Quiet Quitting: What HR Can Do to Support Employees

September 7, 2022 by Verified First

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First, there was the "great resignation” where thousands of professionals left their jobs in search of new opportunities. This phenomenon was most popular among baby boomers and older millennials as the effects of the pandemic restructured their work-life priorities. Now there’s a new buzzword sweeping across workplace chat platforms and in-person break rooms, and it’s popular among younger millennials and Gen Z - “quiet quitting.”  

For HR professionals, quiet quitting is quickly becoming a new concern as more and more professionals subscribe to the idea. But what is quiet quitting, and what does it mean for HR? Let’s break down this new phenomenon and explore how HR professionals can navigate quiet quitting within their organizations.  

What is quiet quitting?

The term “quiet quitting” was brought to light on the social media platform TikTok by a user named zaidleppelin, and people haven’t been able to stop talking about it since. Quiet quitting is when an employee stops subscribing to the idea that they have to sacrifice their personal time and health in order to go above and beyond within their work life. Quiet quitting doesn’t actually involve quitting one's job. Instead, it’s seen through behaviors like:

  • Stepping away from work at the end of the workday instead of working past paid time
  • Saying “no” to extra projects or responsibilities
  • Taking PTO and prioritizing relationships outside of the office 
  • Completing work that exclusively falls under one’s job description

In short, quiet quitting is the idea that professionals aren’t willing to go out of their way for a company if their work doesn’t contribute to their professional goals, if they aren’t being adequately compensated for their responsibilities, or if their work causes unhealthy stress that hinders their personal life. 

When does quiet quitting occur?

Quiet quitting is a new name for an old concept. It’s most closely related to workplace burnout, where employees are under so much pressure to perform that they burn themselves out of a role or an industry. Burnout occurs in some instances when employees: 

  • Aren’t connected to a company’s mission or goal
  • Are asked to complete tasks outside of their wheelhouse 
  • Are expected to meet or exceed unrealistic goals 
  • Are competing with coworkers for attention from upper management

When COVID-19 spiked burnout for professionals across the country, people reacted in different ways. For those older generation professionals, many took part in the great resignation and sought out a new path. However, for young professionals like those in Gen Z, they felt that they didn’t have the security of past work experience to move on from their current professional endeavors. Instead, they invested in quiet quitting as a way to help save themselves from further burnout. 

What contributes to quiet quitting?

Each quiet quitter has their own personal reasons for stepping back, but a study by the Harvard Business Review found that management has a large effect on quiet quitting. 

This study, based on data from 13,048 direct reports of 2,801 managers that was gathered starting in 2020, found that managers who showed concern for an employee’s personal needs and the overall positivity of their work environment only had 3% of employees quietly quitting. In comparison, the least effective managers were three to four times more likely to have employees who quietly quit. 

Overall, this data shows that workplaces with strong company cultures and managers who are fully supported in their roles experience fewer quiet quitters. 

What is HR’s Role in quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting isn’t a phenomenon that can be eradicated by HR’s involvement. It’s impossible to create or adjust policies that will turn every employee into a spirited, professional go-getter. However, there are ways that HR can support their employees so they don’t see quiet quitting as the only way to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

If we take the results of the Harvard Business Review’s study, we can create steps for an initial game plan that can help HR make their organization a healthier place to work for everyone. 

  1. Check in on managers - Managers can’t do well in their positions if they lack the proper resources and care. Ask managers how they feel about their current level of support.
  2. Validate boundaries - Work-life balance is important. HR professionals should be advocating for wellness within their company by encouraging programs that set healthy boundaries for employees.
  3. Ask for employee feedback - In order to care for employees, they need to be listened to. Ask employees about how they feel about their current workplace engagement and how management can adjust responsibilities to help them better connect to their initiatives. 

In conclusion

Learning the concerns of the younger generation of employees means shifting the mindset of what it means to be a professional today. Quiet quitting could be an indicator of deeper organizational issues within a company. To help you understand shifting workplace dynamics, join our HR at the Table webinar event, Recruit, Reskill, and Retain Today’s Workforce. This webinar will explore generational workplace trends, retention strategies for different generations, and more! 

About Verified First
Verified First is known for delivering streamlined background screening backed by the best client support, and for developing the easiest, fastest HR system integrations, for free. Our client support team is U.S.-based, answers calls in seconds, resulting in hundreds of positive testimonials and a 96% customer satisfaction. Verified First's patent-pending, award-winning integrations include over 100 applicant tracking systems, and provide clients a turn-key experience.

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