Worried about quiet quitting? These Dos and Don'ts could stop it becoming a problem

Quiet quitting is still a concern for managers everywhere, but companies can employ these initiatives to keep employees happy and productive.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
Woman discussing work on video call with team members at office
Image: Getty Images

Quiet quitting and quiet firing are suddenly having a big impact in the modern workplace. 

Quiet quitting refers to staff who – for whatever reason – disengage from work, so that they are only doing enough to get by – and certainly not going 'above and beyond' as some employers would want. Quiet firing is the employers' version of this trend – disengaging with staff and not offering them opportunities for development in the hope that they will get the message and leave.

Because of the quiet nature of quiet quitting, it can be hard for managers to spot and tackle. For some staff, quiet quitting is their response to being overworked and having their work-life balance ignored by pestering managers. In other cases, staff might simply be struggling with the changing world of work and needing more support to re-engage with the business to find work motivating and maybe even fun.

Jo Deal, chief people officer at GoTo, has some ideas to reduce the frequency of quiet quitting around the workplace.

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One area to consider is employers' treatment of its staff over the last couple of years. Companies that offered the right support to their employees during this challenging time probably experienced less quiet quitting and fewer resignations amid the Great Resignation.

"How much goodwill did you build up and how did you think about COVID support, relief, time off, burnout, mental health, all of the things everyone was going through," Deal says. "I think for companies that have built up more goodwill, they are probably seeing less quiet quitting."

DON'T: Allow your employees to neglect their personal life in the name of work

Uncontrollable life factors often affect our workday, like sick children or car problems. If it's not easy for employees to address a personal emergency, that situation might leave them feeling disengaged and lacking respect. Deal explains that it's up to management to exhibit these behaviors to their employees to demonstrate that it's normal sometimes to need to leave work to handle something.

"You know what, that's life," Deal says. "So, leaders [need] to model: 'I'm taking my child to soccer practice, I'll be back later. That gives people permission to say, 'This is okay.'"

DO: Allow your employees to create boundaries around communication at work

The lines between work and personal life have always blurred, even before remote and hybrid work became the norm. Being able to take work everywhere – and having colleagues that can contact you at any hour – can add to the stresses of work.

This sentiment is particularly true for companies that have employees working across many time zones. Deal suggests companies should allow employees to make it very clear when they will respond to colleagues, which methods of communication are best for urgent situations, and which mediums are best for when something can wait. 

Encourage direct messaging platforms for informal but essential messages, and emails for formal and less urgent messages. It's also good for employees to snooze notifications after a specific time, and – for example – to snooze Slack or other notifications during meetings to alleviate the pressure to respond immediately. 

"One thing, a very simple thing, people put in their email, 'I may send things during this time, it doesn't mean I expect a response,'" Deal says. "Be really clear with people. Because quiet quitting is not about quitting; it's about doing a reasonable amount of work. Help people to find what reasonable is."

DON'T: Lose contact with former employees

To understand the risk of quiet quitting in current employees, keep in touch with former employees and find out what made them leave the company. Their insight can help you improve culture for current employees and reduce further resignations. Deal suggests conducting thorough exit interviews with employees who leave the company and reaching out six months later to assess their experience at their new job if they have one.

This six-month communication opportunity can be the route back to the former workplace for some employees. If an employee expresses dissatisfaction at their new job and an interest in returning to your company, see what you can do for them. 

Employees who left your company on good terms, and later want to return to their old jobs, are called boomerang employees, and they can be very beneficial to your company. Boomerang employees cost less to onboard and train, and they're already equipped with the necessary skills for the job.

But beware: some employees may hesitate to ask for their old jobs back. They might fear a response from former colleagues who were unhappy at their departure, or they might be concerned about an employee they didn't like who is still in the business. But if you're lucky, this is an opportunity to have excellent talent return to your company.

DO: Offer flexible work schedules

Of course, there are hours in the workday when employees are expected to attend meetings or collaborate with other employees, and employees should respect those working hours. But if employees don't need to work specific hours, let them focus on getting the work done and not putting excessive hours in. Deal suggests focusing on the work employees are putting out instead of the hours they're putting in. 

SEE: Hybrid workers don't want to return to the office. But soon, the might have to

Flexible working attracts talent, boosts employee morale, raises productivity, and increases employee retention. These factors will decrease the probability of quiet quitting and make employees more engaged if handled well.

DON'T: Place the burden of quiet quitting on managers

Contrary to popular belief, it's not up to middle managers alone to resolve quiet quitting in the workplace. In fact, managers at your company are probably quiet quitting too, and are just as likely as employees to resign from their jobs. That means managers might need more support as well, something that is often forgotten. 

At it's worst, managers who aren't supported may ignore struggling employees, which means quiet quitting and quiet firing happen at the same time. That combination creates a miserable cycle, which doesn't solve any problems and creates new ones.

"Managers are also quiet quitting," Deal says. "Putting that burden on managers to fix it for employees is a little bit dangerous because you're just overburdening a group that's also struggling."

DO: Invest in company culture and new human resources initiatives

If your company is plagued by quiet quitting and continuous resignations, it's time to overhaul old HR practices and get creative about new ones. Company culture is the glue that keeps employees connected to the company. Without a strong culture, employees feel less tied to company values. 

This gap is especially true for hybrid and remote work environments, where employees have fewer face-to-face interactions and fewer opportunities to connect with other employees.

Deal suggests investing in opportunities for employees to connect outside the office if they don't live in office-hub cities, and upping the budget for training employees. Increasing face-to-face meetings for employees that aren't work-related can strengthen relationships, and creating a graduate hire pipeline that can help steer new talent into the business is also key, not just to replace those who leave but to bring new ways of thinking into the organisation.

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