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Can "Quiet Quitting" Be Prevented?

  • Human Resources
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 11/23/2022

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • 65% of employees consider themselves a "quiet quitter."
  • Quiet quitters are 36% more likely to say their manager influences their work ethic.
  • To weed out potential quiet quitters, 61% of HR professionals ask interviewees what they love about their current or previous role.

A Shift in Workplace Philosophy

"Quiet quitting," or doing the minimum amount of work required to keep a job, is rapidly spreading through the workforce. To find out how this trend affects workplaces, we surveyed more than 1,000 full-time employees about these behaviors and the reasons behind them. We also asked hundreds of human resources (HR) professionals about their strategies for identifying and handling quiet quitters. Read on to find out how businesses try to prevent quiet quitting and how you can catch it before it happens in your workplace.

Why Employees Quietly Quit

To begin our investigation into quiet quitting, we asked survey participants how they define it, if they consider themselves a quiet quitter, and what factors impact their work ethic.

what is quiet quitting

Forty percent of employees surveyed define quiet quitting as only taking on work tasks within their job description. For them, duties assigned outside work hours, special projects, and the like, aren't required and, therefore, not their responsibility. They clock in, do their job, and clock out.

Another 24% define quiet quitting as setting firmer boundaries at work, possibly in an attempt to ensure their career doesn't infringe too much on their personal life. Having a good work-life balance is an issue many struggled with during the pandemic, particularly after switching to a work-from-home lifestyle. Our remaining respondents view quiet quitting as an indirect or slow way to quit their job: 23% say it's a way to get fired rather than quit, and 10% define it as a decline in work before resigning.

Based on these definitions, 65% consider themselves quiet quitters, with remote workers being most likely to do so (81%). Hybrid workers have the second highest rate of quiet quitting (61%), while in-office workers are the least likely (38%). Some aspects of quiet quitting might be easier to get away with while working from home versus at the office, where employees tend to be monitored more closely. With this in mind, our findings make it easy to see why companies are eager for employees to return to the office.

So, why are many employees suddenly choosing to forgo any duties beyond their job responsibilities? The majority of quiet quitters say their manager affects their work ethic (57%), as does their mental health (55%), and salary (51%). Employees who feel they are not adequately compensated may also be less willing to tolerate an unpleasant boss or unbearable co-worker — both factors that have impacted the work ethic of more than half of those we surveyed.

On the other hand, other employees who don't consider themselves quiet quitters said it's the job itself that drives their work ethic: More than half (61%) say their job responsibilities influence their work ethic. As with their quiet quitting counterparts, mental health concerns influence many (52%), while less than half name their salary (49%), manager (42%), workplace conditions or atmosphere (38%), or co-workers (36%) as main influences on their work ethic.

Whatever has caused their demotivation, the difference between the workplace philosophies of quiet quitters and other workers has significantly impacted their job security. Within the last year, 69% of quiet quitters received a warning at work compared to only 16% of those who didn't label themselves quiet quitters. And, nearly three-quarters of quiet quitters have been fired in the past year compared to only 16% of other employees.

How Can You Tell If Your Employees Are Quietly Quitting?

The warning and firing rates of quiet quitters illustrate how managers have stood firm against these employees' dwindling attention and work quality. Unfortunately, these high employee turnover rates can put a particularly heavy strain on HR departments. So, how are HR professionals handling this phenomenon?

fears of quiet quitting infographic

HR employees are on high alert for quiet quitters, with 42% of those surveyed saying it's a major problem in their workplace. As such, they pointed out some red flags to help you spot the behaviors associated with quiet quitting.

The biggest red flag HR professionals note is constant complaining (44%), closely followed by an unwillingness to do extra work (41%), and regularly missing deadlines (40%). Isolation (35%) and minimal interaction with colleagues (32%) are other red flags.

In short, quiet quitters are impacting more than just their own work — they're affecting the entire workplace. HR professionals say quiet quitting contributes to a work culture lacking in communication and motivation (40%), adherence to company standards (39%), and camaraderie among peers (35%). Quiet quitting also increases gossip, drama, and blame, according to 33% of HR professionals.

Identifying and Remotivating Quiet Quitters

With quiet quitting causing such a disintegration in workplace productivity and morale, HR professionals have come up with ways to stop it in its tracks. What are they doing to get quiet quitters motivated to do their best work, and how are they keeping unmotivated prospects off the payroll from the start?

strategies for quiet quitting

HR professionals say they ask pointed questions in job interviews to weed out unmotivated candidates. The question most asked by HR during hiring is, "What's something you love about your current or previous role?" Designed to uncover the level of interest someone has in their work, this question can quickly determine if a candidate is motivated by a love for the job or is just looking to fill their nine-to-five.

The third most asked question is, "What are some characteristics of your favorite boss?" In addition to displaying the candidate's level of enthusiasm about their job, this question can also reveal their relationship with a former employer. It might be a red flag if they can't think of anything they love about a former boss (or worse — if all they have are complaints).

Despite an organization's best efforts to keep unmotivated employees off of payroll, it may be inevitable. Even the most highly motivated employees can face burnout and fade into quiet quitting mode. Luckily, HR professionals have developed some strategies for reengaging these employees. The No. 1 strategy HR professionals note is changing an employee's position or responsibilities (60%).

Financial incentives — including raises, bonuses, and benefits — are another commonly used strategy (57%), tackling an issue reported by many quiet quitters: salary. The third most common strategy is to hold a one-on-one meeting with the employee to brainstorm solutions for improving their engagement, together (52%). These meetings can not only make an employee feel valued; it can offer them an opportunity to voice concerns they may not feel confident bringing up on their own, and give them a greater sense of control over their position.

Overcoming Quiet Quitting

The "bare minimum" philosophy of quiet quitters is disrupting the productivity and culture of many businesses. While a legitimate concern for employers and HR professionals, it's also an attempt to achieve work-life balance — an issue present throughout the pandemic that persists for many today. This means it's become more important for the "work" half of that balance to include substantial purpose and reward. For some quiet quitters, that purpose is found when an employer demonstrates a commitment to their mental health and makes the employee feel heard, valued, and in control. For others, the reward is more straightforward: more pay for the work.

To focus more on employees' well-being, employers can offer the option for employees to switch up their job responsibilities, allowing them to work on what interests them so they can stay engaged. HR professionals can help by meeting with and listening to employees, helping them to feel heard and maintain a sense of ownership over their position. And, of course, employers can also make employees feel valued through monetary incentives. Changes like these can combat the troublesome trend of quiet quitting and bring positivity and productivity back to the workplace.

Methodology

Paychex surveyed 1,042 full-time employees about "quiet quitting," with 204 of those surveyed being HR professionals. As for workplace status, 46% of employees surveyed worked remotely, 30% worked a hybrid schedule, and 24% worked in the office.

About Paychex

Paychex is a leading provider of integrated human capital management solutions for human resources, payroll, benefits, and insurance services. Founded over five decades ago, Paychex simplifies the complex processes of running a business, so you can focus on what matters most.

Fair Use Statement

If you've found our study about quiet quitting interesting and useful, you're welcome to share our data for noncommercial purposes. Please link back to our study so we can get proper credit for our exploration of quiet quitting and its effect on the workplace.

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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.