Quiet Quitting Talentoday Employee Engagement

Don’t Call It Quiet Quitting: How Catchphrases Miss the Moment in Employee Engagement

When it comes to understanding millions of unique individuals that make up the workforce, HR leaders have a habit of searching for simple answers. Take, for example, the phenomenon of, “Quiet Quitting.” Seemingly overnight, this two-word phrase took the world by storm. Not since the coining of the phrase, “The Great Resignation” has the world of work had more to say on a single topic. Reporters have penned article after article in a panic, portraying a new wave of employees silently stepping back from their job responsibilities.

Is quiet quitting a reason for real concern or is it just a shorthand for employers desperately seeking to simplify complex issues? 

A Meaningful Misnomer

First things first, quiet quitting is a stylish bit of mislabeling. It does not actually describe anything to do with retention. Instead, the “quitting” being described is one where employees are leaving behind extra work that employers may have taken for granted. For example, employees are making the choice to stop working after hours or taking on tasks beyond their job descriptions. Therefore, quiet quitting is more about engagement and productivity than true turnover. 

Secondly, the novelty of the phrase has led many people to assume it is describing a recent trend. Unfortunately, that could not be further from the truth. According to polling from Gallup, at least 50 percent of the U.S. workforce has been engaging in quiet quitting in one form or another since 2002! Why has this silent, steady march of decreased engagement suddenly gone viral? 

The answer lies deeper in the data with Gen Z. The same polling indicates that the percentage of engaged employees under the age of 35 dropped by a full six percentage points from 2019 to 2022. For this group in particular, the dip in engagement is less of a steady march and more of a steep slide.

Going Beyond Buzzwords

There are no shortcuts for diagnosing complex workplace problems. Similarly, the solutions needed to address these problems must be thoughtful and built with employee experience in mind. Managers cannot solve a decades-long issue with a snappy catchphrase. Instead, organizations should consider taking these steps towards a more engaged workforce:

  • Address engagement at the top first. Gallup’s research uncovered that only one in three managers are engaged at work. How can these managers expect their employees to go above and beyond in their roles without setting the example? In the race for retention, desperate leaders routinely offer titles and promotions  without the proper attention paid towards the training needed for success in these roles. It’s time for leadership to rethink their reskilling and upskilling plans to equip today’s managers with the tools needed to succeed in a hybrid work environment. 
  • Better understand your employees. Few organizations have been spared in the last few years when it comes to high rates of turnover and struggles with retention. During this time, plenty of new employees have started their roles in remote or hybrid settings. This shift has made it difficult for managers to get to know their employees in the traditional ways, such as casual interactions during lunches or one-on-one discussions during the course of the workday. Managers need to embrace new ways of uncovering what’s driving their workforce, including soft skills assessments and regularly scheduled virtual check-ins. 
  • Respect boundaries. The knee-jerk reaction to the wave of quiet quitting think pieces would be to clamp down on employees with strict scrutiny. Instead, leaders should learn to respect their employees' boundaries. If mental health is truly a priority for companies today, then the path towards a more engaged workforce cannot be built upon blaming employees for organizational shortcomings. Opening a dialogue, investing in wellness programs and allowing employees to embrace balance will pay dividends. 

Are you ready to go beyond buzzwords to better understand your workforce? Learn how Talentoday’s MyPrint assessment can provide a deeper understanding of your employees personality traits, motivations and behaviors.