Quiet Quitting: What it Means for Company Culture
Quiet Quitting: What it Means for Company Culture

Quiet Quitting: What it Means for Company Culture

Leadership Development, Employee Learning & Development, Hybrid Workforce, Company Culture, Employee Well-being   — 4 MIN


These days, terms like Great Resignation, unplugging, and remote work are all over the place. From navigating transitions back to the office, creating fully remote positions, or adopting hybrid schedules, organizations have experienced a lot of change since the start of the pandemic. Some of these changes have resulted in more flexible options for employees, but other changes have led to employees taking on more in response to challenges, such as layoffs. Over time, this added stress on employees can pave way for a phenomenon now dubbed “quiet quitting.”

What is quiet quitting?

The term hit the mainstream after a TikTok video went viral. The concept is often described as refusing to take on extra effort beyond your main responsibilities (without being fairly compensated for the additional work), setting clear boundaries surrounding work-life balance, and maintaining standard work hours. The pandemic has impacted everyone in different ways, and many people are no longer willing to define themselves purely by their jobs.

How does this new term compare to the need for establishing a healthy work-life balance we've been talking about for years?

Isn’t this just a Gen Z thing?

Gen Z may be responsible for promoting the term via social media, but the concept is not new. Gen Z entered a workplace unlike any generation before them—navigating both the social injustice movements and the global pandemic. They have challenged many of the corporate pillars that have been around for decades. This puts pressure on organizations as they learn how to manage and weave in these generational differences in this new world of work. Peter Cohan, Founder of Peter S. Cohan & Associates outlines four ways for organizations to help their youngest workers stay engaged:

  1. Make company values clear
    Employees don’t respond well to a bait and switch style of management, and it does not bode well for creating a positive work culture. Make sure that you set the overall expectations for the role during the interview process to help ensure that you and the candidate are on the same page from day one. Set the scene with transparency and honesty to create trust between the candidate and the organization and minimizes the risk of scaring someone away that could be a good fit.

  2. Solicit feedback from Gen Z employees
    Since Gen Z is the newest in the workforce, they are most likely still in the “doer” vs “manager” phase of their careers. As such, they are more likely to be in the weeds of the day-to-day interactions with clients, tasks, and projects and can be a great resource to gain feedback.

  3. Discover ways to re-engage your people
    Since one of the features of quiet quitting is prioritizing work-life balance, organizations should figure out how they can provide employees with opportunities to pursue their passions while remaining engaged with their work. For example, provide employees PTO that is specifically used for volunteer work to allow people to find time during their workday to give back and participate in activities that are meaningful to them, giving them time back in their evenings/weekends to recharge.

  4. Hire workers that seek stretch opportunities and value a growth culture
    Bringing in people who desire to work for an organization where they can grow and climb the ladder creates a growth culture of high-performing employees. As a component of this culture, ensure that you offer these employees incentives and benefits that help them feel like valued members of the team and that their work is necessary and appreciated.

What impact does quiet quitting have on employee engagement?

The health of your organization’s culture has a strong influence on how widespread quiet quitting and resignations go. According to McKinsey & Company, the top three reasons employees are leaving their jobs are:

  1. Lack of career development/advancement opportunities
  2. Inadequate total compensation
  3. Lack of strong and compassionate leadership

McKinsey & Company’s report takes this a step further and breaks down the workforce into multiple personas to get a better perspective on what they need from their employer. The personas enable organizations to analyze the likelihood of these personas quiet quitting/resigning based on what matters most to them. These personas are:

  • Traditionalists – these are the mainstays of corporate culture and are mostly motivated by lucrative compensation and benefits.
  • DIYs – this group prioritizes flexible schedules, meaningful careers, and fair compensation.
  • Caregivers – this group’s main priority is flexibility, as they are also navigating taking care of children, parents, or other loved ones. They are looking for non-traditional forms of employment to support their flexibility needs.
  • Idealists – these are defined as students/part-time workers that feel work is more than just a paycheck and desire to feel part of a community.

What can organizations do to foster a culture of employee engagement?

A lack of engagement is a multi-faceted concept that organizations must be proactive towards to minimize the impact on their operations. HR Morning offers some ideas for how organizations can respond and address quiet quitting:

  1. Prioritize praise
    Many studies over the last few years have highlighted the importance of recognition and feeling appreciated as key components of healthy corporate cultures. It is inevitable that work can get busy or overwhelming from time to time but taking time to thank your employees for going above and beyond to get through a difficult time can go a long way in minimizing feelings of burnout and frustration. For example, dedicate a channel on your IM platform where employees and managers can thank colleagues for their help or hard work and, implement a rewards program where employees can receive points for their efforts and redeem them over time.

  2. Adapt to today’s work environment
    Today’s employees need more from their employer than a paycheck and benefits. They are looking for cultures that are well-rounded and support their overall well-being. Ensure that your organization offers programs or incentives that speak to the “fullness” of your employees, such as making therapy/mental health part of your healthcare benefits, unlimited PTO, or mandatory vacation periods. If you have in-office employees, ensure that your space is inviting and promotes productivity. For example, creating huddle rooms and private offices allows employees to focus on detailed assignments, have 1:1 meetings, or get a moment of quiet. Amenity spaces are also a great way to encourage people to come into the office. Additionally, finding ways to ease the feeling of working on an island that working remotely brings can help employees establish individual connections and feel more connected to the company culture.

  3. Provide career guidance
    With high turnover rates and a hot job market, organizations need to retain as much of their key talent as possible. Top talent is continually looking for ways to market themselves and remain competitive, so providing them with opportunities to upskill and grow their careers internally can help them stay for the long haul. Developing a strong internal talent pipeline by utilizing mentors and learning providers such as Blue Ocean Brain, can help your employees gain the skills they need to take their careers to the next level. Successful organizations pay attention to top performers and young professionals on the rise and invest in their growth early on.

The pandemic has changed the corporate landscape in unprecedented ways. Gone are the days when everyone wants to work late and come in early to get ahead. People want the flexibility to be more present with family, travel, and donate their time to causes they care about. Quiet quitting may not be as explosive as the Great Resignation, but pouring into your employees can help calm the storm before it starts.