Getting a job offer is a major accomplishment, especially in a competitive job market like the one we see today.
But even in a competitive landscape, job seekers can and should be choosy in the roles they apply to and the offers they accept. Not all job offers, employers, and on-the-job experiences are created equal, and accepting the wrong one can threaten your overall career satisfaction.
While job dissatisfaction affects all aspects of life, it can also lead directly to a term you may have heard recently—quiet quitting.
What is Quiet Quitting?
There isn’t an official definition, but the term “quiet quitting” is typically used to describe employees that are actively disengaged in the workplace. They come to work and perform their duties, but overall, don’t actively participate or proactively offer their time and talents to help the team or company.
Some common examples of quiet quitting include:
- Not participating in meetings. Someone who is “quiet quitting” will show up to meetings, but they don’t really participate beyond answering direct questions. They might not offer their ideas or solutions to problems or brainstorming sessions.
- Indifference towards customer feedback. Engaged consultants want to ensure their customers are satisfied and work hard to ensure a positive experience, not only with them but with the company. Quiet quitters, on the other hand, don’t really care and don’t proactively seek out ways to create a good experience for customers.
- Indifference towards results. Additionally, quiet quitters aren’t concerned with meeting project or team goals. Maybe a project doesn’t go as planned, or roadblocks along the way pushed out timelines and required additional work from the team. Rather than working to ensure goals are met, quiet quitters don’t care if goals are met or projects go as planned.
- Not taking advantage of career progression tools. Some companies offer helpful services and programs to help their employees grow professionally, such as mentorship programs or access to continuing education. Disengaged employees don’t take advantage of these offerings and don’t seem concerned with furthering their careers, at least not within their current company.
- Frequent complaining or criticism. It’s perfectly natural and even expected to experience frustrations within the workplace from time to time. But people who are “quiet quitting” tend to dwell on the negative or constantly complain without offering solutions to improve.
What Causes Quiet Quitting?
It’s worth noting that quiet quitting often means different things to different people. Some define it as doing only the bare minimum or refusing to pitch in when needed. Others consider it a passive-aggressive way for employees to “get back” at jobs or cultures they’re unhappy with without actually quitting.
The common consensus, however, is that quiet quitting is usually the result of unhappiness and disengagement.
Some of the reasons frequently cited for low employee engagement include:
- Burnout. Job burnout, or physical and emotional exhaustion from work, can be a major issue for employees. An excessive, demanding workload is often cited as one of the main causes of burnout. People who feel overworked to the point of being burned out may participate in quiet quitting as a form of self-preservation.
- Lack of recognition. Employees want to feel appreciated and recognized for their hard work. One study found that 37% of employees consider recognition the most important factor for job satisfaction, while 69% admitted they’d work harder if they felt better appreciated.
- No autonomy. No one likes to be micromanaged. In fact, one survey found that 70% of employees consider changing jobs if they experience micromanaging behavior. Employees who feel like they can’t be trusted to do their jobs or feel like they’re constantly being baby-sat at work are more likely to start quiet quitting while they look for a better opportunity.
- Lack of advancement opportunities. Nearly half of all employers surveyed consider advancement opportunities a very important part of their job satisfaction. Employees who are in a role that doesn’t offer the ability to advance into more challenging roles with greater responsibilities have little motivation to go above and beyond.
Why does Quiet Quitting Matter?
Some people defend quiet quitting by saying employees shouldn’t be required to do more than they’re paid to do. It’s true that some employers take advantage of their employees or promote a toxic work environment, and no one should feel that it’s normal to consistently work overtime or just accept a toxic work culture.
Employers are concerned with quiet quitting because it leads to higher turnover, decreased productivity, and low morale, among other things—all situations that every company wants to avoid.
But quiet quitting affects employees, too. Some of the ways employees are negatively impacted by their own quiet quitting include:
- Lack of productivity. One of the biggest concerns about quiet quitting is that it often leads to a lack of productivity, which can result in missed deadlines, poor performance, or an increase in errors—all things that can put your job at risk.
- Negative perception from management and team members. Actively disengaging from work often affects the entire team, which can cause your boss and coworkers to perceive you in a negative way. They may assume you’re unqualified or a poor fit for the role.
- Missed opportunities. When quiet quitting affects performance, you’re less likely to be rewarded for your performance through advancement opportunities or salary increases.
- Burned bridges. Quiet quitters who let their workplace performance suffer or develop a reputation for not being a team player can burn bridges at work. This can negatively affect your ability to get positive references and recommendations for other roles that are a better fit.
Quiet quitting may seem like a way to combat an overly-demanding or unrewarding role, but it can ultimately sabotage your own career goals and efforts.
Avoiding the Quiet Quitting Trap
There are better, more productive ways to handle a poor job experience that don’t involve quiet quitting—including avoiding roles that are likely to lead to job dissatisfaction.
Companies that have a strong company culture and prioritize employee engagement and well-being are less likely to have unengaged employees and quiet quitters. This benefits everyone, from the organization to the employees.
A report from the American Psychological Association stated that in a healthy workplace environment, employees report feeling valued and recognized for the work they do, satisfied with the amount of flexibility they have over how and where they work, and ultimately reported better mental health as a result.
So what’s the best way for candidates to find a role where they feel engaged and appreciated? Here are five things to look for:
1. Competent, empathetic leadership.
You’ve probably heard the adage “people don’t leave bad companies; they leave bad managers.” (Or some similar sentiment.) This is actually true; a Gallup poll found that 54% of employees who recently left a job did so because of their boss.
One of the largest studies on employee burnout found that the biggest source of employee burnout was “unfair treatment at work,” followed by an unmanageable workload, unclear communication from managers, a lack of manager support, and unreasonable time pressure—all things that are directly tied to management.
Some red flags that might indicate poor management during an interview include a hiring manager who badmouths former employees or the company, evades your questions, is vague about the job description or isn’t exactly sure what is required or needed in the role, or just gives off negative vibes in general.
2. Company values that align with your own.
It’s important to know what you value before you start interviewing with companies. For example, do you prioritize Diversity and Inclusion programs and initiatives? Is it important that your company respects your time away from work? Do you want to work for a company that allows you to try new things and learn from mistakes? Are environmental issues important for you?
In your interviews, ask pointed questions so you can be sure the company’s (and manager’s) values are aligned with your own. For example, if you value work/life balance and a hiring manager expects everyone to answer their work phone while they’re on vacation or the company doesn’t prioritize environmental responsibility and that’s important to you, you might want to look elsewhere.
3. Career development opportunities.
Most employees want to improve their knowledge and skillset in order to grow professionally; in one survey, 68% of respondents stated that training and development is the most important policy a company can have.
There are many different career development programs a company might offer to help you expand your skillset and advance in your career. These can include formal mentorship programs like the one offered by Pierce Washington, participation in industry training events or conferences, or paying for relevant classes and certifications.
As you research and interview with different companies, look for those with policies and programs that prioritize career development.
4. Good reviews.
Reviews and recommendations from employees can also help guide you in your job search and identify companies that may or may not be a good fit.
If you’re like 86% of job applicants, you read company reviews before deciding whether or not to apply for a role. While no company is going to have five-star reviews 100% of the time, legitimate review sites can be a good tool for evaluating companies. If you see many reviews consistently state the same issues, like frequent layoffs or out-of-touch management, proceed with caution.
If you have LinkedIn connections who work for a company you’re considering, don’t be shy. Reach out and ask them for their honest opinions.
5. The team members are people you’d like to work with.
Most roles include at least two or three rounds of interviews. During these interviews, you’ll probably meet with the team members you’ll be working with (or at least communicating with, for remote roles) on a day-to-day basis. Pay attention to how they interact with each other and with you.
You can also get a good idea of the overall company culture from employees; if they seem excited at the prospect of a new team member and enjoy their roles, there’s a good chance the team is supportive and actively engaged.
Joanne Pall, Talent Ops Leader at Pierce Washington, agrees, saying, “Our interview process at Pierce Washington is a two-way street. We are interviewing the candidate to learn more about them, but we want the candidate to interview us too. Our interview process allows candidates to meet not only our HR team and Practice Leadership, but also team members and future co-workers.
This allows the candidate to better understand the day-to-day, our culture and what it’s really like to work at Pierce Washington.”
Bottom Line—Quiet Quitting Doesn’t Have to Happen
At the end of the day, no one wants to find themselves in a situation where they feel quiet quitting is their only option.
By actively looking for roles that prioritize the employee experience and create a welcoming and engaging environment, you can avoid situations that lead to quiet quitting.
If you’re considering a career move, consider bringing your talents to Pierce Washington. “Pierce Washington understands the importance of employee engagement at all levels,” says Joanne. “Our culture is one that values a strong work-life balance and employee satisfaction. Our employees are given the autonomy to do their jobs independently, with support mechanisms in place when needed from leadership and peers.”
Our mission to successfully deliver complex projects while building ongoing relationships with our clients has enabled us to deliver mission-critical projects to customers around the world.
Our company culture is one we’re proud of, and we work hard to create an environment that enables our employees to learn and grow professionally while enjoying a healthy work-life balance.
To learn more or see our current openings, visit our Careers page.