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Quiet quitting: TikTok trend or HR nightmare?

Last updated

27 November 2023


Claire Bonneau

Reviewed by

Shawnna Johnson

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In 2023, “quiet quitting” became a dreaded term in many professional industries. It refers to employees making the active decision to no longer go above and beyond within their job role. And it’s creating tension between employees, higher-level management, and C-suite executives.

How can you tell if your team is engaging in quiet quitting, and can you prevent it?

Keep reading to discover the tell-tale signs of quiet quitting and how to combat the negative impact of this phenomenon.

What is quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting (also known as soft quitting) occurs when an employee covertly decides to no longer fully engage in their work. They focus on doing the bare minimum to get by and sometimes fly under the radar. 

Quiet quitting is hard to detect until real performance issues or absenteeism occurs.

Employees participating less in their role means they can significantly impact the team's overall productivity, morale, and level of support. 

First popularized on TikTok in 2022, quiet quitting became well-known as many people reassessed their pre-pandemic working habits and routines.

With quiet quitting, people are less interested in equating their value with their professional output. It’s a detachment from the hustle of many high-performing, demanding corporate jobs. 

While moving away from hustle culture benefits mental health, it’s still negatively affecting workplace culture and community.

Quiet quitting isn’t an employee-only problem

It’s tempting to assume that quiet quitting is an employee-sourced issue within an organization. However, it’s actually indicative of a much more insidious, high-level problem within your teams and workplace.

Employees who feel unsupported, overworked, and underappreciated for their work are more likely to covertly disengage from their jobs. That changes the course of their future within the company and negatively impacts your team’s productivity levels. And your bottom line.

Because of this, companies must urgently identify and resolve quiet quitting behaviors.

Examples of quiet quitting in the workplace 

To tackle quiet quitting behavior within your team, you first need to be able to identify it. 

While it can be difficult to define this phenomenon specifically, one of the biggest tells is a dramatic shift in an employee’s engagement at work. 

When this occurs, you may notice one or more of the following changes:

  • Not volunteering to take leadership roles in group projects

  • Taking longer than usual to complete their work but still meeting the deadline

  • Not engaging or providing feedback during meetings unless directly asked

  • Intentionally avoiding or skipping workplace social activities 

  • Actively turning down developmental work assignments

  • Taking longer than usual to reply to emails or instant messages

  • A higher-than-normal number of sick or absent days

  • General lack of enthusiasm

How to identify quiet quitting within your company

If you’re concerned about possible quiet quitting within your organization, there are a few ways to identify troublesome behaviors sooner rather than later:

Anonymous employee surveys & stay interviews

Asking for employee feedback about their work expectations, general engagement and enjoyment, and workplace culture is a great way to check in with your team.

For accurate results, anonymity is important. That means you can’t track answers to a particular person if they provide honest opinions.

Once you’ve collected the survey data, analyze it and discuss the results with upper management and the overall team. 

This means the company can use the results as a jumping-off point for culture improvements, allowing the team to share their opinions on improving.

Stay interviews involve one-on-one meetings with highly valued employees to learn more about their working experience. 

The manager goes through a series of questions to learn what motivates and keeps employees engaged. They can also cover what the employee doesn’t like about their role, providing a valuable feedback opportunity. 

These interviews are intentionally very positive and supportive, aiming to boost retention. 

Note: Employee surveys are most impactful when your company regularly asks for feedback. We recommend quarterly or half-yearly anonymous employee engagement and sentiment surveys for the best results. This allows you to track trends more accurately.

Tracking productivity KPIs

You can check baseline productivity metrics to see the impact of quiet quitting behaviors.

Identifying changes is significantly easier if your company is already tracking these metrics. If not, now is a great time to set up an internal productivity monitoring system so you can collect data and better understand your baseline.

Internal interest in upcoming projects and promotions

Noticed a change in your team’s level of motivation or interest in future-oriented opportunities within the company? This is likely a sign that your employees are disengaged and need additional support.

Additionally, looking into data about who is and isn’t applying for promotion opportunities is another way to identify people struggling with burnout and dissatisfaction.

Monitoring workplace culture

In many cases, you may physically feel a shift in workplace culture when people disengage from their roles.

Maybe you’ve noticed a higher rate of absenteeism, less participation in fun workplace events, and general discontent within your team. That means it’s time to pursue strategies to combat quiet quitting behaviors before they become more severe.

Four ways your company can combat quiet quitting 

Combatting quiet quitting within your organization begins and ends with improving your workplace culture practices. 

Employees who feel respected, valued, and appreciated are significantly less likely to disengage than those who feel unfairly treated.

The first step to address this problem is to improve your company culture.

These impactful initiatives can better support employees and address quiet quitting behaviors:

Improve manager leadership skills

Compassionate, empathetic leaders are essential for improving their teams’ morale and motivation. Supporting and encouraging continual training is ideal for keeping all employees engaged. And that includes management. 

Improving your company’s management by paying for managerial courses, conferences, and training sessions makes a powerful impact on the day-to-day work experience of all employees. 

If in doubt, schedule your manager or leader to complete a 360-degree assessment. This will provide insight into how they interact with colleagues, managers, and direct reports.

Invest in workplace culture

The workplace is more than a set of cubicles for getting work done. Investing in workplace culture practices shows your team that you appreciate their efforts and input. 

You can show your employees that you value them through incentive programs and regular team-building activities.

A happy team is an engaged and productive one. That’s a major reason why well-loved companies across all industries are known for their workplace culture programs. 

If in doubt, ask your employees to tell you about the culture. You’ll gain incredible insights and pinpoint any issues.

Encourage work-life balance practices

Burnout and stress are huge factors that contribute to quiet quitting. Encouraging your team to take time off is important in fostering a more inclusive and productive workplace culture. 

Part of that may include taking work off their plate if they struggle to take time off for themselves. No one wants to return to an even bigger task list after a relaxing week away. Employees may avoid taking time off because of this concern.

A great antidote for this is finding opportunities to cross-train employees. This way, no one employee is responsible for carrying the burden. Employees on leave can enjoy their break knowing their work is covered, so the team will be fine without them. 

Additionally, regularly checking in with employees about their stress and workload can draw valuable insights into your company’s productivity and processes. 

Support and appreciate your team

A team that feels appreciated, respected, and valued is more likely to be productive and engaged. 

Avoid the resentment and frustration caused by missed recognition opportunities by committing to regular employee appreciation practices. 

Recognizing your team and any high-achievers with monetary, social, or fun rewards is an excellent way to show your support. It also creates a more enjoyable work environment and boosts morale.

Tackling quiet quitting by improving your workplace culture

Is your company struggling with quiet quitting?

If so, it’s time to look inward. Address any workplace culture issues and find ways to support and encourage your employees to remain engaged and fulfilled at work.

Left unchecked, quiet quitting can seriously impact your product and service quality, team productivity, and overall bottom line.

It’s time to invest and commit to improved workplace culture practices to better support your workers. The results will be worth the effort.

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