The impact of quiet quitting on business and how to address it

It is fair to say Kevin O’Leary knows a thing or two about business. Nicknamed ‘Mr Wonderful,’ the Canadian entrepreneur is estimated to be worth $400 million and has made a name for himself as one of the ‘sharks’ on business reality TV series Shark Tank. When O’Leary speaks, people tend to listen and that was the case when he recently set his sights on the latest buzz term to sweep the corporate world.

M_BlogT_The impact of quiet quitting on business

“If you’re a quiet quitter, you’re a loser. You’re unAmerican,” O’Leary declared. “I don’t know where this started. It’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard … this is like a virus. It’s worse than COVID.” Worse than a global pandemic that has killed more than 6.5 million people? That is a very big statement but also one that highlights why many organizations are rushing to not only understand exactly what ‘quiet quitting’ is but doing everything they can to ensure it does not have a negative impact on their bottom lines.

What is quiet quitting?

Google ‘quiet quieting’ and you’ll find many definitions but it is probably best to look to the words of the person who helped send the term viral. TikTok user Zaiad Khan (@zaidleppelin) posted a video where he spoke of learning about a new concept “where you’re not outright quitting your job but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond.”

“You are still performing your duties,” the 24-year-old software engineer said. “But you are no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is it’s not and your worth as a person is not defined by your labor.”

The 17-second video has now been viewed millions of times and inspired a movement of ‘Quiet Quitters’ who are passionately (but quietly) embracing the philosophy and prompted commentaries from the likes of CNN and The New York Times about the pros and cons of workers refusing to go the extra mile for their employers. While some claim quiet quitting is just a new term for staff disengagement or withdrawal, others see it as a direct result of the COVID environment where many employees got a taste for better work-life balance and were inspired to ask bigger questions about what really matters to them.

Regardless of its origins, business leaders across the world are grappling with an increasing number of employees doing the bare minimum, refusing to work outside allotted hours, saying no to additional responsibilities outside their job descriptions and placing less emphasis on career ambitions. While being a fully engaged and hard-working team member was once applauded, many colleagues now look at such people with pity rather than envy.

Needless to say, executives and managers have a vested interest in changing the narrative.

The impact of quiet quitting on business

There is an argument that quiet quitting is another term for people doing exactly what they are paid to do. They are still turning up and doing their core tasks – they are just refusing to do more than their job description prescribes. That may be so but there are various reasons organizations should be concerned that statistics show at least half of the U.S. workforce is quiet quitting. These include:

  • Most jobs cannot be defined in a formal contract so businesses rely on staff to occasionally step up
  • Staff who are unwilling to go the extra mile increase the burden on their colleagues to take on additional work
  • Productivity levels decline when staff feel less motivated to deliver positive results
  • Customer service can suffer if team members are committed to doing only as much as they need to
  • Succession planning is increasingly difficult due to less people being invested in promotions and career progression
  • A heightened risk of negative morale and company culture
  • Increasing difficulty for managers to address such issues if employees prefer to ‘quietly’ quit than raise concerns.

What is quiet firing?

Amid all the talk of quiet quitting, many people believe there is not enough focus on the ‘why’. They say blaming a COVID reset is too simple and ignores the fact that workers do not disengage when they feel valued … and this is where ‘quiet firing’ comes into play.

Another term born on social media, quiet firing describes when an employer does the bare minimum for their staff. Unpaid overtime, lack of opportunities, poor communication, constantly leaning on them to work outside their job descriptions – it all adds up to create a poor employee experience and foster an environment conducive to creating a quiet quitter.

On the flipside, employees that feel they are being heard, making a meaningful contribution and working alongside their managers – rather than for them – are more likely to give more of themselves to their job.

How can you avoid quiet quitting in your business?

All is not lost. There are steps all business leaders can take to address the reasons staff lean towards becoming quiet quitters.

  • Redefine core tasks: the longer an employee is with an organization, the more likely they are to take on activities that were not in their original job description. Take the time to regularly review and update team members’ core job responsibilities to best reflect what is essential in their role and what is additional work.
  • Address manager engagement: senior leaders need the skills to create engaged workforces, all the more so in the new hybrid environment where many teams work from different locations at different times. Give managers the education and training they need to have the empathetic and invested conversations that will help employees feel more engaged and happier at work.
  • Consider outsourcing: there is nothing like being overburdened by mundane and repetitive tasks to make an employee say: “I’ve had enough.” Outsourcing such jobs to a quality offshore provider not only makes great financial sense but allows in-house employees to spend more time on meaningful work, in turn boosting the company-wide morale that is vital to reducing the threat of quiet quitting.
  • Be personal: the people have spoken – an always-on culture is unsustainable and a fast-track to burnout. Instead, leaders need to compel their teams to go above and beyond for reasons that tap into their unique motivations. It may be a love of helping others, being publicly recognized or knowing they can take a morning off to attend their child’s school assembly without feeling guilty because their manager appreciates what goes around comes around.

Amid a work-life revolution and global labor shortage, the days of employees doing everything they can to impress their managers are gone. Many want to put wellbeing over productivity, place more priority on life outside of work and not be solely defined by their jobs. The organizations that thrive in the new world will be those that create cultures in which people feel like they are being treated as the individuals they are.

A UK study tested the idea that happy employees work harder. The result? A 12% uplift in productivity for staff who were more engaged. Discover five ways you can enhance your overall employee engagement score.