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Quiet Quitting is a New Term for an Old Problem



“Quiet quitting” is a trendy term for what used to be called “phoning it in” or “slacking off.” Regardless of what it is called, the phenomenon is nothing new. There have always been employees who strive to do the bare minimum of work they could get away with. This phenomenon is bad for employers and employees, alike.


This raises two important issues: First, why is the problem becoming more prevalent now and, Second, what, if anything, can or should be done to discourage it?


Obviously, there is no provable answer to the first question, why now? Notably, the “Great Resignation” that followed the loosening of pandemic restrictions, strongly suggests there has been a long-term change in traditional worker notions of when, where and how they can and should be required to work. It is logical to assume remote working left some employees with a new-found sense of how much they could safely “get away with.”


Regardless of what is driving “quiet quitting,” the phenomenon is real. Which leads to the second question, how should employers address the problem? Here, it is worth noting that, since this is a relatively new problem, there are no recognized management best practices to fall back on. Nevertheless, some experts would argue employers have very limited ability to influence the problem, regardless of what they do. Those same experts might argue that even acknowledging the problem could backfire, making it worse by calling attention to it.


At the other end of the spectrum, some might argue that any (perceived) tolerance by employers will fuel the problem. This view suggests employers should “clamp down” and make a public example of anyone who even appears to be phoning it in.

Since no one really knows what is driving this phenomenon, let alone, what employers should do about it, a modest, conservative approach might be wisest. Under such an approach, employers might, for example, focus on policies and actions that give workers an enhanced sense of (literal or figurative) ownership of their work.


Again, regardless of what is causing “quiet quitting” to increase, it is well-established that the more workers feel they are valued members of a team, the more high-quality work they will produce. The specific steps that are likely to encourage workers to feel a greater sense of “ownership,” obviously, will vary from business to business. There is always room, in most businesses, for simple, cost-efficient steps to help workers feel they are valued parts of something bigger than themselves.


Almost everyone works harder and better when they feel appreciated.


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