What is quiet quitting?

We all know the impact of employees quitting, but now we need to deal with the impact of quiet quitting.

Quiet quitting, a term popularised in 2021, refers to when an employee stops going the extra mile at work and instead does the bare minimum required to keep their job . In effect, they are quitting their commitment – or their overcommitment, in some cases.

Critics of the term “quiet quitting” ask, quite reasonably, why stopping extra, unpaid, unappreciated work is being seen as anything other than the normal, healthy thing to do. They argue that the term “act your wage” is more fitting! After all, employees have been overworking and underselling themselves since time began, and despite the year being 2023, many workplaces still want blood for their money. No wonder employees everywhere are putting their foot down and saying, “no more!”.

Disengagement and Active Disengagement

One of our favourite studies is this one by Gallup, conducted in 2022. One highlight of their recent research is the fact that only 9% of UK employees surveyed “felt enthused” by their job.

Gallup breaks employees down into four groups: Actively Engaged, Engaged, Disengaged, and Actively Disengaged, and these last two likely contribute towards quiet quitting.

Disengagement describes the group that was exactly that – disengaged. The people in this group show low interest in their job and very low motivation.

Active disengagement describes the people who went one step further. This group tended to deliberately sabotage their soon-to-be-former employers, as a way of getting back at what they perceived to be unfair treatment.

Both of these groups could accurately be described as “quiet quitting” if we go by the current definition of the term.

Gallup found a spike in disengagement overall last year.

So, why don’t the unhappy workers just quit?

The biggest question of all is why people stay at a job they’re unhappy at, only to risk getting the sack with every day that they slack off.

Well, it’s a tough world out there. Many people find the grass is not greener on the other side. Indeed, many employers refuse to adapt to modern times and appear to resent that their workers have autonomy and have the right to call in sick, take unpaid days off, and are entitled to join unions should they chose to do so.

When your average boss wants to deny you basic worker rights, prospects at other workplaces may appear no better.

What is behind the epidemic of quiet quitting?

Companies who face a constant stream of employees jumping ship likely have a much bigger problem on their hands. This high turnover could be a wake-up call about low wages, excessive workload, or a hostile work environment.

Elsewhere, bosses globally may be in a battle with a newfound thirst for remote work that benefits the employee but certainly does not benefit the company – many employers think remote workers are not as productive. Employers who may show reluctance to adapt the new Zoom-reliant hybrid work set-up that reduces commute time and saves significant money for their employees could face backlash. It’s not a shock that employees whose bosses refuse to accommodate something that would vastly improve their employees’ lives may find themselves dealing with a team of quiet quitters – but bosses who see a dip in productivity reasonably expect workers to come back to the office, so the only solution here may be to part ways.

Quiet quitting is a symptom of a problem for which there appears to be no simple solution. Bosses can mitigate this by improving conditions for their workers, all around.


So quiet quitting is on the rise. Leaders can take this opportunity to find out how to create a company culture that is a more engaging and satisfying environment for employees, old and new. If your team or organisation is suffering from low productivity and the impact of quiet quitting, shooksvensen can help. We support leaders to create a more open, people-oriented culture, where human needs are taken into consideration, and leaders learn how to support both people and results.

Leadership Development

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