What Quiet Quitting means to you

Do you have Quiet Quitters in your midst? Are they quitting on you, or on their lives in general? Why are they professing to this mindset, and what can you do about it? Quiet Quitting started on TikTok and is moving onto other social media through the “look at me” influencers. As the term is becoming more mainstream, what is it, and how do you deal with it?

The most appropriate and uncontroversial definition of Quiet Quitting is probably “not taking your job too seriously”. It has been adopted primarily by Gen Z and younger millennials, a lot of who joined the working world during the Covid-19 pandemic and was influenced by the blurred boundaries between work and life that this created, for instance through experiencing “working from home” (WFH).


A recent Gallup survey in the US found that 54% of those born after 1989 fall into this category, where their philosophy is to show up to work and do the minimum required but not much else. The idea is to stay on the payroll but focus on the things you do outside the workplace.

The proponents of Quiet Quitting say they are rejecting the idea of going above and beyond. They will work only the stipulated hours, and only do the tasks they were employed to do. Claiming that productivity and extra effort is not rewarded, they often also feel that their work has little purpose. Common signs of a Quiet Quitter are a tendency to jump onto social media rather than ask for additional tasks, not socialising with other colleagues, passing up training and other development opportunities and not taking on additional challenges. They are more likely to look out for themselves than their employer, not understanding for instance give and take.


In some ways, who can blame them for reaching this conclusion? It used to be that the best way to get rewarded (higher remuneration, promotions, extra incentives or rewards etc) was to put in an effort and get noticed, thereby climbing the corporate ladder. Not only did the Covid WFH experiment show a great number of people that they can cruise through the day largely unchallenged with little monitoring on performance or results, a lot of people feel overlooked for promotions. It is now quite common in many especially large corporations and Government organisations that the best candidate is overlooked because there are quotas imposed that favour certain groups. Call it whatever -ism you like (gender, race, age, etc), but most people see through what is actually happening but can’t openly voice their opinions and therefore quietly disengage from their work instead. Seeing underqualified and perhaps not even the second best candidate jump the promotions queue is very bad for company morale and employee engagement.


A study by Indeed Economist Callum Pickering released this week showed that a record 900,000 Australians have multiple jobs. Further, there has been an emergence of the Gig economy, which is often semi-self employment, that is, not counted in the statistics. Many other entrepreneurial people have started some kind of income generating activity on the side, which also won’t be in any employment figures. Some of this trend is due to attempts to deal with the increasing costs of living. Another driver is that life is simply too short, so people try to add things into their lives that they are more interested in and impact on them personally, and getting even a small income from an interest or hobby can be rewarding and satisfying.


Quitters and bludgers have existed in workplaces for decades, so is nothing new. Quiet Quitters vary of course from feet up on the desk passing time, to solid contributions but only within their work scope and hours. Much of this can be managed but takes effort from the organisation.


A key reason for the disengagement is that the work isn’t valued or lacks meaning. I remember myself many years ago having to write a weekly management report. It gave a comprehensive update on everything within my area, including raising topics for discussion and feedback from my manager. When week after week passed and it became clear that the report wasn’t even being read, let alone any feedback coming back, I started adding in content that really didn’t belong in the report and would have definitely prompted a reaction. Submitting the exact same report three weeks in a row for instance, adding in some jokes, or writing about things that had nothing to do with the company. Why was I spending hours of otherwise productive time on something that had no benefit to anyone? My reaction was to find a better company that had purpose and where I could make a difference.


There are things that can be done to turn a quiet quitter into a valued employee. Show appreciation of their work, even simple positive comments that their efforts (when deserved) get noticed. If they are after a better work-life balance, try to give it to them, but understand that under supervised remote work conditions such as working from home is the opposite of what these people need. Implement job relevant measurables on the individual role (not Team results). Listen to their feedback, and remove any “make work” tasks, as they generally see through the irrelevance of it. Many businesses can remove a lot of paperwork in particular that never adds any value to customer delivery nor the task being undertaken. Give them meaningful tasks instead, and if you can’t explain the meaning of the task to them (purely for “reporting” or “compliance” is not a good reason), it’s a good indication that it doesn’t need doing.


However, if things like developing the person through training or additional tasks isn’t working, let’s not kid ourselves. Keeping them on board brings a level of acceptance in the business that doing the bare minimum is an acceptable standard. From the perspective of the company or the employee, there is little point in keeping the relationship going. Those employees should be let go to find jobs that instead truly engage them. Let them quit on life somewhere else. That’s a win-win-win situation for the employee, the company and their colleagues.



Words from the wise

Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever – Lance Armstrong

If you quit once, it becomes a habit. Never quit. – Michael Jordan

A quitter never wins and a winner never quits. – Napoleon Hill

As always, onwards and upwards!

Fred Carlsson

General Manager

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