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Quiet Quitting: Meaning, Signs, and How To Prevent It

  • Human Resources
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 05/14/2024

a disengaged employee doing the bare minimum leading to quitting known as quiet quitting

Table of Contents

Employee turnover is a common concern for businesses. But what should employers do when an employee is not only unmotivated at work but also unmotivated to leave? This is quiet quitting, or doing the minimum amount of work required to keep a job. Based on Paychex research, this is a trend that appears to be a significant problem across the workforce, along with other trends like live quitting and quiet firing. To find out how quiet quitting affects workplaces, we surveyed more than 1,000 full-time employees about these behaviors and the reasons behind them. We also asked hundreds of HR professionals about their strategies for identifying and handling quiet quitters.

Read on to find out how to minimize quiet quitting and recognize its signs in the workplace.

Key Takeaways

  • Quiet quitting is defined as a disengaged employee doing the bare minimum, eventually leading to their departure. Despite their dissatisfaction at work, quiet quitters continue to collect a paycheck until they finally leave or are terminated.
  • Sixty-four percent (64%) 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 said they ask interviewees what they love about their current or previous role.

What Is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting refers to employees who disengage from their roles for an extended period before eventually leaving their positions. This trend is also known as silent quitting, silent resignation, soft quitting, and quiet resignation. Unlike more overt resignations, where employees provide formal notice, quietly quitting typically involves gradual disinvestment in work tasks, reduced communication with colleagues and supervisors, and a general lack of enthusiasm for the job.

From an employee perspective, quiet quitting usually represents a silent protest or disengagement from a role or organization due to feeling undervalued, overworked, or disconnected. It can stem from dissatisfaction with work conditions, lack of career growth opportunities, or personal reasons. Quiet quitters may feel overlooked or marginalized within the company and choose to disengage rather than communicate with their supervisor about their obstacles.

How Do Employees Define Quiet Quitting?

To begin our investigation, we asked survey participants how they define this trend, if they consider themselves quiet quitters, and what factors impact their work ethic.

Forty percent of employees surveyed defined this trend as only taking on work tasks within their job description. For them, work required outside of their scheduled 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% defined quietly quitting a job 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 viewed this trend as an indirect or slow way to quit their job: 23% said it's a way to get fired rather than quit, and 10% defined it as a decline in work before resigning.

Based on these definitions, 64% considered themselves quiet quitters, with remote workers being most likely to do so (81%). Hybrid workers had the second-highest rate of silent quitting (61%), while in-office workers were the least likely (38%). These results suggest that some aspects of quiet or soft quitting might go easily unnoticed by employers with employees who work 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.

Quiet Quitting Examples

Examples of quietly quitting can vary widely depending on the individual and the circumstances impacting their behavior. It may involve gradually reducing work output, avoiding social interactions with colleagues during the workday, opting out of non-mandatory meetings, or displaying a lack of interest in projects and initiatives. In extreme cases, employees may stop showing up to work without formally resigning, leaving employers scrambling to fill the gap.

Quiet Quitting vs. Quiet Firing

While quiet quitting involves the gradual departure of dissatisfied employees, quiet firing is when employers subtly incentivize employees to leave the organization.

Examples of quiet firing could include reducing responsibilities, isolating the employee from key projects or teams, changing an employee’s role or taking away their favorite duties, or creating a work environment to encourage resignation, which in some cases could be viewed as harassment or discrimination. Both quiet quitting and quiet firing can have detrimental effects on employee morale and organizational culture.

Is Quiet Quitting Real?

While some may question whether quiet quitting is real, numerous anecdotal accounts and studies suggest it's, in fact, a bona fide workplace issue. Along with the employees and HR professionals we interviewed in this survey, quiet resignations have been discussed extensively on traditional and social media, indicating that it's a trend that's gained traction in the aftermath of a pandemic where employees often felt stretched thin or overwhelmed in and out of work. This adds to the fact that technological advancements and remote work arrangements have made it easier for employees to disengage without attracting immediate attention.

How Quiet Quitting Is Changing the Workplace

Quiet quitters are impacting more than just their work — they're affecting the entire workplace and reshaping how employers approach employee retention and engagement. HR professionals said quiet resignation contributes to a work culture lacking in communication and motivation (40%), adherence to company standards (39%), and camaraderie among peers (35%). Workers quietly quitting also increases gossip, drama, and blame, according to 33% of HR professionals. Failure to address silent quitting can lead to increased turnover rates, decreased productivity, and a negative reputation within the industry.

What Causes Quiet Quitting?

Several factors can contribute to employees quiet quitting, including:

  • Lack of recognition: Employees who feel their contributions are not acknowledged or appreciated may become disengaged and eventually leave quietly.
  • Frustrations over compensation: With pay being a primary motivator for many employees, pay inequity or a salary that's below market rate can lead to friction.
  • Poor work-life balance: Excessive workloads and long hours can lead to employee burnout and disinterest in the job.
  • Lack of growth opportunities: Employees may feel stagnant in their roles and seek opportunities for advancement elsewhere.
  • Toxic work culture: A toxic work environment characterized by micromanagement, favoritism, or lack of support can drive employees to disengage and leave quietly.

What did employees surveyed say were some of the causes of quiet quitting? The majority of quiet quitters said their manager affects their work ethic (57%), as does their mental health (55%) and compensation (51%). Employees who feel they are not adequately compensated may also be less willing to tolerate an unpleasant boss or unbearable coworker — factors that have impacted the work ethic of more than half of those we surveyed.

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

“Employers who notice a change in behavior should document what the employee is no longer doing and where the performance is dropping, and focus on those objective items,” says Heather Whitney, HRRT Program Manager at Paychex. “If the employer is noticing behavioral items like skipping steps or being unreachable, that may require employers to begin the progressive discipline process. If the employer notices performance has dropped (for example, increased errors), then an individual development plan may be the most fitting option.”

Signs of Quiet Quitting

Recognizing the signs of silent quitting is essential for employers to address potential issues before they escalate. HR employees are regularly encountering quiet quitters, with 42% of those surveyed saying it's a significant problem in their workplace. As such, they pointed out some red flags to help you spot the behaviors associated with employees' silent quitting:

  • Constant complaining (44%)
  • An unwillingness to do extra work that's outside of their job description (41%)
  • Regularly missing deadlines (40%)
  • Isolation (35%)
  • Minimal interaction with colleagues (32%)

HR teams may also see additional quiet resignation signs such as:

  • Withdrawal from team activities or social interactions
  • Increased absenteeism or tardiness
  • Disengagement during meetings or discussions

How To Spot and Prevent Quiet Quitters

With soft quitting causing such a disintegration in workplace productivity and morale, HR professionals have devised many ways to stop it in its tracks, get quiet quitters motivated to do their best work, and keep disengaged prospects off the payroll from the start.

Ask the Right Questions During the Interview Process

HR professionals surveyed said 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 they only have complaints).

Conduct Regular Check-Ins

If they're not on the docket already, supervisors and managers should have regular one-on-one meetings with employees to discuss their workload, career goals, and any concerns they may have. HR professionals cited this as the third most common employee retention strategy (52%). Take proactive measures to address the root causes of any issues, such as improving communication channels, addressing work obstacles, or fostering a more inclusive work culture. More broadly, it's worth assessing whether managerial styles or practices may contribute to employee disengagement. Take steps to provide additional training or support for supervisors.

Monitor Employee Morale

Keep a pulse on employee satisfaction and engagement levels through regular surveys or feedback tools and take action to address any concerns or trends that emerge. HR technology can be an effective tool to help you analyze trends over time, identify whether employee benefits offerings are being used, and pinpoint any workplace issues, for example.

Provide Opportunities for More Work-Life Balance

The "bare minimum" philosophy of quiet quitters disrupts the productivity and culture of many businesses. While a legitimate concern for employers and HR professionals, it's also a disgruntled employee's 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 creates a culture where employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions and raising issues without fear of retribution, workloads are reasonable, and decisions are made in consideration of the staff.

Let Employees Focus on Their Interests

The top strategy HR professionals surveyed noted is changing an employee's position or responsibilities (60%). 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. Consider offering training programs, mentorship opportunities, and clear pathways for career advancement to keep employees engaged and motivated. 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.

Offer Fair Compensation for Work

Financial incentives — including raises and bonuses— are another commonly used strategy (57%), tackling an issue reported by many quiet quitters: salary. Fair and equitable pay remains a crucial motivator for both star performers and silent quitters. Also, consider how offering benefits such as health insurance, employee assistance programs, and financial wellness tools can help employees prioritize their mental, economic, and physical well-being.

Conduct Stay Interviews

Many companies will conduct an exit interview before a departing employee leaves. Still, there's much to gain by opening lines of communication before it gets to the point of resignation. Stay interviews can help companies gather information that they can use to understand a soft quitter's existing problems better and develop a plan for turning around their behavior or approach to work. This information provides a valuable alternative to employee feedback derived solely from exit interviews, where employers learn information that only comes once an employee has already decided to leave.

A Good HR Team Can Help Combat Quiet Quitting

By understanding the signs, causes, and impacts of silent quitters, employers can take proactive steps to prevent disengagement and foster a positive work environment. Work with an HR services partner who can help you identify and address issues related to silent quitting and ultimately help you maximize your workforce and business output.

About the Paychex Survey


Paychex surveyed 1,042 full-time employees about the quiet quit trend, with 204 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 5 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 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 quitters and their 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.

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