Quiet Quitting: Is "duty by the book" about to replace the extra mile?

by Manto Antoniotti in — November 2022
Not to quit, but to work 'only' as much as is demanded: Quiet Quitting is making big waves as a Tiktok phenomenon in the United States. Should we worry about that too? Are quiet quitters on the rise? And what can, should, or must companies do to motivate them again?
Quiet Quitting

"Quiet Quitting": New Name for a Well-Known Phenomenon?

What exactly does Quiet Quitting mean? The term is deceptive: Quiet Quitting has nothing to do with internal or actual termination. Supporters of the phenomenon do not necessarily dislike working for the company but draw a sharp line between work and leisure. In Japan, there is a philosophy of "shokunin," total dedication to a craft, and the constant pursuit of perfection. Quiet Quitting is roughly the opposite of this.

Quiet Quitting is the move away from the hustle culture, unpaid overtime, being available after hours, and work-life mixture without boundaries in a home office setting or hybrid work model.

Employees no longer go the famous extra mile for their company but do exactly what they are paid to do. The term became known through a viral Tiktok video by the user zaidleppelin, and the hashtag #quietquitting has since been shared millions of times. The tenor: "You fulfill your duties, but no longer join the work culture mentality that work has to be your life."

But why is Quiet Quitting present right now? The trend follows the Great Resignation, a broad wave of quits during the pandemic that began in the U.S. and is being felt by HR professionals around the globe as well. The driving force was the collective desire for more flexible working hours, more meaningful activities, and more appreciation (keyword: New Work).

“Quiet Quitting is about Bad Bosses, not Bad Employees".

... is the title of a recent study by the leadership development institute Zenger & Folkman. The researchers asked themselves the question: What makes the difference between employees who spend their working lives under the motto "5 days in jail - 2 days off" and those who find meaning and fulfillment in their jobs? The evaluation shows a strong correlation between the direct manager and the Quiet Quitting probability of the respondents. The "motivation-free" mindset was often a reaction to the behaviors of their bosses:

  • not expressing/very little appreciation to employees
  • inappropriate behavior in dealing with each other
  • lack of ability to motivate the team
  • not setting a good example themselves

In addition, experts believe that something needs to change with regard to remuneration. It is simply no longer acceptable for employees to work overtime for free without receiving the appreciation of their employers in return. In a survey by resumebuilder.com, 9 out of 10 quiet quitters said that they would be willing to work more if they were paid accordingly or had more free time instead - for example, in the form of a 4-day week.

epunkt CEO Daniel Marwan: "4-day week has slowed down fluctuation & increased well-being".

epunkt also took a close look at the changing needs in the world of work. This resulted in working only 34 hours per week instead of 40 in the future - with full wage compensation. Since this conversion, fewer employees than hardly ever before have left the company. Daniel Marwan on the decision: "A survey of our employees showed that there is a great desire for more time off. Only very few wanted more money. More than 90 percent said they felt more rested and motivated than before."

Are younger generations less willing to perform? "No, the young just dare to express their wishes more often."

Daniel Marwan

The kids are not alright: Young people are particularly dissatisfied at work

The results of the Austrian Work Climate Index emphasize this trend: The satisfaction of Austrians with their managers is falling continuously.

There is no other age group in which satisfaction with work and life has fallen as sharply over the past three years as among employees under the age of 25. While 72% were still satisfied with their manager in 2017, the figure is currently only 64%. Austrian employees are only even less satisfied with their income and opportunities for advancement than with their boss.

As an employer: How much can, should, or need you motivate Quiet Quitters?

5 tips for employers:

  • Self-reflection: What connection could there be between the productivity of the employees and my leadership style? Is the communication based on openness and appreciation? Do I voice praise and appreciation? Am I showing my employees that I care about them? Are my people trusting me and can they rely on me?
  • Conduct regular feedback sessions with employees and focus on your relationship level as well.
  • The Gallup Institute recommends one meaningful conversation per week with each team member, 15 to 30 min.
  • Implement anonymous employee surveys, particularly on workforce needs & potential workplace stresses (in order to prevent burnout).
  • Establish goal achievement methods such as 4DX within the team: employees need to see what contribution their performance makes to the company's success.

An interesting discourse is emerging around the question of whether the correct definition for Quiet Quitting would not be "working according to salary". "Daily Show" host Trevor Noah comments on the phenomenon as follows: "It’s just work. If your work ends at five, you shouldn't get any more messages either. Every message you get after that is practically a booty call." We'll leave it at that for now.

“What people are now calling 'Quiet Quitting' was, in previous decades, simply known as 'having a job.” - Derek Thompson