The Quiet Quitting Phenomenon: What Is It and What Can HR Do To Address It?

Several experts argue that the phenomenon suggests that employees are committing to healthier work boundaries and aren't just slacking off or not making an effort

The Quiet Quitting Phenomenon: What Is It and What Can HR Do To Address It?
Photo by Nick Fewings / Unsplash

By Melissa Norman, Founder and Managing Director, Aisling Group


"Quiet quitting" is the latest buzz phrase that has been gaining traction among workers, especially Millennials and Gen Zs in the United States following the Great Resignation.

In essence, this phenomenon can be described as workers refusing to go beyond what is expected of them in their jobs.

Employees who belong to this group are focused on retaking control of their time and setting boundaries; in turn, they reject the idea that work should be the central focus of their life.

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The term “Quiet Quitting” itself might be new but the phenomenon of “Quiet Quitting” has been around for quite some time, under different names, for generations, and it is not restricted to just the United States. It also might not affect a whole group of people at the same time. The older generations might have called it "slacking off" or "coasting", and the phenomenon has been studied under various labels for decades, i.e. disengagement, neglect, and withdrawal.

There are some factors contributing to “Quiet Quitting”, such as a shift in attitude to work brought about by the pandemic, which is at the core of many workplace trends today. As a result of the lack of sense of connection to their work and the desire to focus on family and personal life, some employees are not as willing to engage in a 'hustle culture' as they used to be.

Several experts argue that the phenomenon suggests that employees are committing to healthier work boundaries and aren't just slacking off or not making an effort. Having said that, “Quiet Quitting” can be troubling because it has the potential to go beyond simply striking a better work- life balance. When employees are disengaged, they can easily become complacent and not want to work hard enough to advance in their careers or develop skills and knowledge that will help grow them and the companies they serve.

Motivation Against Quitting

There is also a possibility that their lack of motivation and flexibility can affect their ability to work in a team setting, and this situation might not be ideal for HR to manage.

What can HR do to address Quiet Quitting?

  1. As a starting point, managers and leaders should strive, as much as possible, to prevent this phenomenon from happening before its time. As an employer, you can use this as an opportunity to reengage your employees by asking them what interests them in their work and letting them determine their priorities.
  2. Keeping the lines of communication open is another way to ensure that employees feel heard and appreciated when a job is done well, and this also applies to tasks that are completed during normal working hours, rather than just those that require long hours of dedication.
  3. Also, HR should recognise and respond to the different concepts of work and work-from- home environments that exist today and identify ways to make these inviting and comfortable for employees across generational divides.

In today's crowded work environment, it's easy to feel isolated and buried; resulting in employees completing only a minimum level of work or no work at all. Providing personalised tools and feedback to employees is critical to companies' success and innovation. Eventually, small steps can yield big results; mutually beneficial to both parties.