For People Leaders


Quiet Quitting: What Is It? How Can Leaders Prevent It?

Quiet Quitting can be toxic for teams and organizations. There are things leaders can do to prevent quiet quitting from invading their team, leading to success for everyone.


The term “Quiet Quitting” is an increasingly popular buzzword introduced by American Tiktokker @zaidlepplin, who posted: “work is not our life, and our worth is not defined by our productivity.” Duke University management professor Sim Sitkin offers this perspective: “Workers are now being asked to do more than is sustainable....It’s like running a sprint—you can’t maintain that pace for a whole marathon.” And while “quitting” is in the title, quiet quitting is not about quitting a job. These quotes focus on the two ways quiet quitting can be viewed:

  1. An unhappiness with their current workplace environment where employees are not receiving the appreciation, recognition, and/or compensation they feel they deserve, leading to increased job dissatisfaction and disengagement and working simply to get a paycheck. In this scenario, employees do the bare minimum needed to complete their jobs, making sure not to cross the line that could lead to termination.
  2. The desire to find more balance and set stronger boundaries between work and life, a desire which has been amplified both during and post-COVID. Employees who fall into this category are often being asked to continually go way above and beyond their scope of work, which can lead to burnout and lower satisfaction in both their work and personal lives. Put simply, employees are wanting to work to live, not live to work.

“Working hard does not mean you’ll go far, and going above and beyond rarely, if ever, nets anything other than free work for an uncaring boss.” ~ Ed Zitron, the CEO of public relations firm EZPR

How prevalent is quiet quitting? The statistics might be surprising since the term “Quiet Quitting” is relatively new. However, the rationales behind quiet quitting have been in place long before COVID or its introduction on TikTok. In a study by Gallop, it was found that at least 50%—maybe more—of the current workforce are considered to be “Quiet Quitters.” Another study found the following as related to quiet quitting, and these statistics validate the two perceptions surrounding quiet quitting:

  • 57% of employees surveyed view quiet quitting as the opportunity to better establish work-life boundaries.
  • 69% of employees surveyed are practicing quiet quitting by doing the bare minimum work required in their jobs.

No matter the reason employees are participating in quiet quitting, it can be a problematic trend for companies and leaders alike. What are the potential ramifications of quiet quitting? Here are four major ones to keep in mind.

Lower engagement, productivity, and profitability. Employees who are simply doing enough work to get by are usually not engaged, and a lack of engagement can lead to decreased productivity and profits. Where both productivity and profitability are concerned, Gallup found that highly engaged employees have a 17% higher productivity rate and are 21% more profitable. On the flip side, some businesses are reporting that quiet quitting is costing their organizations 20% of each quiet quitter’s annual salary

Increased employee burnout. An employee can choose to become a quiet quitter due to consistently being required to work longer and longer hours, blurred lines between work time and personal time, highly stressful work environments, leadership requiring employees to continually go above and beyond—often requiring extensive personal sacrifice, etc. Any or all of these circumstances can lead to burnout. Unfortunately, it is reported that 75% of employees have experienced burnout, which doesn’t bode well for companies or the employees themselves.

Learn how to protect your team—and yourself—from burnout here.

Lower employee morale. When employees feel disengaged and overworked in any way, morale goes out the window along with productivity and creativity. A higher rate of absenteeism can also be a by-product of lower employee morale.

Weaker team culture. Quiet quitting can negatively affect employees left to carry the slack for those who choose to quietly quit, potentially causing them to disengage, experience burnout, and lose the desire to contribute to the team and the organization. 

A strong team culture is a key antidote to quiet quitting. Learn more here.

How to Prevent Quiet Quitting on Your Team

Even though quiet quitting is “new,” leaders should not buy into the idea that it is an unknown concept among their team members, as 50% of employees in one survey were familiar with quiet quitting. Quiet quitting happens more frequently with Gen Z and Millennial workers, and since this combined group makes up 40% of the current workforce, it’s crucial for leaders to recognize and then take steps to curb the quiet quitting phenomenon, no matter which generations make up their team.

Here are six ways leaders can prevent quiet quitting and strengthen their team and team members as well as increase overall company success. 

Listen. Ask for regular feedback from your team—including frequent one-on-ones, listen to any feedback, and then take the initiative to improve your team’s work experience within the parameters of your position based on the feedback you receive. Not only can this positively affect the entire team and the organization, but it also shows that you value your team’s perspectives, desire to contribute to the team, and their worth on the team.

Want to improve your listening skills? Get 8 tips here.

Offer opportunities for development. Employees who feel stagnate in their roles are more likely to quietly quit, while those who are continually learning and growing can be top producers and valuable contributors to the team and the organization. Leaders can be instrumental in creating opportunities for growth and development based on each team member’s professional goals, and listening can go a long way towards pairing the correct opportunities with the right employees. 

Promote employee wellbeing. Burnout, frustration, apathy, stress, feeling overworked, lack of personal time, and other physical and mental health-related issues often associated with quiet quitting can intensify the probability that employees will become quiet quitters. 

Where mental health and the workplace are concerned, some research has shown that 58% of American workers believe that work is the #1 cause of any mental health challenges they face, and 50% work on vacation. Neither statistic bodes well for quiet quitters who want to find a better balance between work and life or for those who are teetering towards joining the quiet quitting movement. 

Leaders can be instrumental in ensuring employees have time for personal growth, can take “real” vacation time, enjoy their off-work hours, participate in in-organization social experiences, and work realistic hours. Including team members in these discussions can be important as well to make sure that any opportunities for wellbeing will meet the actual needs of the team.

Reevaluate employee responsibilities and compensation. Another way to promote employee wellbeing and avoid having quiet quitters on your team is to regularly reevaluate the responsibilities and compensation for all team members. It’s easy to add small things to an employee’s work plate, not realizing that those small things can add up to feelings of overwhelm, stress, being overworked, and eventually...burnout. 

Ask for input from your team to gauge how they’re viewing their responsibilities and to ensure they’re doing the work they want to do for the most part, and then make adjustments as needed. When increases in workloads are necessary, make sure these are short-term and realistic. 

Where compensation is concerned, make it a point to reevaluate each team member’s compensation at least annually (more often, if possible) to better match responsibilities with pay.

Recognize employee contributions. When team members don’t feel like their contributions are valued or even noticed—whether vocally, through compensation, or both, the desire to continue to contribute at their highest level can decrease, potentially resulting in quiet quitting. 

Make it a priority to frequently recognize high-quality work, creative contributions and innovations, and especially how valuable your team members are to you and the organization. Valued employees are considerably less likely to become quiet quitters and to seek employment opportunities elsewhere as well.

Respect boundaries. Leaders have boundaries, and so do team members. When the boundaries between work life and personal life aren’t respected, team members can feel disrespected, a lack of importance to their leader, and a loss of control over all areas of their lives. Here are some examples of parameters leaders can put in place to solidify boundaries for the entire team:

  • Don’t send emails or texts or make phone calls outside of work hours. 
  • Respect vacation time and do not require employees to work on vacation except in emergency situations.
  • Give extra paid time off after a period of an increased workload. 
  • If an employee has to work late, allow them to come in later the next day when possible.

Quiet quitting is real, and it’s not going away anytime soon, especially if leaders don’t put in place the needed processes and procedures to prevent it from happening in the first place. And when it does happen, it’s crucial that leaders address it ASAP to hopefully help any quiet quitters feel engaged, recognized, appropriately compensated, and like a valued part of the team. While it might feel like a daunting responsibility in addition to all those already on a leader’s plate, it can be accomplished, and it can result in a stronger team culture and organization.

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