting” is a misnomer. It doesn’t involve employees actually quitting their jobs, but instead reflects an attitude of doing the minimum required for a position. It can also look different for everyone — from declining to be “on-call” after normal business hours to only completing assigned tasks. Quiet quitting is a response to the burnout that decreases engagement, motivation, and an employee’s desire to go above and beyond for their organization.

But how did we get here?

The COVID-19 pandemic was (and continues to be) a life-altering event that caused a seismic shift in how we balance work and life. Throughout the past two-and-a-half years, we’ve seen — perhaps more than ever before — how quickly life can change. As NPR notes, there’s been a “reevaluation of how work fits into our lives and not the other way around.” And with Millennials and Gen Zers now making up most of the workforce, there’s no going back to the pre-pandemic norms that ruled our workplaces. (We’re looking at you, hustle culture.)

The Problem with Quiet Quitting

If quiet quitting doesn’t translate to employees leaving their organizations, then why are we talking about it?

That’s where employee engagement enters the chat.

Disengaged and dissatisfied employees directly impact a company’s profitability (and not in a good way). When employee engagement wanes, it’s also likely to negatively affect other aspects of the business, from customer service to workplace culture to a company’s reputation. When gone unchecked, this can be hard for even the best organizations to recover from.

Treating Your People Like People

If you’re a leader wondering what your next step is, start with empathy. Be intentional about connecting with your employees on a human level. We’re more than our jobs, and getting to know employees as people first is crucial to building trust and can set the stage for greater engagement. From a business perspective, regular check-ins with employees can also be used to provide clarity on day-to-day work and give staff an opportunity to seek greater understanding.

Remember, your people are your competitive advantage. Show them care, flexibility, and support. Accommodate family emergencies or those mid-day dentist appointments, and let them know you understand that sometimes, life just happens. Burnout doesn’t benefit employees, leaders, or companies. Take a stand by helping your staff set boundaries and achieve a work-life balance that, well, works for them.

Effective Communication is Always a Good Idea

Clear, purposeful communication can help organizations weather just about any storm. To counteract quiet quitting among your staff, take these recommendations to heart:

  • Communicate authentically and look for ways to help your employees connect their work to the organization’s strategy, mission, and vision. Knowing that what they do matters can be equal parts motivating and inspiring for folks.

  • Prioritize transparency in your interactions with employees. While we know there’s certain information that’s business-sensitive, seek to be as open and honest with your employees as possible. Trust us: You’ll reap the engagement rewards tenfold.

  • Be visible and communicate often. Research from Harvard Business Review shows that employees expect their organization to communicate with them at least weekly. With a plethora of tactics at your disposal — including in-person meetings, intranets, and e-newsletters — ensure you’re reaching folks where they’re at on a regular basis.

  • Make communications planning a priority. As a new year approaches, take some time to plan your communications strategy for 2023. Throughout the process, ask yourself a few questions: How will you communicate with your employees and other stakeholders? How can you own thought leadership? What can you do to drive stronger connection and engagement?

While this may seem overwhelming, here’s the good news: You don’t need to have all the answers next week — or even on January 1. Give yourself (and others) some grace and do the best you can, being open to adapting along the way.

Listen First, Then Lead

You could develop a communications program that checks all the boxes, but it won’t mean much unless you listen to your employees. Company events where folks can ask questions, dedicated listening sessions with leaders, and 1:1 meetings are all good ways to facilitate this. Helping your employees feel heard — and important — can go a long way in building mutual trust and increasing engagement organization-wide.

We realize this is heavy stuff, and it can be hard to know where to start. If you’re ready to see how clear and purposeful communication can help you combat quiet quitting (or whatever next year brings), reach out today!


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