Skip links


I heard quiet quitting is a hot topic now. I am confused. Why am I confused? Because quiet quitting has been happening long before Eve ate the apple (Ok, I am joking). But you get my point. 

Just in case you are reading this article and you are not yet familiar with the phrase “quiet Quitting,” let me initiate you. Quiet quitting describes a situation where someone hired to perform a job does only what is expected of them. Nothing more. So, a quiet quitter would typically resume at work, do the “JD,” and sign off by 5pm on the dot. Bringing discretionary energy or addressing companywide goals outside their purview is not going to happen. They are not paid for that, so they will not bother. 

I will not get into the debate on employees and employers’ standoff or controversial stuff like the labels associated with people believed to be quiet quitting. What matters is that quiet quitting is real, and organisations are worried about the trend. Signs of quiet quitting include sudden unusual behaviour like consistently showing up late for work or meetings, dip in productivity and enthusiasm and more. Now that we know what quiet quitting means, the question is why or when do people get to that point? In my experience as an employee, team lead, marketing manager over the years and currently as a principal consultant at D&I, I can share few instances where I have witnessed people slip into the quiet quitting mode.  


Pay (money) may not be everything. In fact, it is not, but you must have heard this quote from Ma Nuo, “I would rather cry in a BMW than smile on a bicycle.” People are in distinct phases in life. Some are in survival mode, others it is about keeping up with the Joneses while others just want to be free. Think of someone in the latter example. They are fed up with barely having enough after settling family bills. Certainly not the life they longed for. They need more money and they have concluded that it is not the 9 to 5 that would hand that to them. Such people may decide to keep coasting till they catch a break. 


During the pandemic, sadly a lot of jobs were lost, and many people had to step into roles assigned to a couple of people and they were happy to take it back then. Who would not want to stay employed during a pandemic when people around you were being laid off? Work from home concept accelerated during this period and people forgot how to shut down from work. I once witnessed a friend dash into the car to join a virtual meeting during a party on a Saturday evening. It took hours! This always on culture is not sustainable. Sooner rather than later, people become overwhelmed and frustrated leading to burnout.  


This is another major reason people slip into the quiet quitting mode. When people look around and cannot see any path for growth, they disconnect over time. They start to leave all the discretionary energy at home and just do the barest minimum at work. Most driven people at this stage have already shut down and sending resumes to the competition or companies with rave reviews as regards opportunities for growth.

What can organizations do differently to address quiet quitting? Create a psychological safety net for employees to share feedbacks, ideas, and suggestions. Some CEOs prefer to create a barrier between them and those down the bottom chain or frontlines. They need a lot of thinking time alone, but they should occasionally meet with and get to know their people and enable an environment that encourages feedback.  

Improve the work experience of employees. This includes a fair compensation, clarity in their roles with expectations clearly stated. Quiet quitting can start from day one on the job. When what employees get to do does not correlate with what they were hired to perform exceeds what was spelled out in the contract. When organisations give people assignments, it should be realistic (not convenient or easy), and they must be empowered to get the job done. Employee engagement is another area organisations can focus on. Topics about their career path, their future, and the role the organisation can play to facilitate both are necessary. 

Finally, people are the most complex beings to manage and there is no one size fits all approach. Organisations can do much more but addressing these issues is a good start.