Quiet Quitting Isn’t a Movement: It’s a Side Effect

Did you know about 50% of the U.S. workforce feels burnt out, frustrated by workplace expectations, underappreciated by their employers or some combination thereof? Since late 2021, dissatisfied employees have taken to social media to express their lack of engagement at work and thoughts on workplace culture. Banded together on platforms such as LinkedIn with #quietquitting, posts about workers’ trials at work and coping mechanisms have blossomed into a widespread phenomenon.

Is quiet quitting simply a sign that employees are losing interest in their work, or is it a side effect of larger issues? Let’s dive into what quiet quitting means, what might be causing it and different ways to address it.

What is quiet quitting?

The quiet quitting label might lead you to imagine an employee exiting their company without much notice and without a specific reason. The way the term is used today, it simply refers to employees performing their basic job duties without taking on tasks outside their job descriptions or spending extra time to build social and professional relationships with colleagues.

Some employers see this as a symptom of laziness or negativity, while others recognize that many employees are not satisfied with their jobs. Without a sense of satisfaction, workers are less likely to perform to the best of their abilities or take on new challenges. With this in mind, let’s consider some of the elements of workplace culture that seem to be contributing to quiet quitting.

Why are people quietly quitting?

The tendency for employees to do the bare minimum can be a product of many different factors: burnout, desire for a healthier work-life balance or constant miscommunication with colleagues and leadership. After evaluating online discussions of quiet quitting on social media platforms like LinkedIn, I have seen many similar sentiments. Why go to a team happy hour after work when you have kids waiting at home? Why put off that bucket list vacation just to avoid using PTO?

Stress and anxiety are a main factor in the quiet quitting phenomenon. A recent survey found that 40 percent of people experience high levels of stress and burnout on a regular basis. When our jobs weigh this heavy on our minds and bodies, it’s difficult to meet the minimum expectations of our roles, let alone go above and beyond to help a teammate or take on an extra project.

Some quiet quitters have also voiced discontent with the balance of their work and personal lives. Workers are sacrificing several aspects of life outside work, such as pursuing romantic relationships, spending time with family and friends and getting adequate sleep. In a role where the employee is required to work late nights or join calls during PTO, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate work and personal lives, which is yet another factor contributing to employee burnout.

Today’s quiet quitters have also identified miscommunication and a lack of transparency from leadership as a source of frustration. Even if managers encourage a healthy work-life balance and outline growth opportunities, actual day-to-day expectations can remain unclear. In fact, only about half of workers are confident that they know what is expected of them. Without clear and understood expectations from both parties, the workplace can become a breeding ground for frustration, discouragement and discontent. Eventually, this can lead to a vicious cycle in which the employer perceives their employee as underperforming and the employee sees themselves as meeting expectations.

Larger implications on workplace culture

The quiet quitting discussion sheds light on what is important to employees today. What some supervisors see as quiet quitting may be an employee setting boundaries to maintain balance and prevent burnout. If quiet quitting is so prevalent that it trends on social media and sparks countless conversations surrounding workplace culture, then it’s probably time for organizations to reevaluate their priorities, day-to-day management and transparency.

As an employee, if you find yourself wanting to be a “quiet quitter,” it could be time to start a conversation with your manager or supervisor. For employers, if you find your employees are often burned out or disengaged, there might be a few things you need to address:

  • Setting clear, realistic expectations
    If the next big project requires your team to stay an hour late, or if you expect someone to take on a task that’s outside of their traditional scope, schedule a conversation with them in advance. Having clear expectations—and an opportunity to discuss them—avoids confusion and disappointment.

  • Encouraging balance
    You want your employees to feel engaged and positively challenged while on the clock. By the same token, they should also feel supported in taking time off. Employers need to make space for life’s unpredictable challenges, employees’ self-care and PTO. Being understanding of changing circumstances can go a long way in helping employees find a good work-life balance. Better balance means better work.

  • Providing feedback
    Giving feedback is valuable for opening lines of communication and aligning expectations between employer and employee. Companies that conduct regular feedback experience almost 15 percent lower turnover rates compared to those who don’t. Letting your employees know where they stand and how they can improve helps to contribute to positive workplace culture.
Regardless of our efforts, nearly all workplaces can become a source of stress and burnout, just as most employees are susceptible to toxic and challenging work environments. We all deal with it, and Clear Strategy Partners (CSP) is no exception. To foster a positive and productive environment to the best of their abilities, management at CSP actively tries to stay current and in tune with workplace culture considerations. This includes offering its employees thoughtful guidance with clear expectations and enough flexibility for them to develop a healthy work-life balance. CSP, a fully remote firm, also has a virtual open-door policy so employers can meet with management whenever they wish.

Looking ahead

With clear leadership and the flexibility for employees to develop a good work-life balance, workers are more likely to take pride in their work. Satisfied and motivated employees are often more excited to take on new challenges at work, produce more valuable work for clients, and are less likely to experience undue stress and burnout.

Upon closer examination of quiet quitting and feelings voiced by dissatisfied employees, the desire to quietly quit may not signify laziness or lack of ambition. Rather, quiet quitting is a symptom of larger issues within organizational culture. Maybe it is time to reconsider how we’re talking about quiet quitting and avoid placing blame on employees alone. Rather, let’s consider it a sign that we might need to reevaluate our organizations’ workplace culture, priorities, daily expectations and communication styles.
Audrey Hill

Senior Account Coordinator, Clear Strategy Partners