After months of unsustainable workloads, chronic stress from the pandemic and uncertainty, and mass layoffs, employees have had enough. They are tired of being unpaid with no appreciation and increased employer expectations.
Answering emails on holidays, taking on additional responsibilities with no pay raise, and forced return-to-office policies were all the norm during the pandemic. But employees are no longer willing to go above and beyond with no recognition, pay increase, or gratitude from employers. Employees everywhere are now engaging in the phenomenon known as quiet quitting.
So, what exactly is quiet quitting? Brought about by the pandemic and the Gen Z workforce, quiet quitting refers to doing what the job requires—nothing more, nothing less. And while this isn't a Gen Z-only trend, they are leading the movement—employees are no longer buying into an always-on culture where they go above and beyond to climb the corporate ladder.
Quiet quitting is the coping mechanism for chronic overworking and how employees choose to protect their well-being.
What causes quiet quitting?
Quiet quitting is rarely the result of just one thing. Instead, it’s typically a combination of factors, like employers neglecting their employees’ mental health and well-being, poor compensation, no work-life balance, a lack of recognition, and unclear expectations.
And while these problems are very evident to the employees trying to overcome them, the same isn’t always true for leadership. Do you know if your employees feel overworked and underappreciated? If you’re unsure whether you’re meeting your employees’ needs, you could miss some less obvious signs that they’re quietly quitting.
Employees refusing to take on additional responsibilities is a tell-tale sign of quiet quitting, but the more subtle signs aren’t as easy to spot. So, we’re breaking down six overlooked signs that your workforce might be changing… in a bad way.
6 overlooked indicators of quiet quitting
Have you done right by your employees, or are you unknowingly contributing to their quiet quitting? While poor compensation, an unbalanced workload, and a lack of communication are some of the more common factors contributing to quiet quitting, they’re not the only ones.
Let's explore some of the more subtle or overlooked indicators of quiet quitting and potential remedies.
1. An increase in sick time or paid time off (PTO)
It's not uncommon for workers to take vacation time over the summer or during the holiday season. But when they start maxing out their vacation time and using more PTO or sick time than ever before, you might have quiet quitters in the mix.
Remember, part of quiet quitting is protecting their mental and emotional health, and taking time off to relax and rejuvenate could be a sign they're doing just that.
Employees may not care that there's a tight deadline they need won't meet because they'll be on vacation. Or they may request sick time after a stressful week to get away from the office and the job they are no longer passionate about.
They're telling employers that they're prioritizing themselves—workers are no longer willing to go above and beyond for the company that hasn't gone above and beyond for them.
2. Less in-office presence
While many companies adopted a fully remote way of work during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, many have shifted back to in-person or hybrid work schedules post-pandemic. But if you offer a flexible hybrid option and you're not seeing more people come into the office (or come in more frequently), this could be a red flag too.
Quiet quitters have adopted a do the bare minimum to keep my job mindset, and working from home makes it easier for them to achieve that. They don't have managers breathing down their necks or constantly checking in on them. They don't have people stopping by their desks for help with ad hoc projects.
Instead, when quiet quitters work outside the office, they can do their job and nothing more. They get to be in an environment conducive to prioritizing their well-being instead of in an office doing something they no longer want to do.
3. A spike in negative reviews
Company review sites have become a standard part of the interview process for many candidates evaluating whether they want to work with your company. When you're getting high ratings and positive comments, they're great. But if your ranking is low or full of negative reviews, it can hurt your company in more ways than one.
And quiet quitters may be contributing to the problem. Have you noticed an increase in negative reviews on sites like Glassdoor or Fairygodboss? Have you read through recent reviews and discovered a common theme of overworking and underappreciation? Either way, both could be indicators that you've got quiet quitters.
4. A drop in attendance at work socials
Some organizations build social elements into their cultures, while others create social events to bring teams together or provide a brief escape from work. Events (even Zoom events) like holiday parties, baby showers, retirement parties, and team games have become commonplace.
But are your employees showing up? This is yet another indicator that your organization may see changes related to quiet quitting. Employees—specifically quiet quitters—are no longer trying to bond with their teammates, potentially spending that time instead doing something for themselves. They don't feel connected to the business anymore and aren't interested in pretending that they want to go to optional social events.
5. A steep decrease in on-camera participants
If your employees work remotely or in the office only a few days a week, they likely have a few virtual meetings on their calendars. Are your teammates showing up on camera, or have they muted themselves and turned off their cameras? If it's the latter, it could also foreshadow quiet quitting.
By showing up off-camera, quiet quitters can do the bare minimum of showing up but multitask in the background, run errands, or do anything else that sparks their passion. They may not be invested in what's going on during the meeting or may not want to contribute anything, so they remain on mute and off-camera throughout the meeting.
6. An increase in complaints to human resources
A key contributor of quiet quitting is continual overworking and poor communication from leadership. If a manager berates an employee for not meeting deadlines that weren't communicated or continues to pile more and more on an employee's plate, HR might hear about it.
And if complaints about management, overworking, and a lack of appreciation keep rolling it, you may have a big problem: widespread quiet quitting. While we expect a certain number of HR complaints throughout the year, be on the lookout for any spikes and pay attention to the specific complaints. If you notice they all relate to tenets of quiet quitting, it's time to put a plan in place to combat it before the whole organization starts quietly quitting.
How you can overcome quiet quitting
Employees didn't just wake up one day and decide they wanted to do the bare minimum. It took time for them to get to the point of quietly quitting. Likewise, it will take time to win them back. But there are a few strategies that can help you start the process.
Appreciation and gratitude go a long way in showing your employees that you care, even if you can’t lighten their workload right now. Sometimes that looks like sending them a Starbucks gift card and a thank you note. Other times, it could be sending your sales team on an incredible trip after they close a big client. Whichever route you take, Madison can help.
We’re known for our remarkable employee recognition program, so if you want to take a giant first step to get your employees back on track to being fully engaged, productive, and happy employees, get in touch.
We also suggest:
- Being an active listener
- Promoting a healthy work-life balance
- Ensuring fair compensation
- Providing the flexibility employees crave
- Setting clear expectations
- Supporting your employees' well-being
- Creating an employee recognition strategy
- Respecting boundaries
- Not assuming ambitions
Want to learn more about the above strategies? Download our whitepaper on how you can combat quiet quitting before it becomes an organization-wide problem.
From quiet quitting to happily employed
Identifying indicators of a shift to quiet quitting is only half the battle. You now have to implement changes that will get your employees back to being productive, engaged, and happy.
Showing appreciation and rewarding workers can help them feel seen and heard and start steering them toward trusting your organization. Whether you want to say thank you or reward stellar performances, Madison is here to help. Our over-the-top rewards help you show employees just how much you value them and how grateful you are for all their hard work.
Ready to take your rewards program to the next level and curb quiet quitting? Contact us today to learn more.
At Madison Recognition our work is rooted in the belief that unleashing the productive potential of employees with reward and recognition programs and empowering individuals will help us stay ahead of workforce trends. To understand more about the workforce trend of Quiet Quitting, and more importantly ways that employees and employers can break through this barrier together, download our white paper here.