Quiet Quitting': The Unspoken Challenge in Today's Workplace

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The concept of 'quiet quitting' first rocketed to becoming a household term in mid-2022.

A TikTok user by the screen name "zaidleppelin" is credited with launching the conversion after he posted a TikTok video about the concept that garnered more than 3 million views and over 4,500 comments. Many of the comments were from users taking issue with the concept of quiet quitting as a whole. 

Regardless of your personal feelings about the language used to describe quiet quitting, there is little doubt that it is a trend that is shaping millennial work culture. According to resumebuilder.com, 26% of workers admit that they do the bare minimum or less to skate by in their job. 21% of those workers stated that they do the bare minimum they can to get by, and another 5% confess to doing less than what is asked of them and just hope for the best. 

Useful Read: Millennial Work Ethic explained: Strategies for Loyalty and Engagement

Quiet Quitting Gains Traction with Millennial Workers

The cohort that is most likely to become quiet quitters according to surveys are those between ages of 25-34. They have embraced the quiet quitting trend, and are not afraid to champion it. Instead of agreeing to the hustle culture mentality that has been a major part of our culture for a long time, they have opted to go their own way.

Among the 25-34 year-old quiet quitters group, 25% say that they do the bare minimum, and 6% say they do less than what is required of them. Meanwhile, among workers 54 years of age or older only 8% said that they only do the bare minimum, and less than 1% admitted to doing less than what was required of them. 

Economists, researchers, and others have been trying their best to try to understand the variety of reasons why millennials are particularly keen to participate in quiet quitting. Needless to say, there are a variety of reasons why many young people are glamming on to this concept. Just ask Natalie of the Corporate Natalie TikTok account. She is 25 years old and said that she had a change of heart regarding the values that mattered the most to her. Speaking with Katie Couric Media, she stated the following: 

"​​When I graduated college, I thought that I had to work as hard as I possibly could, my job was my entire life, and I thought that having your job as your main personality trait was exciting and cool. My hair was almost falling out, because I was working so hard." 

Natalie had gone beyond what should could handle, and her lack of work life balance was impacting her physical health. She decided that it no longer made logical sense in her case to continue to push herself as hard as she had been. She had other things that she wanted to put a priority on. Although you could say her next move was "quiet quitting", she believes that it was by far a better move for her than continuing to do what she had been doing. 

People like Natalie have significant social media followings and have at least some sway over their audiences. Even if she can convince at least half of her audience that she is right, that will have a major impact. Since Natalie's audience primarily consists of millennials and Gen Z, her advice about potentially considering quiet quitting is something that at least some young people are taking to heart.

Useful Read: How to Engage and Motivate Your Gen Z Workforce

However, young people are not simply following the advice of social media influencers blindly. They are also coming to embrace the concept of quiet quitting on their own accord. 


The Burnout Factor 

There is a direct correlation between burnout and quiet quitting. One does not exist without the other. The reality is that many workers are feeling incredibly burnt related to the work that they do. In response to this, some have decided to stop putting forth more effort in their jobs than what is absolutely necessary.

Some younger workers will even look at outright quitting if they get pushed too far. Successful managers understand that they must make some changes if they are going to keep engaged employees around.

Kaiser Permanente reports that burnout is extremely common in many workplaces throughout the country and the world. They also note that the way that burnout manifests within different people is different from person to person. Some may experience physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, or a combination of both.

It greatly increases the chances that a given employee will take extra sick days. It also makes them 2.6 times more like to be actively searching for another job, according to Kaiser Permanente's research. These are not outcomes that any business wants, and they are not risks that one should accept. The potential costs of untreated burnout are great on both a personal and organizational level. 

What Causes Burnout?

There are commonalities that one can identify when looking at various cases of burnout. Typically, burnout can be traced back to one of a variety of common causes. 

Excessive Workloads

Many employees (and some of their employers) believed that the shift to remote work would mean that they were working less. It seemed like without a boss standing over their shoulders, many employees would be tempted to be less productive. However, that is not how things played out.

A SHRM survey reported that 45% of employees reported that they were working more on a remote basis than they did when they were working in the office. In fact, 70% of employees admitted that they were even working on weekends when they wouldn't have otherwise. This extra work during non office hours is adding to their burnout.

That much extra work often contributes to burnout in employees. They feel as if they have little or no extra time that they can enjoy to themselves. If they are attending non mandatory meetings or engaging in other types of work that they don't need to both with, this could make them burn out quicker than they would have otherwise.

They are unable to easily relax and unwind after a significantly long day on the job. Eventually, prolonged periods of excessive work like this will cause an employee to feel burnt out and may contribute to quiet quitting activities. 

Unfair Treatment at Work 

No one wants to be treated unfairly at work. Being treated with respect while at work is the ideal situation for one to find themselves in. However, if one is treated in any other manner, this may lead to burnout. Gallup reported the following: 

When employees strongly agree that they are often treated unfairly at work, they are 2.3 times more likely to experience a high level of burnout. Unfair treatment can include everything from bias, favoritism and mistreatment by a coworker to unfair compensation or corporate policies.

Therefore, it is essential that everyone is treated fairly within the organization and that they have a fair shake at recognition and respect while at work. This is particularly important to consider with younger employees as they are frequently overlooked in many organizations.

Otherwise, they might begin to look for a better job. Worse yet, quiet quitters may encourage co workers to do the same.

Too Much Time Pressure 

There are certain assignments within the scope of one's work that are on hard deadlines. There is no getting around the fact that certain things need to be turned in within a certain time frame, but excessive time pressure can also lead to burnout.

 Poor management is a main culprit because of a lot of this, and it is necessary to think carefully about how to get things back on the right track. Instead of piling on more work with deadline pressures, it is best to focus one's attention on the primary responsibilities that they truly need to work on within the scope of the work that they do.

Some employees will rush their work when they are under excessive time pressure. They may feel the need to meet the deadline more than they feel the need to turn in quality work. This leads to sloppy work and may make an employee feel hurried and stressed out, and it can contribute to burnout.

Managers, business owners, and others should do their best to take time pressure out of assignments where it doesn't belong. In other words, if an assignment doesn't necessarily need a strict deadline, then it shouldn't have one. 

How to Address Burnout and Quiet Quitting Head-On 

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Tackling burnout and quiet quitting at the same time is something that all employers should consider doing. They must address these dual issues because they want to retain as many employees as they possibly can. Teambuilding.com raises a few strategies for how to address quiet quitting directly: 

  • Engage in Open and Honest Conversations - It is time to let people air their grievances. Even one meaningful conversation may help improve employee engagement. Getting some of those complaints and concerns out into the open is the only way to begin to fix them. Sometimes, managers and supervisors aren't even aware that some of these issues exist at all. In other cases, the manager or supervisor might need a firm reminder about what is bothering employees the most. Either way, the best way to address it is to have an honest conversation about what is going on. 

    Must Read: What is a Workplace Grievance? A Guide for Managers

  • Compromise - Employees have certain desires and expectations, and employers do as well. Sometimes these things come into conflict with one another. If that is the case, the best way to approach the problem is to make a compromise between employer and employees. Come to an agreement that all can live with, and everyone will come away a little more content with the deal that has been struck. 

  • Keep Your Promises - When you make promises to employees about making changes to improve the office culture, you need to stick to those promises. Simply saying that you will make a change and then not following through on it may make employees even more frustrated with their situation and even more likely to engage with quiet quitting. 

There are actions that a manager, supervisor, or business owner can take to help decrease the risks of quiet quitting and increase employee engagement. Millennials have taken to the concept of quiet quitting, but those in charge can take deliberative steps to reduce the instances of quiet quitting within the organization. Retain more employees and make the office environment a better place to work by being aware of the issue of quiet quitting and taking it seriously.