· 7 mins · Employee Motivation

Quiet quitting: It’s not as scary as you think

Everyone's talking about quiet quitting. In a recent live session, Hypercontext’s CEO and Co-founder, Brennan McEachran and Bonusly’s VP of Ops, Vicki Yang, shared insights on what the term really means, if it’s a problem and how to avoid it altogether.

Avatar of Nicole Kahansky Nicole Kahansky

The term “quiet quitting” has taken over newsfeeds everywhere, and everyone has an opinion on the polarizing topic.

It instills fear in employers that their employees aren’t doing enough and elicits anger from employees who are desperate to establish boundaries.

But what even is quiet quitting? And is it actually a problem? 

Recently, Hypercontext’s CEO and Co-founder, Brennan McEachran, sat down with Bonusly’s VP of Operations, Vicki Yang, to chat more about the subject. In this article, we’ll share insights from their discussion and what you need to know to keep your team engaged. 

What is quiet quitting? 

Quiet quitting isn’t what it sounds like — no one’s ghosting their employers. In fact, no one’s even quitting their jobs. 

In the Tiktok video that populairzed the notion of quiet quitting, career coach Brian Creely, advises, “hate your job and don’t want to quit? Try being lazy instead.”

Essentially, quiet quitting is when people show up to work, do their job requirements and nothing more. They’re not engaged, but they’re also not actively disengaged (those are loud quitters). According to Gallup, this defines about half of the U.S. workforce. 

Why are people quiet quitting? 

There are two predominant reasons people are showing up to work and doing the minimum.

1. Healthy boundaries 

The pandemic and subsequent shift to remote work over the last couple of years has blurred the boundaries between work and home life (aka working from your living room). 

This caused mass burnout, a stronger need to set clear limits between work and personal life and even “The Great Resignation.” And while last year about 4 million people quit their jobs each month, many merely didn’t want work to be their whole lives. 

number of people quitting their job by the month

That’s where quiet quitting comes in. For many people, quiet quitting comes down to setting healthy boundaries required to avoid burnout and lead a meaningful life both inside and outside of work. 

While “exceeding expectations” is something that’s expected of us as early as kindergarten — maybe we need to reconsider this long-held belief and instead redefine what it means to set clear expectations.

2. Lack of engagement

For others, quiet quitting is about disengaging — likely because they feel unchallenged and unfulfilled. In this case, quiet quitting is a problem. What’s more, it’s not a new problem

A lack of engagement is bad for employers and it’s also bad for the employees who are feeling unengaged. No one wants to show up for work every day and not care about what they’re doing. 

The most beneficial remedies for disengagement are:

  1. Actually quitting. This will allow employees to find a job they enjoy and for someone who finds their job interesting to take on their role and likely yield better results.
  2. Fixing the engagement problem. Companies need to focus more on the problem they’ve been trying to solve since the beginning of time — engagement. Skip ahead for strategies to help improve engagement on your team. 

Why are companies worried about quiet quitting?

If this isn’t a new problem, why are companies all of the sudden so worried about it? 

Remote work fuels fear about quiet quitting. Managing in a remote environment is hard. There’s a lack of information about what your team is doing and that void gets filled with stories you make up in your head — which naturally veer negative.

Let’s look at an example: You’re a manager and you call your team member at 10 am to ask them a question. When you call, they happen to be running an errand. Running an errand in the middle of the work day? Your anxieties start to take over — how much time a day are they spending running errands? Are they taking advantage of the flexibility? Are they ever working?

In reality, taking a break and having work/life flexibility is a positive thing for both employee well-being and productivity. Not to mention, regular breaks are a huge part of office life also — from smoke breaks to getting coffee with coworkers. But in the office, we become accustomed to relying on the physical presence of employees to indicate work was getting done. Without that comfort, there’s more anxiety.

Since remote and hybrid work is the reality for many office workers, it’s essential to find ways to squash these anxieties and build more trust. This requires a complete shift in the way we approach work  — from how we communicate to the goals we set and more.

3 strategies to re-engage your team and squash fears of quiet quitting

The first thing to remember when addressing engagement is that managers are key players. In fact, they account for 70% of the variance in engagement scores.

But what makes a good manager?

In Vicki and Brennan’s conversation on quiet quitting, they review a number of strategies managers can use to improve engagement.

Below we’ve highlighted a few starting points to help.

Setting clear expectations & goals 🎯

The easiest way to set clear expectations is to set clear goals. It matters less what goal framework you use, and more that you’re consistent, collaborative and clear. 

Set goals collaboratively with your team. This will provide them with a deeper understanding of how they fit into the bigger picture from the start. Plus, being part of the process will help improve buy-in and motivation to hit those goals. 

But, we said it once (okay we’ve said it more than once 👀), and we’ll say it again: Setting goals is only half the battle. You also need to talk about your goals….a lot. If you’re only discussing goals once a quarter, it’ll be easy to lose sight of them — resulting in murky expectations. Come back to your goals weekly so that your team remembers what they’re working towards and you can consistently check in on how you’re tracking. 

👉 Get inspired through our library of 360+ goal examples

Recognize and celebrate wins 🎉

Positive feedback is an essential part of motivation.

When you’re working towards big goals, celebrating small milestones becomes even more important to maintain momentum en route to the larger vision. 

According to a PsychTests AIM study, employees who feel under appreciated are more than 2X more likely to no longer care about doing their work well. 

When you create a culture of recognition on your team, you can actively encourage positive behaviours that align with company values and motivate your team to keep working towards their goals. 

👉 At Hypercontext, every demo day, each team shares their shout-outs for the last sprint when they’re done sharing their work. Shout-outs can be for anything from working on a big project to lending a helping hand.  Try setting aside time for recognition — whether it be in demo days, team meetings, one on ones, or even asynchronously over Slack.

One-on-ones ✍️

The truth is that each individual team member is different. What fulfills and motivates one person won’t fulfill and motivate another. 

The quickest and easiest way to understand what individual team members need to stay engaged is through consistent one-on-ones

One-on-ones are an opportunity to talk about and understand what motivates your team members, what they find fulfilling, how they want to grow, communication preferences and what’s going on with them in general. 

They’ll also help you keep a pulse on how your team’s feeling, so you’ll stop asking yourself, “how will I know if my team’s quiet quitting?” You’ll know.  

👉 Try adding some of these one-on-one questions to your next agenda. 

What’s next

Quiet quitting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. People need to set boundaries to continue feeling fulfilled and avoid burnout. 

But, with a shift to remote work, employers are more concerned than ever about disengagement. And some of the fear is founded, as people are feeling increasingly unengaged at work — which isn’t good for anyone. 

Ultimately, engagement levels come down to good managers. Managers need to take control of clear goals and expectations, creating a culture of feedback and recognition and conducting consistent one-on-ones. And companies need to support their efforts.  

To stay in the know about future live sessions, sign up for our emails ✨

In the meantime, check out these helpful resources to improve engagement….

What you should do next

Now that you've read this article, here are some things you should do:

  1. You should check out our features to see how Hypercontext can help you run effective one-on-ones.
  2. Learn more about Hypercontext and how it can help you run a high performing org.
  3. If you found this article helpful, please share it with others on Linkedin or X (Twitter)
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