The rise of quiet quitters in the workplace

Question: Can there be anything more harmful to your business than an employee so disengaged that he or she has to be terminated?

Answer: Yes. An employee who falls under the category of a “quiet quitter.”

If you’ve heard the term “quiet quitter,” you are at least somewhat informed.

If not, it’s high time you learned it because, according to a recent Gallop poll, upwards of half the U.S. workforce falls into this very dangerous category.

What is quiet quitting?

Investopedia defines quiet quitting this way: Quiet quitting refers to doing the minimum requirements of one’s job and putting in no more time, effort or enthusiasm than absolutely necessary. As such, it is something of a misnomer, since the worker doesn’t actually leave their position and continues to collect a salary.

The trend came to the attention of the Gallup company which fielded a survey in 2022 to learn more about this topic

Based on the results of that survey, Gallup found that with only 32% of employees saying they are “engaged,” the company concluded  that quiet quitters could make up more than 50% of workers in the U.S.

The study also determined that the issue of quiet quitting appears to more prevalent among young workers. Specifically, the survey indicated that the percentage of engaged employees under the age of 35 dropped by six percentage points from 2019 to 2022.

Some observers worry that the trend toward quiet quitting — staying on the job, but doing the bare minimum — could spread, especially at a time when most jobs require extra effort to play catch-up from damage done by the pandemic.

The Gallup poll and other studies strongly suggest that employees have become less engaged, in part, because managers have not been highly engaged themselves, nor have they given clear direction regarding employee responsibilities and expectations.

The drop in engagement began in the second half of 2021 and was concurrent with the rise in job resignations. Managers, among others, experienced the greatest drop.

The overall decline was especially related to clarity of expectations, opportunities to learn and grow, feeling cared about, and a connection to the organization’s mission or purpose — signaling a growing disconnect between employees and their employers.

And just as unhappy customers tend to be very vocal about their discontent with a company or its products, actively disenfranchised employees are quick to voice their discontent, often on social media platforms such as TikTok, to tell the world how terrible their jobs are.

Also, troubling, according to the Gallup survey, is that most employees who are not engaged or actively disengaged are already looking for another job.

The Gallup poll, which is based on a random sample of 15,091 full- and part-time U.S. employees age 18 and over, surveyed in June of 2022,  also found that:

  • The percentage of engaged employees under the age of 35 dropped by four percentage points from 2019 to 2022. And during the same time, the percentage of actively disengaged employees increased by six points.
  • Younger workers have dropped nine or more points in the percentage who strongly agree that someone cares about them, someone encourages their development, and they have opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Fully remote and hybrid young workers dropped nine points in strong agreement that someone encourages their development.
  • Disturbingly, less than four in 10 young remote or hybrid employees clearly know what is expected of them at work.

Since the study determined that poor management is a clear symptom of quiet quitting, it suggests the following actions to minimize  the issue:

Companies struggling with problems associated with quiet quitting should first examine the engagement of managers. Since the study determined that only one in three managers is engaged at work, it suggests that senior leadership reskill their managers to win in today’s hybrid work environment.

Managers, for their part, need to learn how to help workers reduce burnout and disengagement.

Gallup said the best tactic for managers to adopt is to have one meaningful conversation per week with each employee.

Lastly, managers need to help employees understand how their work contributes to company’s goals and stated mission.

In business, as in life, you are only as strong as your weakest link. Think team. Work smart. Stay strong!

One thought on “The rise of quiet quitters in the workplace

  1. Great editorial Ray. I would see many retail sales people when I visited numerous furniture stores not seem to give a dam about anything. I believe the store owners must do everything in their power to make their employees feel wanted. That would include sales contests, events that rewarded them with extra bonuses , paid vacations, and a lot more. The store owners can change their attitude and when they do their salespeople will change to

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