Quiet Quitting: The Silent Retention Killer for HR

By Jeff Miller

Quiet Quitting: The Silent Retention Killer for HR

Have you ever felt the silent tremors beneath the surface of your workplace? The phenomenon known as “quiet quitting” is the clandestine departure of passion, motivation, and engagement. In the hushed corridors of corporate life, employee production often fades away unnoticed, leaving an indelible mark on team dynamics and organizational success. Let’s delve into the quiet revolution unfolding in offices across the globe – the subtle departure that speaks volumes: Quiet Quitting.


Quiet quitting refers to doing the minimum requirements of one’s job and putting in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm than absolutely necessary.”


In an article from PhillySHRM, they mentioned that “Quiet Quitting” framing implies that disengaged employees are making a conscious, even malicious, decision to lighten their workloads and output. So, what are we looking at here? Is it quiet quitting, disengagement, or a combination of both? Disengagement is a state of emotional detachment from work characterized by apathy, cynicism, and a lack of effort.

There is an overlap that can occur from both directions. A disengaged employee may become a quiet quitter as they see no point in putting in extra effort. Conversely, feeling overworked and undervalued due to quiet quitting can lead to disengagement. Let me tell you a story.


Meet John Doe.


John has been at the organization for over four years and found himself ready to take on more responsibility and grow in his career. He was a client-facing consultant and took pride in both the relationships he had built over those years and all the challenges he had overcome. Fueled by an unwavering vision of promotion, John tirelessly championed his case; each hurdle was met with resounding validation of his potential. There was only one issue: John quit quietly and hadn’t even realized it.

His manager even went as far as to tell him to put the promoted title in his email signatures. His management team asked him to write an elaborate promotion story with facts and figures to support his accomplishments. John was frustrated and felt under-appreciated. He felt neglected, and it began to reflect in his work. He no longer cared about resolution times, follow-ups, and overall engagement. As his company involvement began diminishing, John no longer felt the drive or value to meet with his team on-site during office days. He had met his tipping point when a colleague he was training felt comfortable enough to discuss pay with him. John was shocked to hear that he was being compensated the same salary as someone who had only been with the company for three weeks. Not paying for performance is some of the worst money an organization will ever “save” and can indicate a pretty clear picture when factoring in its direct impact on annual employee retention.


Quiet Quitting or Quiet Paying?


According to Forbes, not only are employees quiet quitting, but companies are now doing this to employees in the form of reduced support to complete their daily tasks. So why does this occur? At its core, this phenomenon does not seem to be a matter of who is right or wrong, but more often than not, it is an issue revolving around workplace dynamics and how employees feel about the work they perform. How we tie this to compensation can directly impact the bottom line. 

Fostering incentives and rejuvenating employee morale are essential components to mitigating loss and turnover within your organization.

A survey conducted by Deloitte reported that 77% of the respondents had experienced at least one episode of burnout in their current role, and a staggering 91% experienced stress levels they could not manage effectively. In an article by Gallup, around 50% of the U.S. workforce make up quiet quitters, and this number is potentially higher, as the impact of COVID-19 has had employees re-evaluate their thoughts about work-life balance and mental health.


A Cocktail of Consequences for HR Professionals.


The trend of quiet quitting is correlated directly to the Great Resignation and is likely here to stay for years to come. HR departments and line managers are feeling the growing pressures of supplying adequate work accommodations, effective ways to track performance, and productive methods to incentivize employees for going above and beyond for the organization. Employees who are psychologically detached are not going to put their best foot forward, and this issue continues to be two-fold. While the labor market is tight, employees feel that their options for alternative work opportunities are expansive. Tackling manager engagement to keep employees accountable and also involved can reduce this trend within your organization. Managing expectations early on so that the employee knows what they are getting into is an effective way to mitigate this from happening in the future. A valued employee is a loyal employee; recognition and rewards help workers feel seen and appreciated. If employees are being underpaid and undervalued with nothing to incentivize great work, in most scenarios, they will be curious. 

In conclusion, the subtle but significant impact of quietly quitting underscores the importance of fostering a workplace culture that encourages open communication, active employee engagement, and continuous feedback. Recognizing the signs of disengagement and proactively addressing underlying issues can contribute to a more vibrant, productive, and harmonious work environment. As organizations chart new courses, adapting to the shifting tides of employee expectations, embracing a culture of transparency, valuing individual contributions, and prioritizing employee well-being becomes not only a strategic imperative but a commitment to cultivating a resilient and thriving workforce. By addressing the nuanced challenges of quiet quitting, organizations can embark on a journey toward sustained employee satisfaction, loyalty, and success.

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