Skip to main content

Quiet Quitting: What Is It and What Does It Mean for the Workplace?

5 minute read

By Katie Ormsby

The term “quiet quitting” has spread like wildfire on social media. But the concept existed long before it trended on TikTok. While burnout, low pay, and unsatisfying work/life balances led some workers to join the Great Resignation, others “quietly quit” instead of actually quitting their jobs.

Quiet quitting means different things to different people. However, it’s generally seen as a response to hustle culture and burnout. We’ll explain what it looks like, why it might be good, and what managers can do about it. Let’s get into it.

What Is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting is when an employee stops going above and beyond their job description and level of compensation. While some view it as employees disengaging from work, others see it as employees maintaining healthy boundaries.

Examples of quiet quitting include declining to work nights, not responding to emails on weekends, and turning down extra projects. Basically, the employee fulfills their basic job responsibilities, but nothing more. However, it can veer into total disengagement. So, managers should keep an eye out.


Why It Might Be Good

Quiet quitting is a way for workers to protect themselves from burnout. Instead of wearing themselves out and becoming resentful of their employers, employees strike a better work/life balance. As a result, workers may feel more content, and turnover may decrease.

Healthline says research suggests “boundary setting is an effective way to boost well-being and protect against burnout.” It can empower employees to prioritize their personal time. For instance, quiet quitting can mean always taking your lunch break and clocking out promptly at the end of the day.


How It Can Backfire

On the other hand, quiet quitting can go beyond maintaining a healthy work/life balance. CNBC says the phenomenon can lead to a “lack of motivation, underdevelopment of skills, lack of flexibility and inability to work in a team setting.”

An employee who quietly quits can wind up without any emotional investment in their work. Consequently, they don’t get a sense of accomplishment from their job or develop new skills. Additionally, coworkers may feel like the quiet quitter isn’t pulling their weight.


What Causes Quiet Quitting

According to a Gallup survey, “at least half of the U.S. workforce is quiet quitting.” So, you’re not alone if you’ve noticed yourself disengaging from work to some extent. And employers, that means you likely have employees who are quietly quitting.

Knowing the causes can help employees and employers make sure quiet quitting doesn’t go too far. The source says the decline in engagement is “related to clarity of expectations, opportunities to learn and grow, feeling cared about, and a connection to the organization’s mission or purpose.”


People Quit Bad Managers, Not Bad Jobs

Whether it’s quietly quitting or actually quitting, there appears to be truth to the old adage “people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers.” For instance, another Gallup survey shows that “managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement.”

There is good news for employers. “Many managers of quiet quitters aren’t actively toxic or bad,” according to Forbes, “they’re just okay.” So, companies can help keep employees engaged by developing the leadership skills of their managers.


How Managers Can Make a Difference

Since employee engagement is linked to management, organizations concerned about quiet quitting may want to measure where their managers are and identify areas in need of improvement. According to Forbes, good managers:

  • Do what they say they will
  • Show they appreciate their team
  • Make employees feel confident about the future
  • Discuss career development
  • Listen to ideas and opinions

Leadership training should be an ongoing effort. That’s because attendees forget about 70% of the information within 24 hours of a training session, according to the source. Instead, the source suggests delivering learning in smaller but frequent doses.


Signs To Look For in Employees

While quiet quitting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, employers may want to monitor employees for signs of burnout. According to TechTarget, signs of quiet quitting that can indicate your employee is unhappy include:

  • Getting to work late or leaving early
  • Not participating in meetings or skipping altogether
  • Being less productive
  • Contributing less to team projects
  • Visibly less enthusiastic about work

If managers suspect burnout or quiet quitting, then they should check in with the employee. Make sure the employee’s workload is manageable and that they feel supported. Discuss what the employee needs to succeed.


What Is Quiet Firing?

Much like quiet quitting, quiet firing is another buzzword lightening up the internet. It’s a new name for something that’s been going on for ages. In a nutshell: a manager treats an employee so poorly that the employee eventually quits instead of being fired.

Fast Company says quiet firing can happen intentionally and unintentionally. For example, it can involve managers who stop investing in the employees’ development or give them assignments they know they don’t want to do. And it can be especially easy for managers who work remotely or manage too many people to do it without realizing it.


What To Do About Quiet Firing

If you’re an employee who thinks they might be getting quietly fired, then it’s time to be proactive. “Book time on the boss’s calendar,”  Fast Company recommends, “and explicitly ask for feedback.” Reach out to HR if you still don’t feel like you’re getting feedback on your concerns.

So, what can quiet firing look like? TechTarget has a few examples:

  • Increasing your workload without a raise
  • Denying time off requests
  • Expecting you to work nights and weekends
  • Leaving you out of the loop
  • Giving you the worst assignments
  • Overreacting to mistakes
  • Not meeting with you

The Bottom Line

Quiet quitting is a phenomenon that emboldens employees to take control of their work/life balance. While some see it as workers doing the bare minimum, others see it as employees refusing to go above and beyond — a subtle but important distinction.

It doesn’t mean employees are slacking, just that they’re not working extra hours or taking on additional projects. As a result, it can lead to better boundaries and less burnout. However, it can hinder career advancement, stifle relationships with coworkers, and signal unhappiness.


Katie Ormsby