‘Quiet quitting’ isn’t new—the internet just gave it a name

Here’s what HR leaders and managers can do to help employees reengage.
article cover

Bad Teacher/Sony Pictures Entertainment

· 3 min read

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.

Irish goodbyes may be an acceptable way of exiting a party, but certainly not the workplace. And yet, the trend of “quiet quitting”—in which employees slowly detach from their jobs, often while looking for new work—is taking the internet by storm.

While it may be new to the internet, one HR leader who spoke to HR Brew said that employees have been doing this for a long time. Now it just has a name.

Zoom in. Word of quiet quitting started to spread last month, thanks to a now-viral TikTok by creator Zkchillin. As he put it, “You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the ‘hustle culture’ mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is, it’s not. And your worth as a person is not defined by your labor.”

Just 21% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, down slightly from the 2019 high of 22%, an April Gallup report found. Perhaps more concerning: 57% are neither engaged nor thriving. “Employees who are engaged at work but not thriving have a 61% higher likelihood of ongoing burnout than those who are engaged and thriving,” the report said. Shayla Thurlow, VP of people and talent acquisition at The Muse, told HR Brew that employees typically quiet-quit after they burn out but before they leave.

Look out and listen in. With symptoms such as decreased engagement and activity, Thurlow said quiet quitting can look somewhat similar to burnout. Upon noticing the signs, “That’s a great space for either HR or their immediate leader to step in and say, ‘Hey, just want to make sure everything’s okay. Do you have everything that you need?’” she suggested. “It’s really important that we have these touch points with our employees, to prevent the very steep decline and engagement that occurs with quiet quitting.”

Then, she said, HR leaders and managers can help employees reengage. “It really comes down to being able to have that open and honest communication and being able to ask thoughtful questions and really positioning yourself as a success partner for your employee, to [establish] that they are…burned out and to do things to boost their engagement.”

It’s more common than one might think—Thurlow said everyone likely knows, or has been at one point, a quiet quitter—making it that much more important that HR know how to address it.

“This has certainly been occurring for a very long time and I’m very happy that we’re starting to have these conversations, because I think we have the ability to change the employee experience.”—KP

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @Kris10Parisi on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Kristen for her number on Signal.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.