Don't Hate the Quiet Quitters: Lessons for Managers » Mind Tools Blog
A man checks his watch at his desk, to suggest quiet quitting.

Don’t Hate the Quiet Quitters: Lessons for Managers

September 8, 2022

© Getty Images/Yuri_Arcurs

The term “quiet quitting” has been generating a lot of debate online. Originating from a TikTok video, the term has been interpreted in different ways, and has divided opinion.

What Is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting is not what it might sound like. It doesn’t mean quitting your job, slacking, or “checking out.” It’s about performing your role but staying within your contracted hours, and “quitting” anything beyond your contracted duties. The idea is that doing so protects your wellbeing and makes space for other priorities in your life.

This isn’t a new concept, but the way we work has been evolving, spurred by advances in technology and the COVID pandemic. But quiet quitting is resonating with people now and stirring debate. So, what can we learn from it?

Where Has Quiet Quitting Come From?

Our social media era loves to put a label on trends and sentiment, and the pandemic and other ongoing crises have spawned their fair share.

Quiet quitting has joined the new language of work, alongside “the new normal,” “the great resignation,” “the great re-evaluation,” and “the end of ambition.”

The rise of “hustle culture” in the U.S. in the 1990s was all about “striving for more,” in the belief that it would lead to success and financial reward. But it led to examples of toxic and exploitative environments, as companies expected more and more from their people – but didn’t always deliver the expected rewards.

Psychologist and leadership coach, Jacinta M. Jiménez, says, “We often buy into the myth that relentless productivity only comes with rewards, when in actuality, it comes with a costly price, too.”

With hybrid and remote working, work has bled into our homes and lives like never before. And while this creates some great freedom and flexibility, for some it can mean that no healthy boundaries exist.

Quiet quitters are not disengaging or slacking, despite what the name implies, but just doing their work without overextending. In other words, they’re setting boundaries.

It doesn’t mean that they think work is unimportant, or that they won’t do a good job. People are still doing their work and being productive; they just aren’t giving more to jobs that don’t give back.

If people feel unappreciated, or feel that they have to severely compromise their work-life balance, are underpaid, or are denied career-growth opportunities, then it makes sense that they would set boundaries and limitations on such organizations.

Why Now?

Quiet quitting appears to be a reaction to fatigue and stress by workers after two years of living in a pandemic. These are people who have reprioritized their life to fit work into it, not the other way around.

Younger workers in particular want meaningful jobs and careers that match their passions, values, and sense of purpose. They want work to blend with their life, not be their life.

A 2022 Deloitte study found that work-life balance, and learning and development opportunities, were the top priorities for Millennial and Gen Zs workers when choosing an employer. It also found that nearly 40 percent of younger workers had rejected a job based on their sense of ethics.

When we are not working with purpose, when we are not recognized and rewarded for the great work we do, and when our wellbeing is not prioritized, this can all contribute to feeling disengaged with work. And this can lead people to quiet quit.

What’s the Real Conversation Around Quiet Quitting?

Perhaps the conversation should be less about the quiet quitters and more about the organizations and work cultures that have labelled “doing a good job within your contracted hours” as “quitting.”

Burnout coach, Erayna Sargent, says, “The conversation on quiet quitting is being spun as if employees don’t want to do their job. But the real discussion should be focused on what companies have done to deserve their employees’ discretionary effort.”

Years ago, people thought that technology would bring freedom and flexibility, and the promise of fewer working hours and more time for leisure.

But the opposite seems to have happened. Many people are working more hours than ever before, chained to their relentless virtual calls, answering instant messages while brushing their teeth, and opening their laptops in bed at night.

Workers are realizing that this is not making them happy or more productive. Instead, it’s robbing them of their personal and family time – and now they’re claiming it back.

What Can Leaders and Managers Do to Support Quiet Quitters?

Leaders and managers can see this as an opportunity to check in with their people and reengage them with honest communication. A good start is to ask them what really interests and motivates them, and let them prioritize their efforts accordingly.

It’s also important to prioritize mental health and wellbeing, to avoid staff burnout. Managers need to help team members to prioritize their workloads and keep them manageable; to have clear goals; and to look out for the signs of stress.

One of a manager’s key roles is to develop and coach their employees to fulfill their potential, enjoy the work they do, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. The result is likely to be people motivated to go “above and beyond” and to expand their skill sets.

For example, Mind Tools champions schemes and initiatives aimed at boosting employee engagement and job satisfaction. Our “Talent Space” program offers opportunities for any employee to work in another team, and “Mind Schools” is a monthly presentation of new skills and ideas.

A little praise goes a long way, so managers should recognize and celebrate the good work that their people do. And not just the “one-off” successes: they should applaud the work and efforts of those who consistently do excellent work.

Perhaps then quiet quitting will quietly quit!

What’s your experience of quiet quitting as a manager or team member? Let us know in the Comments, below.

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