APU Business Careers Original

Quiet Quitting: Should Employers Worldwide Be Concerned?

By Dr. Stacey Little
Department Chair, Management and Human Resource Management, Dr. Wallace E. Boston School of Business

Quiet quitting is here to stay. Over the past couple of years, employers have struggled to overcome the challenge of the Great Resignation. The COVID-19 pandemic led many employees to reexamine their work-life balance and often led to employees leaving their jobs in search of a better opportunity.

[Related: The Great Resignation: Transforming the Lives of US Workers]

Now, employers are facing a surging number of employees who do not actually quit their jobs but are disengaged at work. These employees refuse to go above and beyond their regular duties.

This employee phenomenon is called “quiet quitting.” But should it be more of a concern for employers?

An article by Harvard Business Review journalists Anthony C. Klotz and Mark C. Bolino suggests that quiet quitting may be “worse than the real thing.” As a result, leaders should not trivialize the problem. It is thought to have originated from a movement in China that happened last year called “lying flat” according to an article in the New York Post. Now, employees around the globe are embracing this movement to combat workload stress and job burnout.

What Are the Signs of Quiet Quitting?

Let’s begin with the telltale signs someone is this qphase. This type of employee used to be the person who would go above and beyond to get work done, but now does the bare minimum.

This employee is rarely involved in any optional work, preferring to do only what is required. In addition, the employee may not submit quality work or adhere to deadlines.

Overall, the employee’s engagement, attitude and commitment have taken a sharp dive. With the evident signs of quiet quitting, the question to ask is whether this person has one foot out the door. Is that employee just barely hanging on, waiting for the next opportunity?

It is not if that employee will leave the organization; it is when. As a manager or other organizational leader, a question to yourself is whether that employee is valued and worth keeping. If so, what will it take for that employee to improve his or her commitment to the organization?

Why Do Employees Quiet Quit?

So why do some employees “quiet quit?” There are many reasons, and most are related to leadership, culture, and the work environment. Other causes may be personal and unrelated to work at all.

Employees often quiet quit because they feel overworked, under-compensated, undervalued or micromanaged. Other times, they do not think they are given the resources they need to do their jobs.

Employer Strategies to Combat Quiet Quitting

To retain their best workers, leaders should prioritize clear and frequent communication. Those employees who have demonstrated competence and reliability are often those who receive the least amount of communication. Leaders should ensure that all employees understand their intent and expectations when communicating with employees.

In addition, any contact from company leaders should be caring. Managers should periodically check in with their employees to see how they feel about their job duties, workload, resources and support.

Gathering employee feedback through a 360-degree review or manager assessment is another good strategy to get a pulse on an employee’s level of commitment and satisfaction with a job. Klotz and Bolino suggest leaders must create a caring environment where employees feel safe coming forward with their concerns. Do not underestimate the leader’s impact here.

Employee Strategies for Regaining Enthusiasm for Work

As an employee, you could be quiet quitting and not even know it. For instance:

  • Is your commitment to the organization going down?
  • Is the idea of reporting to work insufferable?
  • Are you feeling unappreciated and even a little pessimistic about work?
  • Have you started looking for other opportunities?

If so, you may be in a quiet quitting phase. What are the best strategies to combat it to be fair to you and your employer? You owe it to yourself and your employer to at least try to work through the struggles you’re having.

A good starting point is to list the pros and cons of your job. What do you enjoy about your job, and what are your fundamental pain points? What needs to happen for those pain points to be removed or reduced?  

Once you have this list, share your honest observations with your leader. One of the best strategies is to be honest about how you feel about your job. Contact your manager if he or she has yet to check in with you to see how you are doing.

Often, just getting your thoughts and feelings off your chest will help you feel better. If you have spent time collaborating with your leader and your attitude has stayed the same about your current job, it might be time to find another opportunity. Quiet quitting results in negative consequences for both the employer and the employee.

Quiet Quitting Should Definitely Be a Concern for All Employers

There are varying opinions on whether it should concern employers or if it is another buzzword to quickly dismiss. We know, however, we are in a time of employee power, and many employees feel less commitment and less invested in their organizations. Now is an excellent time to highlight the potential for employees to quiet quit and the importance of leadership and communication to preserve the employer-employee relationship.

Dr. Stacey Little is the Department Chair of Management and Human Resource Management. She earned her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and her Ph.D. in Global Leadership with an Organizational Management Specialization from Indiana Institute of Technology. Her research interests are in barriers to employee relationships, the ethical dimensions of leadership and global leadership development.

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