Quiet quitting

The latest workplace phenomenon, highlighted recently via TikTok (naturally, virally), is quiet quitting. What is it? Is it real? Is it new? Does it matter?

What is ‘quiet quitting’?

The idea of quiet quitting describes an employee who has become (or chosen to be) disengaged from the success of the organisation, instead carrying out their duties to the minimum requirements of the job. Depending on who you listen to, this is a symptom of stress, burnout, not caring, etc… or simply believing that one’s job shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of life.

It could be a simple reassessment of what’s important in life leading to a more balanced set of priorities. Or it could be a sign of worrying disengagement. Perspective is everything.

So, it’s a new name for ‘work to rule’?

Well, yes, and for employers it seems to share some of the same negative connotations. But, really, it’s only become a newsworthy phenomenon because for years, corporate culture has been ‘hustle culture’, where your worth is measured by how much extra you’re prepared to do over and above your contracted duties on the vague promise/expectation of a performance-related bonus or promotion opportunity somewhere down the line.

And let’s be clear, we’re NOT talking about poor performance here. That’s when someone is clearly not meeting their agreed (contractual) performance requirements. Quiet quitting is about doing what you have to and no more – the refusal inherent in quiet quitting to ‘go above and beyond’.

Arguably, the current prevalence of quiet quitting is at least partly driven by the pandemic. After two years and more, the world of work is different… attitudes to work are different. We’ve ALL been through a traumatic time in relation to work, personal life, family, health, all of it. If it helps, think of the quiet quitting phenomenon as a symptom of some kind of PTSD.

What does quiet quitting look like?

The clue is in the name: “quiet”.

Quiet quitters keep their heads down, do their job, and don’t volunteer to take on extra work. They do what they’re required to do and no more. No overtime. No special projects. No suggesting innovative ideas for improvement. Their productivity may drop (though not below the level of your base performance standards). Team events and get-togethers are a no-no (unless a part of the working day) as is checking work emails out of hours.

How to prevent quiet quitting

First of all, take a moment to consider whether you should. If your employees are doing what they’re paid to do, is it really an (actionable) issue? Remember, they’re not slacking off, not performing poorly, they’re just doing their jobs, as contracted, and no more.

If your company is set up to only succeed when the whole workforce is doing more than they’re paid/rewarded for then maybe you need to take a look at your corporate culture first.

Still, if you want a more engaged workforce, this may be the perfect time to revisit what engages them. As already mentioned, the pandemic has changed everything, including people’s attitudes to work and what they want out of it.

You can stand on the shoreline, insisting that your people want the same as before, but the tide’s still going to come in and wet your feet. Surely, better to start some conversations and find out what people want from life now and how their job roles can fit with that. Ask how their job can contribute to a sense of purpose and meaning. Show that you place some value on their wellbeing (and mental health) and look for ways the job can add to that instead of undermining it.

Basic motivation: find out what people want, help them get it through the work, and watch commitment levels rise.

Time to move forward together

Quiet quitting is very much a new name for an old state of mind. It’s a state of mind that seems more widespread in the wake of recent events and so organisations are noticing/feeling it more. And it’s understandable that managers see it as something to tackle. But if ‘tackling it’ is about getting back to where we were, it’s pretty much doomed to failure – don’t try to turn back the tide. Instead, accept that for many people, their values around life, work and the balance between them have changed. You could go further, and admit that two-plus years and counting of pandemic and upheaval may have changed the organisation’s values and priorities too. The challenge is building new bridges between the two…


Maximum Performance offers a range of wellbeing and resilience training programmes and consultancy services as well as a wide range of training programmes that can help you re-engage your employees and help them feel valued and motivated. Take a look and give us a call on 01582 463460 – we’re always happy to help.

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