< Back to news

Quiet Quitting: What is it and how to prevent it?

By Emma Tee on

12 months ago, the term “Quiet Quitting” was barely a whisper and by August 2022, Google saw the search term skyrocket! ?

It’s a new phenomenon, a term on everybody’s lips and an issue that a good few employers are experiencing, with one in three UK workers reportedly citing that they have “quiet quit” their job, according to BetterUp. Before we can go into how you prevent your employees from quiet quitting, first we need to discuss what it means and why we’ve seen such an increase.

What is quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting isn’t the same as your traditional resignation, it’s not downing tools and walking out of a role, instead, it’s remaining in the role and doing the bare minimum that a job requires. It’s undertaking only the responsibilities listed in the job description and nothing more. These employees are actively disengaged, there are hushed whispers of their dissatisfaction swimming around the office, and it’s likely that their enthusiasm has started to wane and their effort is lacking. 

It feels strange that we’ve got to a place where employers expect their people to go above and beyond, but we do, and quiet quitting is seemingly a two-finger salute to that. Needless to say, we’ve had a rough couple of years – we experienced a worldwide pandemic, a Prime Minster that couldn’t understand the premise of a party, and are now in the midst of a cost of living crisis – people are burnt out and are frankly fed up of putting their all in and not being recognised for it, so they’re not. 

You may be thinking “If that’s how my employees feel, why don’t they just leave?” and that’s a solid question to ask. However, there are many reasons why they choose not to up sticks and move. 

It could be that they don’t want to step into a competitive marketplace. Despite the job market being in favour of the employee, it’s still difficult to take the leap and start a job search. Navigating interviews, rejections, and handing in that resignation letter isn’t something that any of us enjoy. As a species, we’re not that into confrontation (unless we’re watching it kick off on Love Island ?️ or Married at First Sight ?), and that awkward time between handing in your notice and your final day, isn’t the envy of anyone!

Changing jobs is also a slog and not to mention daunting. You have to introduce yourself to a whole new team, learn about the company and the new processes, and what if it’s not the job that was promised to you? How does that jump in and out of a company look on a CV? In some cases, it’s better the devil you know.

Eventually, those who have quiet quit will leave, it’ll just take them more time to jump. 

We mentioned that it’s a competitive job market out there, and that is one of the main reasons why you need to turn those around who are quiet quitting. Take it from us that replacing those that do take the leap is hard work. Candidates aren’t moving like they used to, the market is more stagnant that it has been for a while and the hiring process is more drawn out than ever. Prevention here is key, but before we get into how you can prevent it, it’s time to get into why people are deciding to quiet quit.

We touched on this earlier, but one of the biggest reasons why employees are making the choice to quiet quit is because they’re not being rewarded for their hard work. Step into most companies and you’ll see people staying late, getting in early, eating lunch at their desk, working around the clock to get that pitch in, and answering emails at all times. You’ll also likely see their wage has increased 2% in three years and they’ve not had more than a “Cheers for that” comment at the watercooler. Over time, you can see how that would grind someone down. 

Another reason is that they feel stagnant, both with the work they do and their development. People want progression, they want opportunities and want their needs met. They’ve demonstrated they’re capable and eager to learn and it’s not been noticed. 

And finally, culture. Culture is King in today’s market. A lot of people don’t want to be part of a culture that boasts the “work hard, play hard” culture, they don’t want to be in an environment that positively encourages going above and beyond and only being recognised when you do. The 4 Day Work Week has been talked about more in the past 12 months than ever before and it’s for good reason, people want a healthy work/life balance.

Once you get to grips with that, turning things around and preventing people from quiet quitting seems achievable. 

First, you need to really grasp how your employees feel. Anonymous satisfaction surveys can really help with this as they’ll give you a good overview of where you’re falling short and will provide insights into how people are feeling. Send these surveys regularly and encourage open and honest feedback, even if you don’t want to hear it. Your people are the ones who are on the shop floor every day, they know what’s going on, what’s going wrong, and what they’d like to see from you as their employer.

Once you’ve gathered your data, it’s important that you implement direct changes from it. This will encourage people to continue putting their thoughts forward and in turn will improve the culture as people are being listened to – who wouldn’t want to be part of a company like that?!

Next, you’ll want to work on the culture. Encouraging open and honest communication and showing that you’re listening is a box that’s already ticked, so next it’s time to foster an inclusive, supportive culture and recognise your people. 

Invest in the softer things, train a select number of employees in Mental Health First Aid, promote months such as “Black History Month” and days such as ‘Employee Appreciation Day’ and continue to look at the company’s approach to diversity. It’s also worth implementing incentives for employees – if someone has done a good job call it out and shout it from the rooftops, if someone has gone above and beyond take them for a Costa break or take their team to lunch, if someone has been working over let them take Friday afternoon off when things cool down. It’s give and take and recognising and rewarding employees’ achievements and behaviours shouldn’t be regularly overlooked.

Next, you’ll want to focus on your people as individuals. Nurture them and foster a workplace that actively encourages progression and development. Invest in them and their career, understand their strengths and weaknesses, hear them when they tell you where they see their career going and support them in getting there. Offer clear progression paths, buddy them up with those who are more experienced and invest in training, and when they’re ready to take that next step, enable it. 

And, we know things are tight at the moment, but if you can, seriously look at salary increases. People are struggling, we’ve seen Nurses and Teachers on picket lines, we’ve seen Junior Doctors put their stethoscopes down, and those sitting in your company are likely feeling the pinch too – so if you are in a position to raise wages, we’d encourage you to do it. 

By taking these measures you can combat quiet quitting and build a workplace where employees feel valued, engaged, and motivated.