Quiet Quitting: What to Know & How to Prevent It

Sabrina Starling Commentary


Quiet Quitting: What to Know & How to Prevent It
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Quiet quitting is trending on social media. What is “quiet quitting”? 

Quiet quitting means doing your job as your job description is written. It means no longer putting in extra effort beyond what is expected. It is doing the bare minimum. Employees who are burned out are consciously pulling back, choosing to not put in the extra effort. This is employee disengagement. 

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Quiet quitting is pushback against hustle culture, in which employees are expected to sacrifice personal time, health and well-being to demonstrate their commitment to their job. Hustle culture is not healthy and it’s not sustainable. 

The pandemic has fueled burnout, along with our appreciation for a healthier work-life balance. Many employees have experienced freedom and flexibility in their work as employers figured out how to get work done outside the office.

Burnout is rampant and contributes to quiet quitting. Seventy-nine percent of employees are experiencing work-related stress, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work & Well-being Survey. 

With nearly 3 in 5 employees reporting negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest or motivation (26%), cognitive weariness (36%), emotional exhaustion (32%) and physical fatigue (44%), work is not experienced as a meaningful endeavor that contributes to quality of life. 

The impact of workplace stress is significant. It’s not surprising that employees are paying attention to how much of themselves they give at work. One of the best ways to reduce stress for employees is to experience freedom and flexibility in choosing how work is delivered. As businesses put pressure on employees to return to the office, employees are losing that freedom. This is fueling backlash in the form of quiet quitting.

Your A players are your best employees and they are the most susceptible to burning out and disengaging. They willingly go the extra mile. They are prone to overworking and you may not be fully aware of how much they are working. When they burn out, you risk losing them, either through quiet quitting, or because they are attracted to a better opportunity elsewhere. 

The best way to prevent this is to build a “work supports life” culture by setting healthy expectations with team members with respect to hours worked, as well as availability and responsiveness after hours. 

In my book, “The 4 Week Vacation,” I review the research demonstrating we are more effective when we work fewer hours and have healthier boundaries between work and personal life. As leaders, we must have ongoing discussions about this with our teams, while role modeling healthy work-life boundaries, such as ending work at a regular time each day, turning off phones, and not responding to messages or emails in the evenings and weekends. 

Giving employees more freedom and flexibility with respect to how results are delivered also buffers against workplace stress and the burnout that leads to quiet quitting. Management based on results does this, while making it easier to spot disengagement and intervene to turn it around. For a deeper dive into this topic, listen to Episode 207 on the “Profit by Design” podcast: “Preventing Quiet Quitting With a Results-Oriented Work Environment.” 

The spotlight on quiet quitting is an opportunity to be more aware of your leadership. Perhaps there are opportunities for improvement that benefit your employees and your ability to attract A players, which will make life easier for all on the team, especially you! 


Based in Arkansas, Sabrina Starling is the author of the “How to Hire the Best” series, founder of Tap the Potential LLC and host of the “Profit by Design” podcast. Get more resources and tips at tapthepotential.com.