Five Ways Managers Can Help Prevent Quiet Quitting (2023)

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  • Leadership
  • Talent Management
  • Organizational Behavior

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Five Ways Managers Can Help Prevent Quiet Quitting (1)

By now, you’re likely acquainted with the term quiet quitting. Informally defined in a 17-second TikTok video by user Zaid Khan, quiet quitting refers to restricting efforts at work and not going above and beyond one’s job duties. The video quickly launched the term into the business zeitgeist — where it’s found surprising staying power.

I’ll admit that when any trend or meme takes hold like this, I’m always a bit skeptical. And I’m not alone; much of the pushback on quiet quitting has boiled down to “What’s new about this?” After all, people have always coasted at work. But the flurry of debate speaks to the fact that this idea — whether we agree with its label or whether it’s new — is resonating with people at a time when the power dynamic between employee and employer is shifting.

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With this in mind, I reached out to researchers who study organizational behavior, leadership, and employee engagement and performance to get their input on what it means that employees are choosing to limit extra-role behaviors, and effective ways managers can create a work environment where employees want to engage.

Rebuild the Psychological Contract With Employees

Shannon G. Taylor, professor of management at the University of Central Florida, and coauthor of “A Little Rudeness Goes a Long Way”:

Five Ways Managers Can Help Prevent Quiet Quitting (2)

One of the core issues of quiet quitting has to do with what management researchers call a psychological contract. In contrast to a written employment contract that some workers might sign when starting at a new company, a psychological contract contains the unwritten expectations and obligations that employees and employers (including managers) have of and to one another.

Just a few generations ago, the psychological contract for most workers was transactional: Employees were expected to show up, work 9-to-5, and be rewarded with a paycheck and a pension. My grandfather is a good example: He spent his entire professional career at Caterpillar. He worked about 30 years, then retired with a pension and a gold watch. Since then, employees have come to define their relationship with their employer more broadly, in what’s called a relational contract. We want more than a steady paycheck. We want interesting, challenging work. We want opportunities for growth and development. We want to build meaningful relationships and be supported. In exchange, we won’t just check the boxes in our job description. We’ll come in early, stay late, help our colleagues, go the extra mile, and be good organizational citizens.

(Video) A Rant On "Quiet Quitting" & The Privilege Of Workplace Self-Care

When employees feel like employers aren’t keeping up their end of the bargain, you end up with quiet quitting. In other words, workers are starting to define their psychological contract more narrowly — more transactionally.

So, how do you fix broken psychological contracts? Research offers a few suggestions: Managers need to build strong, trusting relationships with employees. In some cases, they need to regain the trust of employees who think they’ve reneged on their deal. Managers should also communicate openly and honestly about their — and the organization’s — expectations of employees from day one. Companies can use realistic job previews in the selection process to help define expectations. Whereas some organizations want to highlight only the best parts of working at their company — they’re trying to attract candidates, after all — those that highlight both the positives and the negatives provide a more accurate picture of what the job is going to be like and subsequently improve commitment and retention.

Of course, if organizations want their employees to give more, they should give more to their employees. It’s a two-way street, and many workers these days feel like it’s just one way.

Foster Employee Voice Through Supportive Relationships

Jim Detert, the John L. Colley Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, and coauthor of “Saving Management From Our Obsession With Leadership”:

Five Ways Managers Can Help Prevent Quiet Quitting (3)

The title and content of a paper my coauthors and I published 14 years ago, “Quitting Before Leaving: The Mediating Effects of Psychological Attachment and Detachment on Voice,” shows that we’ve known for some time that when employees’ psychological attachment to their organization is broken, they stop voluntarily speaking up to try to make the place better. Feeling understood and supported by your boss decreases the likelihood of “quitting before leaving,” whereas verbally abusive leader behavior increases it.

In this study and so many others, it’s been shown that the way a boss treats their subordinates makes a huge difference in whether people “quit quietly” — that is, keep doing only what they must, but no more.

Understand What It Means to Offer High-Quality Work

Sharon K. Parker, a John Curtin Distinguished Professor at Curtin University, and coauthor of “How Well-Designed Work Makes Us Smarter”:

Five Ways Managers Can Help Prevent Quiet Quitting (4)

(Video) How to Measure Burnout to Prevent Quiet Quitting

Rather than debating whether quiet quitting is real (it is) or whether it’s a helpful strategy for a specific worker (it can be), we need to ask what sorts of work conditions cause these behaviors in the workplace.

Hundreds of studies show that organizational citizenship and other such behaviors flourish when people are satisfied with their work and committed to the organization. People are more satisfied and committed when they have decent leaders who treat them with respect, when the processes in the organization are seen to be fair and just, and when they have high-quality work. High-quality work, in turn, means having varied and meaningful tasks, clear goals, and a positive team climate. It means a job in which workers have some autonomy over their work, including a say not just in how they carry out their tasks but also — as much as is feasible — influence over where and when they work (for example, having the option to work from home some days if that is their preference).

Perhaps most relevant for workplaces today, high-quality work also means having levels of demands and expectations of workers that are reasonable. Research shows us that when workers are emotionally exhausted (an indicator of burnout), overwhelmed, or deeply fatigued, they reduce their citizenship behaviors. This withdrawal of effort is a natural protective response in which an individual seeks to conserve, or restore, their depleted energy. To prevent quiet quitting at a time when many people are fatigued and fed up, managers need to be especially careful about not overwhelming people with excessive job demands, long work hours, or unreasonable pressures.

Recognize and Show Respect for How Employees Have Changed

Kristie Rogers, associate professor of management in the College of Business Administration at Marquette University, and Beth Schinoff, assistant professor of management and organization at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, coauthors of “Disrespected Employees Are Quitting. What Can Managers Do Differently?”:

Five Ways Managers Can Help Prevent Quiet Quitting (5)

Quiet quitting is, at its heart, an identity shift. Part of the answer lies in seeing who your employees are now rather than treating them as the person they once were. Approaching conversations with your employees in humanizing ways that show care for the whole person rather than for a “hustler” or a “quiet quitter” signals respect in a more holistic way. When people feel valued holistically, they are more likely to naturally engage or reengage in their work.

Help Employees Rebuild Connections to Teammates and Culture

Thomas Roulet, associate professor in organization theory at the University of Cambridge, and coauthor of “How Shifts in Remote Behavior Affect Employee Well-Being”:

Five Ways Managers Can Help Prevent Quiet Quitting (6)

Quiet quitting is not a new issue at all. It is simply suggesting a low level of engagement and motivation among workers, which is currently exacerbated by (1) a rather uncertain and depressing environment, which creates disengagement at work as employees question their purpose; (2) high inflation, which creates issues of internal equity — newcomers are getting pay raises, while the cost of living is skyrocketing for existing employees; and (3) a confusing hybrid work environment that has weakened our social connections to the company culture and the potential friendships that we can build at work.

(Video) Quiet Quitting And Time Theft With Employees

This latter driver is particularly important: Employees’ engagement relies on them feeling connected to one another individually and feeling part of a bigger purpose as a team working together on a collective endeavor. In our recent article on employee behavior, my coauthors and I found that junior employees actually appreciated the collaboration and the meetings because they broke social isolation.

Bringing people back to the office is, to some extent, one solution against quiet quitting, if we can help them use office time to make meaningful connections, be their authentic selves, and share what unites them.

It is also about helping employees rethink their role in organizations and giving them the autonomy to be entrepreneurial — to lead new projects and shape their own contributions to the organization instead of having tasks imposed on them in a top-to-bottom approach.

Topics

  • Leadership
  • Talent Management
  • Organizational Behavior

About the Author

Ally MacDonald (@allymacdonald) is senior editor at MIT Sloan Management Review.

FAQs

Who started quiet quitting? ›

This year, a new term became associated with an employee tale as old as work itself: "quiet quitting." It appears to have originated from a TikTok video posted in March by a user called Brian Creely, a career coach and YouTuber with 119,000 subscribers.

What is quiet quitting in the workplace? ›

Quiet quitting is actually a new term for an old concept: it describes employees who exist in that state between “actively engaged” and “actively disengaged.” Employees who are “actively disengaged” are dissatisfied with their workplace.

How managers can prevent quiet quitting? ›

Managers can prevent this decline through regular touchpoints, accountability systems, and methods of connecting individual performance to team mission.

How do you deal with quiet quitting? ›

Quiet quitting is a form of employee disengagement where team members stop going above and beyond and fulfill the bare minimum job requirements to keep their jobs. Examples of ways to prevent quiet quitting include maintaining boundaries, keeping increases in workload short-term, and properly compensating employees.

What causes quiet quitting? ›

Quiet quitting is a way the employee deals with burnout to help alleviate stress. It may also mean they are ready to change positions or may be currently looking for another job. During the Great Resignation, employees started thinking about their careers, salaries and how they are treated at work.

Why is it called quiet quitting? ›

Quiet quitting refers to doing the minimum requirements of one's job and putting in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm than absolutely necessary. As such, it is something of a misnomer, since the worker doesn't actually leave their position and continues to collect a salary.

What is quiet quitting actually called? ›

Quiet quitting is just disengagement

He points to the statistics: More than 67% of U.S. employees and more than 86% of employees worldwide report not being engaged in their jobs over the past 15 years.

Can you get fired for quiet quitting? ›

If you're wondering whether you can be fired for adopting a “quietly quitting” mindset on the job, the short answer is yes, you probably can. Employers still have a great deal of latitude when it comes to dismissing workers for not pulling their weight on the job.

How do you stay positive in a negative work environment? ›

Here are some tips to bring positivity to a negative work environment:
  1. Communicate frequently. ...
  2. Monitor your thoughts. ...
  3. Share your point of view. ...
  4. Focus on opportunities. ...
  5. Perform small acts of kindness. ...
  6. Seek to understand. ...
  7. Highlight victories. ...
  8. Assume positive intent.

What are the signs of quiet quitting? ›

Here are some of the top signs an employee is engaging in quiet quitting:
  • Employees doing the bare minimum.
  • People clocking out exactly at 5 pm.
  • Employees are no longer willing to work overtime hours.
  • Employees are not willing to perform tasks or take on responsibilities that are not included in their job descriptions.
13 Sept 2022

How can I tell if my boss likes me? ›

Here are some of the most common signs your manager likes you:
  1. They challenge you. ...
  2. They trust you with key clients and assignments. ...
  3. They offer recognition of your work. ...
  4. Other coworkers share compliments. ...
  5. They provide constructive criticism. ...
  6. They value your opinion. ...
  7. They let you make decisions.

Does quitting help with burnout? ›

While quiet quitting may help ease burnout in the short term, it is not a long-term solution, workplace experts tell CNBC Make It.

Should I quit without a job? ›

Quitting your job without another job can be a practical decision or a beneficial move for your health. You may have many reasons for quitting your job, but it's important to consider future opportunities and your financial situation before leaving your position.

Is quiet quitting normal? ›

"Quiet quitting" isn't actually quitting—it's scaling back at work. It could look like doing the bare minimum or just not going above and beyond. Some people quiet quit in response to feeling overworked and burnt out. Setting priorities and establishing healthy boundaries are likely more effective than quiet quitting.

Is quiet quitting disengagement? ›

“Quiet quitting” is a new name for an old phenomenon—employee disengagement. Find out more about what quiet quitting means for your business and why a focus on employee engagement is the solution.

What is quiet quitting Urban Dictionary? ›

According to the Urban Dictionary* Quiet Quitting is “when physically, you still turn up to work but mentally, you check out and do the absolute bare minimum to get by.”

Who said quiet quitting? ›

“Quiet quitting is an antidote to hustle culture,” said Nadia De Ala, founder of Real You Leadership, who “quietly quit” her job about five years ago. “It is almost direct resistance and disruption of hustle culture.

What is the opposite of quiet quitting? ›

It is about setting boundaries and saying that an employer does not have the right to demand extra work of you that they're not paying for. Ambition is the opposite of quiet quitting and is about people willingly volunteering to work well beyond what they're paid to do.

Is quiet firing ethical? ›

Some managers do not have the time, patience or energy to make their employees understand tactfully so they resort to quiet firing practices so that the unproductive employee leaves on their own. Quiet firing is not only a toxic work culture but it also leaves an employee completely demotivated.

What is quietly fired? ›

Similarly, there is a trend called "quiet firing," in which managers are tacitly pushing employees to leave their jobs. Managers who quietly fire workers are ignoring employees' requests for promotions or a pay bump, hoping they will choose to leave, Fortune reported Aug. 30.

How can I be positive attitude at work? ›

With that in mind, here are 16 ideas for how to stay positive at work:
  1. Develop a solid morning routine. You don't have to be a morning person to get the day off to a good start. ...
  2. Practice gratitude. ...
  3. Live healthy. ...
  4. Celebrate often. ...
  5. Keep learning. ...
  6. Take breaks. ...
  7. Maintain balance. ...
  8. Make your coworkers your friends.
18 Jun 2019

What is soft quitting? ›

Quiet quitting doesn't actually involve quitting. Instead, it has been deemed a response to hustle culture and burnout; employees are "quitting" going above and beyond and declining to do tasks they are not being paid for.

Are you a quitter? ›

What's a quitter? You don't ask for or listen to anyone's advice when you're a quitter. You're stubborn and won't try to do things any other way. Although friends, colleagues, and maybe even clients try to help you, you've checked out and moved on to something else.

Should I leave my job if it affects my mental health? ›

“If you have communicated your needs clearly and taken responsibility for your part in what may be going on, and if you've asked for reasonable adjustments to be made and still, nothing changes, it may be time to leave.”

How do you know if you are respected at work? ›

Some signs you are respected at work include: Everyone seems to have nothing but praise for you and the work you do. Notice especially the way your manager speaks to others about you. Positive comments from your management to others is often a good sign you are respected.

How do you know if your boss likes you but is hiding it? ›

Here are some signs your boss may have a crush on you:
  • You have a gut feeling. ...
  • They flirt. ...
  • They regularly schedule private or late-night meetings. ...
  • They call or text you for no particular reason. ...
  • Their body language is playful or sensual. ...
  • They give you preferential treatment. ...
  • They confide in you.
20 Jan 2017

How do you know if your boss wants you to quit? ›

12 Signs Your Boss Wants You to Leave the Job
  • 12 signs your boss wants you to leave. ...
  • Reduce perks. ...
  • Criticize publicly. ...
  • They will re-assign your major projects. ...
  • They won't smile or greet you. ...
  • The small conversation has ceased to exist. ...
  • Stop giving credit for your success. ...
  • Start Micromanagement.
7 May 2022

Why Quitting your job is a good idea? ›

Some good reasons for leaving a job include company downturn, acquisition, merger or restructuring as well as the desire for change — be it advancement, industry, environment, leadership or compensation. Family circumstances may also be a factor. Deciding to leave a job is a tough decision.

Is quiet quitting appropriate in a professional setting? ›

The good news is that quiet quitting may open conversations about burnout and exhaustion in the workplace. It is also an empowering way for workers to take control of their work and personal life. Workplace culture experts believe that, with quiet quitting, the quality of work will not decline.

When should you quit your job? ›

Here are a few signs to look for to confirm that it's time to move on to a new opportunity:
  • You want room to grow. ...
  • You're experiencing problems with a supervisor or boss. ...
  • You feel undervalued. ...
  • You feel unmotivated. ...
  • You notice a high turnover rate. ...
  • Talk with your supervisor. ...
  • Identify your ideal job.
16 Aug 2022

What's a nice way to quit your job? ›

Here's how to quit a job gracefully:
  • Keep quiet. Don't tell coworkers you plan to quit before you tell your boss.
  • Quit in person. Don't quit by email or by phone. ...
  • Give two weeks' notice. More is better. ...
  • Write a letter of resignation. Turn it in after you quit in person.
19 Sept 2022

Is it OK to quit job and take a break? ›

Taking a break can be good for your mental health, and it never hurts to look for better career opportunities if you're discontented with your current gig. But it's also not a step everyone can easily take without some serious planning.

What to do after you quit your job? ›

5 Steps to Take After Resigning
  1. Go soul searching. Reflect on your life and career to figure out where you want to be as you move forward. ...
  2. Invest in self care. Spend time taking care of yourself. ...
  3. Create goals and plans. ...
  4. Tap into your connections. ...
  5. Stay positive.
23 Feb 2022

What did quiet quitting used to be called? ›

So it may shock many that the concept of “quiet quitting” is actually derived from a movement that began sweeping through China last year known as “lying flat” or tang ping.

Is quiet quitting just doing your job? ›

The latest of these acts of resistance is so-called “quiet quitting”: the newly coined term for when workers only do the job that they're being paid to do, without taking on any extra duties, or participating in extracurriculars at work.

Is quiet quitting good? ›

Quiet quitting can be beneficial in terms of providing more time for employees to pursue passion projects, Timmes pointed out. “The employee may be able to think more outside the box, feel more refreshed and become more efficient in the hours they are working.”

Why so many Australians are quiet quitting their demanding jobs? ›

Unpaid overtime is contributing to the industry's increase in quiet quitting, where employees decide to put their feet up and just do the minimum to keep their jobs. According to LinkedIn News, "a quiet quitter will leave at home time. They will not go above and beyond.

Who said quiet quitting? ›

“Quiet quitting is an antidote to hustle culture,” said Nadia De Ala, founder of Real You Leadership, who “quietly quit” her job about five years ago. “It is almost direct resistance and disruption of hustle culture.

Is quiet quitting disengagement? ›

“Quiet quitting” is a new name for an old phenomenon—employee disengagement. Find out more about what quiet quitting means for your business and why a focus on employee engagement is the solution.

How do you quit a good job? ›

Here's how to quit a job gracefully:
  1. Keep quiet. Don't tell coworkers you plan to quit before you tell your boss.
  2. Quit in person. Don't quit by email or by phone. ...
  3. Give two weeks' notice. More is better. ...
  4. Write a letter of resignation. Turn it in after you quit in person.
19 Sept 2022

How do you know if your employees are quiet quitting? ›

Here are some of the top signs an employee is engaging in quiet quitting:
  • Employees doing the bare minimum.
  • People clocking out exactly at 5 pm.
  • Employees are no longer willing to work overtime hours.
  • Employees are not willing to perform tasks or take on responsibilities that are not included in their job descriptions.
13 Sept 2022

Can you get fired for quiet quitting? ›

If you're wondering whether you can be fired for adopting a “quietly quitting” mindset on the job, the short answer is yes, you probably can. Employers still have a great deal of latitude when it comes to dismissing workers for not pulling their weight on the job.

How do you stay positive in a negative work environment? ›

Here are some tips to bring positivity to a negative work environment:
  1. Communicate frequently. ...
  2. Monitor your thoughts. ...
  3. Share your point of view. ...
  4. Focus on opportunities. ...
  5. Perform small acts of kindness. ...
  6. Seek to understand. ...
  7. Highlight victories. ...
  8. Assume positive intent.

Are your Gen Z employees quiet quitting? ›

Gen Z Thinks 'Quiet Quitting' Is the New Norm: 82% Say Doing the Bare Minimum At Work Is 'Pretty or Extremely Appealing' The survey results also showed that the desire to do the bare minimum at work is not isolated to one demographic group.

Why is a work/life balance so important? ›

Maintaining work-life balance helps reduce stress and helps prevent burnout in the workplace. Chronic stress is one of the most common health issues in the workplace. It can lead to physical consequences such as hypertension, digestive troubles, chronic aches and pains and heart problems.

When was the great resignation? ›

The Great Resignation describes the elevated rate at which U.S. workers resigned from their jobs starting in the spring of 2021, amid strong labor demand and low unemployment even as vaccinations eased the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Videos

1. I'm Quiet Quitting: You Should Too || The Great Resignation Continues
(Trace Dominguez)
2. How Leaders Can Prevent Quiet Quitting - Special Episode
(Gene Hammett)
3. 'Quiet Quitting': How to Avoid Burnout in the Workplace
(WGN News)
4. Is There a Cure for "Quiet Quitting"?
(Harvard Business Review)
5. QUIET QUITTING IS DANGEROUS #thewayup |GEN Z | THE WAY UP
(THE WAY UP WITH SOLANGE)
6. What is Quiet Quitting? & Why Are So Many of Us Doing It?
(Timothy Ward)
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