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There’s Nothing Quiet About Quiet Quitting

Picture this: you're sitting at your desk, typing away on your computer, but, deep down, you feel a sense of disconnect. You're going through the motions, completing tasks, but there's no passion or excitement driving you forward. It's like you're physically present, but mentally checked out.

This is exactly how quiet quitting starts. It's a collection of small signs that go unnoticed until they accumulate over time. As an employer, chances are you don't even see the impending resignation coming until it's already too late.

Now, you're left one employee short and you don't know exactly what happened. What's worse, you probably have a few more employees quiet quitting on you, but you're unaware of it happening.

Luckily, there are things you can do to stop employees from quiet quitting. The first step is opening your eyes to problems in your organization you might not be aware of.

What causes quiet quitting

More often than not, quiet quitting is just the consequence of deeper organizational issues. It's the employees' answer to unfair workloads, toxic work environments, or general job dissatisfaction. As a matter of fact, six in 10 employees globally are quiet quitting as we speak for the following reasons:

1. They're dissatisfied with their jobs

Day in and day out, they're stuck doing the same repetitive tasks. Their job lacks variety and challenge, there's no creative thinking involved, and it feels boring and monotonous. They feel like they're not using their full potential and they don't have the opportunity to use their skills.

2. They're underpaid

Let's face it - the main reason people go to work is to be able to make money to do what they want to do after they get off work. Underpaying employees doesn't make them want to work more.

It makes them feel undervalued for their skills and overall contributions to your organization. Inadequate salary and benefits make employees feel like the company doesn't care about them, so why should they care about the company?

These days, it's very easy for employees to compare their salaries to industry standards. Pair that with comparing salaries with colleagues and finding out a new employee with less experience makes more than one that's been with the company for two years? You've got a quiet quitter in the making.

As an employer, what you pay your employees directly correlates to how much you appreciate them. No amount of pizza Fridays or ping-pong tables will change that. Oh, and one more thing - employees still discuss their salaries, despite that line in the contract that says they shouldn't.

3. They feel stuck

Whether it's a lack of opportunities for professional growth or no way of advancing from their current role, the result is the same. If your employees feel stagnant, they'll become disengaged sooner or later. If an employee feels trapped in their current role, they'll be looking to move on with another company.

4. Their work hours are eating into their personal hours

Being expected to reply to work emails or messages outside of working hours might not seem like a big deal, but to employees, it is. Realistically, they only owe you the hours you're paying them for, so you shouldn't expect them to do extra work for free.

Coupled with high workloads, tight deadlines, and unrealistic expectations? This soon becomes a high-pressure situation your employee wants out of.

5. There are leadership issues inside the organization

A lack of direction starts with a lack of guidance. Since employees rely on managers for support in dealing with work challenges, ineffective leadership makes them feel unsupported and neglected.

Whether it's inconsistent communication or unclear expectations, leadership issues cause confusion. Employees who don't understand what the end goal is and what's expected of them are bound to lose motivation to give it their all.

6. The work environment is toxic

Nobody would choose to stay in an environment that causes them increased stress and anxiety. A work environment doesn't need to include harassment to be considered toxic.

It can also look like a place of unhealthy competition, making employees feel pressured to outperform their colleagues at any cost. Or a place where people refuse to collaborate, creating an environment full of mistrust and animosity.

7. Their personal values don't align with the company culture

As humans, we all have personal values that guide our choices and behaviors. When those values don't align with the company culture, employees feel uncomfortable and dissatisfied.

For example, an employee who values time with their family won't do well in a company culture that encourages long hours. They might bite the bullet for a short time, but it won't be sustainable in the long run.

8. They feel invisible

When employees contribute to projects, meet goals, or go above and beyond their responsibilities without recognition, it makes them feel like their contributions are invisible. Without positive feedback and acknowledgement, they get the message that nothing they do matters anyway.

When you let hard work go unnoticed, you create disillusioned and demotivated employees. Soon, they start thinking about moving to another place where their efforts will be appreciated.

Recognizing the stages of quiet quitting

The reason why quiet quitting is dangerous for any organization is because it's not obvious. It's not dramatic. No slamming doors, loud arguments, or fiery discussions - just deliberate disassociation. 

And while an employer might not catch on soon enough, other employees most definitely will. And if they feel the same way as the employee in the process of quiet quitting, they might join in.

Quiet quitting starts small, then gradually escalates. It usually looks something like this:

1. Showing a lack of initiative

A previously engaged employee now has nothing to add. No suggestions, no opinions, no ideas, no solutions. It's like their default answers have become "I'm not sure" and "Whatever you think is best".

2. Limiting interactions

Your employee no longer spends their lunch break with the rest of the team. They avoid team discussions, suddenly can't participate in office events, and can't make it to team building activities. In meetings, they avoid speaking unless spoken to when they would usually pipe up on their own.

3. Doing the bare minimum

Tasks take longer to complete, the quality of work is only passable. The employee focuses on routine responsibilities and only takes care of the tasks that are absolutely necessary. They're doing just enough so that you can't say they aren't doing their job, but not as much as they used to.

4. Spending more time on anything but work

Their extended lunches are getting more and more extended day in and day out. They take more frequent breaks, sipping on coffee, visiting common areas, or talking to colleagues around the office.

5. Avoiding new projects

They avoid being part of a team on a new project, especially if it's one with a longer timeline or high stakes. They now prefer routine and low-risk assignments, when they used to love challenging projects.

6. Physical and emotional distancing

As time goes by, they start avoiding interactions that aren't absolutely necessary. They're physically present in collaborative sessions, but their mind is elsewhere. They seem disinterested in company goals and don't get excited about team achievements.

7. Job hunting

A few weeks into quiet quitting, your employee now has an updated resume and is actively looking at job boards. They're sending out applications left and right, and they start letting you know they won't be in on a random Wednesday.

8. Increased absences

Probably because of the point above. You've got to fit those job interviews somewhere!

What you can do to stop quiet quitting inside your company

If you're already seeing the early stages of quiet quitting in one or more of your employees, it's still not too late to stop them from leaving. What you need to do is identify the underlying reason and address it before it's too late.

Creating an environment where employees feel engaged and motivated is the first step. Encourage managers to have open and regular communication with their team members. This includes:

  • Checking in on their progress
  • Providing feedback
  • Offering support when needed

Another important aspect of job satisfaction is creating a sense of purpose for employees. When employees understand how their work contributes to the overall company goals, they're more likely to stay motivated and committed.

That said, don't forget to reward and recognize achievements. Employees need to feel valued for their hard work and dedication. Offer incentives such as bonuses or promotions instead of gym memberships, snack bars, and massage chairs.

Happy employees don't resort to quiet quitting

Employees who feel undervalued, unappreciated, stressed out, and underpaid do. To address quiet quitting effectively, you first have to take a long, hard look at how your employees are treated - from their perspective. Only when you've learned what isn't working for them can you start making the situation right.

Admitting you need help is the first step

The second one is signing up for Better Proposals. The first 14 days are on us.

Patricija Šobak's profile image
Patricija Šobak puts her talent in spotting questionable grammar and shady syntax to good use by writing about various business-related topics. Besides advocating the use of the Oxford comma, she also likes coffee, dogs, and video games. People find her ability to name classic rock songs only from the intro both shocking and impressive.