As open job positions slowly begin to fill and the US unemployment rate continues to fall, workers are beginning to exhibit new workplace behaviors that managers might need to consider. With wages stagnant and inflation continuing to climb, workers feeling stuck in their professional growth are beginning to "quiet quit" their jobs.
Quiet quitting isn't quitting your job entirely. It's the act of just doing what you need to at work to get the job done, receive a paycheck, and go home – nothing more and nothing less. As the term gains more traction in the news and on social media, many people realize they are quiet quitting their jobs and might have even done so a while ago.
But workers who quiet quit their jobs might be misunderstood. These workers aren't ignoring their work responsibilities; they are quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work. Emails sent in the evening will go unanswered until the following day, workers might be less interested in going to happy-hour drinks after work, and they are more focused on enriching their personal lives.
SEE: First the Great Resignation, now tech workers are worrying about losing their jobs
Paola Martinez, vice president of people operations at Jobsity, a staff augmentation company, attributes the trend of quiet quitting to a few variables, starting with the job insecurity the COVID-19 pandemic brought in 2020. Workers felt unprotected by their employers and sought out better opportunities during the peak of The Great Resignation in 2021.
During this time, people began to value their time with friends and family and found that the ability to work from home allowed them to reclaim the time they spent commuting. Then, as remote work became more popular, workers redefined their workday and reconsidered their job's importance in their lives. These variables might mark the beginning of the quiet quitting movement.
"Quiet quitting means that you stop putting in that extra effort," Martinez tells ZDNET. "You kind of just go into this wallflower setting where you just exist. You don't take on any challenges, you don't grow, and you don't look for opportunities to grow in your work."
In the TikTok video that popularized the term "quiet quitting," the creator rejects the idea that work should dominate your life. Workers in the tech industry might find a lot of truth in the idea of quitting the hustle culture that is pervasive in the tech world. Tech-startup roles are some of the most taxing jobs because of low starting pay, long hours, job insecurity, and completing tasks that fall outside your typical duties.
Following the white-hot boom of job opportunities for skilled tech workers due to the pandemic, major tech companies such as Google and Microsoft began to pump the brakes on hiring. Tech workers in other industries were expected to "save" the companies they worked for when the pandemic moved much of our lives to a digital environment. Feeling burnt out and overworked, tech workers might have started quiet quitting long before it became a trend.
SEE: Developers are facing burnout. Here's how companies are trying to fix it.
So, what does quiet quitting look like in the workplace, and who participates? Martinez explains that this phenomenon is not exclusive to one generation, contrary to the belief that only Millennials and Gen Z are quiet quitting. Quiet quitting isn't impacting any specific career field either, and managers everywhere should be paying attention to their workers' behavioral patterns.
"Companies have to listen," says Martinez. "We have to know the people we work with so you can pick up on these changes. It's not that big of a change; you just see that person quietly shutting down, but we have to see and understand [why]."
It's not up to employees to pull themselves out of the urge to quiet quit their jobs; it's up to their employers to create a better work environment to encourage employees to resume taking the extra steps at work. Martinez suggests that, although it's become more common to talk about experiencing burnout in the workplace, it's still uncommon for employers to address the root of the issue and offer solutions.
It might be favorable for managers to offer mental health services to employees struggling with burnout and allow employees more control over their workload. But if quiet quitting is the new norm in the workplace, managers might have to accept their employees' boundaries. When employees are happy and fulfilled in their personal lives, it carries over into their work.
"The only time in the world we can be successful is if our personal objectives can meet our company objectives," Martinez says. "We have to make sure that match happens."