Quiet Quitting and The Disengagement Storm (How Managers Can Help)

4 minutes • Oct 13, 2022

Quiet quitting: a term you’ve probably heard by now through a colleague or form of social media. It’s the latest work trend to go buzzword after a TikTok video by zaidleppelin went viral in July. 

It isn’t necessarily a new concept, but maybe the new term for employee disengagement. Quiet quitting has nothing to do with actually quitting your job, but instead, staying and doing the bare minimum expected to keep your job. It’s the idea of rejecting hustle culture, setting clear boundaries between work and personal life, and truly doing exclusively what your job description requires you to do—nothing more, nothing less. 

Is this trend simply an employee rebellion or a genuine cry out for people managers to step up their game? Whatever it is, it clearly means that something isn’t working with the way the work gets done at most organizations. 

Disengaged employees and bad managers 

Quiet quitters are chronically disengaged employees. They have, for one reason or another, lost interest and passion in their work and the company they work for. More often than not, this is highly correlated to company culture and poor people management.  

According to a recent survey by Gallup, at least 50% of the American workforce has been quiet quitting for the past decade. Expectedly, the vast majority of these employees became disengaged over the past two years. By June 2022, only 32% of the US workforce were actively engaged in their work – a six-year low percentage. This drop in engagement went hand in hand with the rise in job resignations. Experts believe the decline was mainly related to a growing disconnect between employees and managers. 

This employee-employer disjoint relationship isn’t something you want to ignore. Managers hold an influence up to 70% of an employee’s motivation. That’s a lot of the employee experience out of HRs hands. A poorly trained or ineffective manager can have negative ripple effects that tank your engagement levels, company-wide. 

A skilled people manager with likely very few (if any) quiet quitters has: 

  • Regular 1:1s with every member of their team

  • Their 1:1s focus on relationship building, not status updates 

  • A deep understanding of all their team members’ personal and professional goals and aspirations

  • A leadership style based on coaching, support and encouragement less than just being someone’s boss. 

The disengagement storm has been brewing for a while now.

We can’t ignore the COVID-19 pandemic regarding quiet quitting and possible causes for this disengagement storm. The pandemic brought all-time high levels of uncertainty, stress, burnout, and anxiety in the workplace.

The pandemic brought about different business priorities; it was all about keeping the business afloat and very little about caring for your employees. In 2020, almost half of the global workforce, 43%, felt burnt out, and according to a Deloitte survey, today, over 70% of respondents still feel burnout and significant stress at work. 

This year, with younger generations entering the work landscape, a generation that genuinely values their mental health over work reputation, more individuals have started questioning their working conditions and work-life balance more than ever. The result is a rise in quiet quitting, a brewing disengagement storm that has significant impact on your bottom line.

Symptoms of a Quiet Quitter 

Performance only to the minimum standard 

This is one of the first and most noticeable signs that you have a quiet quitter among your team. When you notice an employee doing the bare minimum and avoiding any extra tasks, mainly if this used to be a high-performing individual, it’s better to address their sudden performance change through a 1:1 with their manager. The sooner you do this, the earlier you’ll know if any significant cultural or management issues could eventually affect the rest of your team members.  

Withdrawal from non-necessary conversations, activities, or tasks 

When individuals start disengaging, not only do they avoid extra or unnecessary work, but they actively withdraw from non-mandatory discussions, meetings, and tasks. Therefore, keeping track of who usually joins extracurricular activities and events can help identify disengaged employees early.  

Apathetic, not giving their opinion like they used to 

When employees aren’t motivated at work, there tends to be a lack of enthusiasm toward most work-related conversations. Unmotivated workers that mostly feel undervalued and muttered are less likely to share their ideas and feelings with their teammates and managers.  

You can just tell

An employee who used to be enthusiastic and passionate about the company, and their work is now the opposite. They seem apathetic, weary, and disconnected. Quiet quitters are almost quietly screaming for help—your once rockstar employee with all the energy and enthusiasm now leads a mediocre existence on your team for a sustained amount of time. 

Fix Quiet Quitting with a People-First Approach  

The perfect corporate culture doesn’t exist; solving for engagement is a never-ending task and highly strategic skill-set. You will always have disengaged workers, but keeping engagement issues to a minimum is crucial for your business to grow and thrive. The modern employee craves well-trained and

Winning companies have flipped their strategy: employees first, customers next, and a more profitable bottom line will follow. Engagement is a direct result of your workforce feeling heard, recognized, and connected to each other, their manager, their colleagues and your company’s mission.

Today’s high performers crave empathetic leaders, high-functioning teams, and opportunities for professional growth. They seek transparency, to feel heard by their executives, and an overall employee experience that makes them proud of the company they work for. A company that mirrors these efforts will see a decrease in voluntary turnover, better customer relations, and better business outcomes.

Empower your managers to step up 

Quiet quitters are the leading indicator of a bigger problem to solve— poor management. You need engaged and trained managers if you want to retain a happy and engaged workforce. People managers need constant coaching and workshopping to hone their leadership skills and improve the employee experience to stop quiet quitting

But how can you actually do this? 

  • Regularly survey your workforce. Employee surveys are your key to solving for missing and broken moments of your employee experience.

  • Conduct onboarding, stay, and exit interviews.

  • Implement a peer recognition solution to build a culture of appreciation work and contributions to the company. 

  • Train managers to hold regular 1:1s and make sure they’re asking the right questions.

  • Invest in training for your people managers. 70% of the employee experience is the relationship between an employee and their manager. 

With most of the employee experience in the hands of the manager, you need a tool to help your managers think and act more like coaches. Learn more about how Pingboard's 1:1s can help minimize quiet quitting and create a better employee experience!

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