The “quiet quitting” phenomenon has swept through workplaces over the past few months. A multitude of viral TikTok videos coined the phrase.
Gallup analyzed quiet quitting in a September study and defined it as employees who are "not engaged" at work — people who do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job.
The media latched onto the idea that at least 50% of the U.S. workforce are quiet quitters. After the pandemic, shifts in roles because of the Great Resignation and a bleak outlook on economic trends, how can employees be expected to remain engaged and satisfied within their roles?
Treble sat down with Tom Perry, founder and Chief Career Officer at the career consulting agency Engaged Pursuit, to discuss whether the quiet quitting trend has any real substance or if it’s simply a TikTok trend taken too far. Perry spent 11 years at Microsoft, building and managing global teams, interviewing thousands of candidates and hiring hundreds of full-time employees.
At Engaged Pursuit, Perry specializes in career management, feeling good on the job and maximizing employee experience, primarily with the same type of technology organizations that become Treble clients. After seven years of working with various professionals and organizations, Perry finds that an optimized work experience is challenging to put into practice because organizations suffer from a lack of resources to create an engaging environment.
Perry believes quiet quitting reflects just that. It’s not that employees are intentionally choosing to slack off and avoid being part of an overall team. But their work environments are making it easy for them to do so.
Quiet quitting is, as Perry described, a disappointing and non-empowering way of “having a job.” Putting the job function in those terms takes the power and autonomy of work away from the employee, and it limits how organizations — and ultimately employees — can maximize overall experiences.
Quiet quitting is nothing more than a new version of being actively disengaged. Compared to the Great Resignation in early 2022, quiet quitting is just a twisted reflection. The Great Resignation saw action: employees leaving their jobs to pursue greater opportunities — often for higher compensation. Quiet quitting, in contrast, involves a lack of action. The act is internal, comprising individual employee experiences.
An Organizational Fix
What TikTok and media outlets made out to be an issue of minimal employee effort is instead an overall organizational issue. Companies should create safe, comfortable environments where employees can openly discuss burnout and disconnect. This now falls into the hands of managers to implement, especially in remote workforces.
Organizational solutions to employee disengagement aren’t an overnight fix, but there are many steps companies can take to prevent quiet quitting from becoming even a thought.
For one, job descriptions can and should better encapsulate the daily functions of the roles they define. With a more robust description, companies can have real conversations with candidates early-on about culture, which limits the number of surprises they may face while on the job.
Communication is key. Managers should discuss boundaries and workflow expectations. When employees are offered a transparent view of proposed responsibilities, it creates a healthier environment for them to connect to the organization. Open communication also allows employees to take these conversations public with their managers and colleagues when burnout begins to show.
Social Media’s Good, Bad and Ugly
TikTok’s amplification of quiet quitting was not necessarily a bad thing. Social media posts have an opportunity to create awareness for and augment important conversations. It’s inherently good for employees, especially younger ones, to question their work. With the concept of quiet quitting now a reality, creators and influencers of the trend can hope that it creates real action: best practices, workplace solutions, and help and guidance.
Perry pointed out that the unhealthy aspect of amplifying these types of trends is when they turn into unproductive rants about a job. He noted that creators stirred the pot with quiet quitting and got the media attention they desired. But they also normalized the flawed, disengaged mindset when employees get to a place of quiet quitting. It’s unhealthy to remain in a place of mental disconnect and resentment toward your company because of a TikTok video, Perry said.
Positive Thinking Trickles Up and Down Throughout an Organization
As organizations continue to navigate what open communication structures look like and further establish engaging environments for their employees, individuals can take an additional step to ensure they’re actively working toward a healthy and communicative stance with their employers.
Individuals can think about body language, attentiveness and promptness with regard to meetings. They also can be proactive in offering added value propositions and new ideas that benefit their teams and their organization. Employees adopting a more holistic view of their job functions combined with companies that support and listen will go a long way toward minimizing, or better yet, dismantling the phenomenon of quiet quitting.