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How SMB Employers Can Prevent Quiet Quitting

Quick look: Quiet quitting is more than just an HR buzzword—it’s a term for something that’s been happening for decades but is recently increasing in prevalence. Here’s what quiet quitting is, what causes it, and how working with a PEO can equip SMB employers with the tools they need to prevent it.

While quiet quitting has been making headlines, it isn’t a new phenomenon. The uptick in workers withdrawing from their tasks but not outright leaving their organization may be due to shifting work-life balance priorities in recent years, unclear expectations, and disengaged managers.

It’s important to note that some employees are naturally quieter than others or could appear to be withdrawn due to a heavier-than-usual workload. However, quietness becomes an issue when it’s due to workers feeling like they don’t have anything of value to say, like they don’t have any meaningful tasks, or like no one listens to them. In these cases, feeling directionless, purposeless, unmotivated, or unappreciated could spark the quiet quitting.

Who is quiet quitting?

Recent research shows varying results regarding how many people feel disengaged from their jobs. Gallup reports that employee engagement is declining for the first time in more than 10 years (from 36% of employees feeling engaged in 2020 to just 32% in 2022).

Another Gallup poll claims that quiet quitters make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce, and 83% of those who responded to a LinkedIn News poll say they’ve personally quiet quit or seen it happen in their workplace. Similarly, a survey reports that 21% of American workers are doing the bare minimum, and 5% claim they do less than what they’re paid to do.

When it comes to which segments of employees are quiet quitting, recent data reveals that younger Millennials, or those born after 1989, and Generation Z have the lowest employee engagement levels. This may be because both of these generations prioritize work-life balance. According to SHRM, 24% of young workers quit their jobs due to an inadequate balance between their professional and personal lives.

Is quiet quitting happening at your company?

Quiet quitters tend to lay low and don’t technically quit their job and leave their companies. Instead, quiet quitting is associated with behaviors like:

  • Withdrawing from workplace social interaction
  • Reducing communication
  • Arriving late or leaving early
  • Decreased productivity
  • Less contribution to team projects
  • A lack of passion or enthusiasm

Managers should watch for sudden, uncharacteristic changes in their team members’ behavior. These shifts could include the worker seeming frustrated, overwhelmed, unenergetic, or confused from a lack of direction.

Why quiet quitting matters

In many cases, quiet quitting is a symptom of a larger issue within the workplace and can serve as an opportunity for business leaders to address important problems.

For example, certain teams may assign additional work to employees without investing in them in return through adequate compensation increases or professional training required for the new tasks. Workers could also be experiencing burnout, a lack of work-life balance, or a sense of boredom and exhaustion from their responsibilities.

5 ways to prevent quiet quitting

Even organizations with the best intentions can have scenarios that spark some employees to quiet quit. Here are five ways to proactively prevent that from occurring.

1. Listen to your workforce

Understanding the challenges facing your workers is the first step toward fixing them. Employers can regularly administer employee surveys to gather feedback from all corners of the organization. Leadership should also encourage managers to have honest conversations with their team members about their feelings regarding their roles and responsibilities, the team’s dynamic, and more.

2. Be clear and realistic

Unclear expectations are asking for employee confusion, frustration, and burnout. Gallup found that less than 40% of young workers in remote or hybrid roles clearly understood what they’re expected to do at work. Managers should ensure that their team’s workloads are realistic, responsibilities are clear, and that boundaries are established to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

3. Prioritize mental wellness

Stress is a natural part of life, and employers should show their staff that they value their mental health.

They can do this by offering a variety of employee benefits designed to support mental wellness, like health insurance that covers therapy sessions and an employee assistance program (EAP) that can connect workers with counselors (for free).

4. Provide opportunities to grow

Sometimes quiet quitting happens because employees are bored of their role or have plateaued in their careers.

Employers can combat this by offering ample opportunities for career development. This could look like running a mentorship program that connects mentors and mentees and can help organizations retain talent and fill skill gaps. Companies can also provide workers access to a learning and development portal with immersive, on-demand training on various topics.

5. Recognize employee efforts

Showing gratitude can go a long way.

All employees (leadership, managers, and individual contributors) should be encouraged to say “thank you” to their colleagues during team and company-wide gatherings, like town halls. These gatherings are an excellent time to celebrate relevant work anniversaries, too.

A performance management platform that allows employees to send quick notes of gratitude can also enable workers to recognize each other’s hard work in a convenient or private way if desired.

Protect yourself with a PEO

Quiet quitting sounds new and scary, but it’s something that’s been occurring for decades, and it presents an opportunity for employers to improve their workplaces.

By safeguarding against quiet quitting, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can experience increased employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention. But doing so can be more complicated (and costly) than anticipated.

Professional employer organizations (PEOs) can help business leaders reach those goals without becoming burnt out themselves. A PEO, like ExtensisHR, can help you:

  • Offer the right benefits at a competitive cost to entice workers to stay, encourage a better work-life balance, and support employees’ mental health.
  • Develop worker-friendly policies with the help of a dedicated HR Manager, who can guide policy and strategy creation, including employee surveying, flexible scheduling, and more.
  • Encourage professional development by providing employees access to an online trusted knowledge base featuring immersive, on-demand learning modules.
  • Foster a culture of gratitude with a performance management system enabling workers to provide each other with feedback and recognition.
  • Eliminate role responsibility confusion by providing full-cycle recruiting services (at no extra charge), including job description creation.

Do you have the tools you need to prevent quiet quitting? Our experts are here to help. Contact the ExtensisHR team today.

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