After a year of Great Rethinks, Resignations, and Corrections, yet another workplace trend is in the spotlight: quiet quitting. Definitions vary, but most agree that it pertains to employees “quitting the idea of going above and beyond” at work while still meeting baseline requirements.
If the trend actually exists, HR teams would know about it. So we asked the 17,000-plus members of the Resources for Humans (RfH) Slack community to tell us what they thought of quiet quitting.
“Ridiculous,” one leader said. “Not a thing.” Another was simply “Flabbergasted.”
None of the HR leaders who shared their thoughts believed quiet quitting was a problem. Instead, they saw it as an opportunity for organizations to learn, reflect, and re-establish work-life boundaries. Here’s a snapshot of what they shared.
1. Quiet quitting is a call to preserve work-life balance.
For all its benefits, the shift to remote work blurred our work and home lives. In some organizations, that’s meant increased burnout rates, even among HR leaders. Community members mused that the appropriate response to quiet quitting might be to take it as a wake-up call to reject “hustle culture” and re-establish work-life boundaries.
“Playing devil’s advocate here — I don’t think it’s an inherently bad thing if people are quiet quitting,” said Traci Chernoff, Director of Employee Engagement at Legion Technologies. “This all stems from employees creating boundaries to have a better balance between our work and personal lives.”
“People should be able to work without feeling like they have to neglect their personal lives to advance…”
Julie Sarnik, Employee Experience Coordinator at WebDevStudios, emphatically agreed. “People should be able to work without feeling like they have to neglect their personal lives to advance at their job,” Sarnik said. She emphasized that HR leaders play a pivotal role in reinforcing workplace norms — and need to keep the door open to burned-out employees who need someone to talk to.
“I make it a point to tell our employees that they shouldn’t work more than 40 hours [per week], because they need a balance. If they are working over the scheduled time regularly, then that is an issue we need to address,” she said.
2. It’s also a reminder that engagement doesn’t equal overwork.
Employee engagement doesn’t have one agreed-upon definition. Still, that hasn’t stopped many (including us) from doing our best to create one. Most agree that engagement is a measure of fulfillment, job satisfaction, and alignment between employee and company goals. So is quiet quitting just another way of characterizing disengagement?
“Everyone demonstrates their level of engagement differently.”
“I don’t think a metric for engagement is people going above and beyond — everyone demonstrates their level of engagement differently,” Chernoff said. The cult of overwork and hustle culture perpetuated the notion that the most engaged workers are those putting in the extra hours. “But if someone is meeting the expectations of their role, supporting their peers, and contributing positively to the team, but doesn’t want to go above and beyond, this isn’t an example of a poor, disengaged performer,” she added.
Others noted that there isn’t such a thing as a model employee — and that’s a good thing. Citing the book Radical Candor, one member emphasized the importance of embracing a diversity in personal motivations and working styles. “I find that you have different people in a company, [both] superstars and rockstars. They’re both needed to be a successful business,” said Alya D’haene, People & Business Partner at Intigriti.
3. Worried? Focus on career growth and pay equity first.
It’s a familiar story: If employees work hard and put in the hours, they’ll be rewarded for their efforts. In theory, that entails a raise or promotion. But if quiet quitting really does exist, it might be a result of organizations falling short of that promise. Community members considered the trend a wake-up call to revisit their career development, employee total rewards, and compensation philosophies.
“Companies need to stop expecting people to give up everything for them when they have no intention to do the same…”
“I hope that if folks are quiet-quitting, it gets noticed. And perhaps something can be done in regards to pay equity,” said Mansi Patel, Director of HR and Equity at Family Service Association of Greater Elgin. After all, she mused, why should companies penalize individuals for meeting expectations? “A position’s value should not fluctuate because someone meets versus exceeds expectations,” Patel added.
Others echoed that sentiment. “I feel like, if anything, this is a sign to companies to promote from within,” said one HR professional. In her view, employers concerned about quiet quitting should first “pay people for the tasks they complete, and not just assume they will take on more responsibility without more compensation.”
Other community members agreed. On the topic of compensation and quiet quitting, another HR leader put it simply:
“Companies need to stop expecting people to give up everything for them when they have no intention to do the same for that employee.”
What do you think about quiet quitting? Share your thoughts and see what other HR professionals have to say by joining the Resources for Humans Slack community.