No matter what field you’ve in, or your position as a leader at your company, we’re willing to bet a trending term – likely ‘quiet quitting’ or ‘loud quitting’ – has come across your radar in the past year.
Probably more than once.
And, through various articles and media, you probably have a grasp on these concepts by now.
Dare we say… you might think of some of them as ‘old news.’
However, it seems as though a new buzzword surfaces every few months, taking the media and social platforms by storm once more.
So, while you might be familiar with – and possibly tired of hearing about – things like ‘quiet quitting’ or ‘loud quitting,’…do you know the history and implications of these terms?
In reality, most of the ‘modern’ concepts we will discuss are just fancy embellishments on attitudes that have existed in the workplace for decades.
We’re here to reveal what the terms quiet quitting, loud quitting, quiet firing, and grumpy staying really mean and why they might not be as ‘trendy’ as they’re disguised to be!
By understanding these terms’ definitions, historical context, and implications, leaders, managers and HR professionals can better navigate the challenges they present and foster a more engaged and productive workforce.
What Is Quiet Quitting?
The ‘phenomenon’ of quiet quitting has existed for decades (…probably since humans started working), but it became a corporate buzzword in early 2022.
The term refers to employees disengaging from their work without explicitly resigning. It involves a gradual withdrawal of effort and enthusiasm, often unnoticed until it’s too late.
Scenario: Let’s say that an employee has been with their company for a couple of years and had previously performed well (or, at least average) in their role. But, perhaps as time passes, they feel unsupported and rarely connect with their leader or team. They may not know what opportunities are available internally and feel in a rut. Or, maybe they were hired based solely on their qualifications (rather than value alignment), and they don’t align with the company’s culture or mission…
Whatever the case, this employee may stop trying to participate in company events or incentives and make less effort in their day-to-day activities at work . To put it simply…
When somebody quiet quits, they don’t literally quit their job, but they do ‘check out’ mentally and often do the bare minimum to coast in their role.
Many associate quiet quitting with Gen Z and believe it became more of a ‘movement’ two years into the Covid-19 pandemic – a global event that changed the workplace as we knew it.
However, we tend to believe that the pandemic and emergence of today’s workforce merely cast a light on quiet quitting and made it trendy thanks to platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.
In every field throughout history, employees have exhibited signs of disengagement and dissatisfaction in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways. In the past, terms included coasting, slacking, living to work (instead of working to live), and so on…
With the increased emphasis on employee well-being and work-life balance in recent years, the impact of quiet quitting has gained more attention than ever.
Further, with social media being so prevalent, there have been more open discussions about workplace experiences and quiet quitting. People can share their anecdotes openly with a large audience.
What Does Quiet Quitting Mean for Business Leaders?
As you strive to scale your company, having quiet quitters on your team could not only have financial implications (think: productivity-related losses and turnover costs), but it could also put your culture and the future of your business at stake.
Quiet quitting can have significant consequences for organizations, including decreased productivity, lower team morale, and increased turnover.
It’s unrealistic to assume that all jobs will be exciting at all times and that every person on your team will give their best effort each day.
We’re human, and being an A-Player doesn’t exempt someone from having an off day or week.
However, when people don’t feel supported by their leaders and peers or feel isolated, bored or even dissatisfied in their role or environment, their behaviour and action can be detrimental to the rest of your team should they opt to ‘quietly quit.’
The good news is there are proactive measures you can take to prevent quiet quitting…there are also ways to address it if you think you already have some quiet quitters on your team!
How Can You Address Quiet Quitting?
Just because your retention rates are satisfactory doesn’t mean people aren’t doing the bare minimum and disengaging at your company. Look for signs of low morale and less-than-satisfactory performance – it’s important to talk to your employees and address dissatisfaction before it’s too late.
We recommend that you:
- Proactively monitor employee engagement through regular check-ins and feedback sessions; at Castle HR, we recommend quarterly Modern Performance Reviews and surveys
- Foster a positive work environment and culture that encourages open communication, recognizes employee contributions, and ensures employee feedback is acted upon (not rejected or punished)
- Provide opportunities for growth and development to keep employees motivated and invested in their work. For instance, Google encourages employees to invest 20% of their time in projects and learning that they believe will benefit the company!
As your business grows, you should also consider developing and implementing a Talent Acquisition strategy as a proactive measure that focuses on hiring based on your company values.
When you hire a team that aligns with your culture, values and mission, you may be less likely to experience quiet quitting in your workplace! We refer to this as ‘getting the right people in the right seats; when you do that, it will be hard NOT to be successful.
Is There A Correlation Between Remote Work And Quiet Quitting?
Additionally, 21% of remote workers have admitted to ‘quiet quitting.’
But, as we mentioned earlier, the physical act of quiet quitting isn’t new; rather, the term itself is!
Disengagement has always existed, which can be difficult to detect in remote environments.
This is where managers and leaders can step up and be proactive!
Indeed, more businesses operate remotely now than ever before. However, we don’t completely agree with the widespread belief that ‘people don’t want to work’ in a post-covid world.
Quiet quitting can happen when employees aren’t given clear direction and feel unsupported – obviously, being a remote worker can sometimes make people feel isolated.
These scenarios also mean that, in some cases, people will get away with doing the bare minimum for extended periods if nobody notices.
It’s been reported that less than 4 in 10 remote workers (under the age of 35) know what is expected of them at work.
While this lack of clarity could be due to a remote or hybrid environment, it’s also important to consider that many younger employees are used to virtual learning environments and forming connections through a screen.…so while we aren’t saying their managers are to blame, they’re certainly key players when it comes to employee engagement, direction and satisfaction!
Even before remote work was the norm, many people working in office spaces could look busy but not be actually working. Coasting through one’s workday can be done regardless of the setting.
It isn’t just about doing the bare minimum, though.
The ability to work from home and achieve a harmonious work/life/family balance made a lot of professionals realize that the mundane, stuffy office they’d spent a decade sitting in each week wasn’t the only place on earth that they could get work done – nor was it the best for their overall wellbeing. So, it’s fair to assume that some people became more relaxed, perhaps took on less stressful tasks, detached too much… and possibly even rebutted at a remote-to-office mandate.
With this in mind, leaders of remote teams may find themselves alarmed about quiet quitting.
How can you tell if somebody is disengaging if you never see them? How can you engage with your team remotely and keep them invested in their role?
…it’s easier than you might think.
How To Prevent Quiet Quitting In A Remote Work Setting
Performance and deliverable-based indicators of quiet quitting (and other company culture-related indicators) are similar whether you’re in a physical office or not.
Long story short: People want to work, but they want to work in good conditions. While this can be subjective, today’s workforce generally looks for remote workplaces with supportive company culture, strong leadership, great communication and autonomy.
Fostering a productive workplace environment and reducing the likelihood of your employee’s quiet quitting begins with setting expectations and keeping your team aligned and connected, even if they never see each other in person.
While the shift to remote work isn’t to blame for quiet quitting, there is certainly a correlation. But, as mentioned earlier, there are ways to address it in any workplace, and steps you can take to prevent it in a remote one:
Keep your team engaged and communicating
Remote work can present obvious challenges and feel isolating for all. Maintaining strong, open communication (and encouraging it) with your team is a good way to keep everyone engaged and foster your company culture.
This can be done using a variety of platforms. This can also keep your team on track and mitigate people getting distracted, forgetting to complete work or missing meetings.
At Castle HR, we encourage our team to utilize their Google calendar and various digital tools to stay organized. Our team also regularly shares their photos, milestones, questions and everything in between on Slack throughout the day.
We have quarterly company-wide town halls and regularly conduct teambuilding contests and challenges to keep everyone on the same page and contributing!
Finally, you can keep your team engaged by conducting Modern Performance Reviews. Our team looks forward to them each quarter!
As noted earlier, regular conversations help with alignment and allow management to discuss goals, challenges and accomplishments with employees four times a year. This can also reduce the risk of your team feeling lost or not understanding what is expected of them.
Ditch old management techniques
Synchronous communication and tracking standard hours may not be entirely dated, but they do not work for all remote environments.
Synchronous approaches (clocking in and out, having several lengthy conversations each day, etc.) can cause a lot of burnout in remote settings and aren’t always practical or efficient.
Instead, asynchronous approaches (focusing on results and deliverables) work better for many remote teams.
So long as everybody on your team completes their tasks and performs reliably, there may not be a need to ‘clock in and out’ between 9-5 or jump on a Zoom call whenever somebody has a question.
Adopting new technology (Slack, Teams, Discord) is a great way to pivot from requiring constant meetings. It allows your team to set boundaries so that they can focus but still be accessible throughout the workday.
Focus on your values and culture
Based on the two previous sections above, values and culture are hugely important, especially for remote workplaces!
We recognize that a work/life balance is crucial for many in the workforce and encourage all business leaders to do the same. In fact…
With this in mind, at Castle HR, we encourage ‘adulting’ and ‘staying flexible’ amongst our team, as they are a part of our values.
What does that mean? It’s simple: while most of our client and internal meetings may occur during standard working hours, our team members are entrusted to act as adults and remain flexible throughout the week.
For instance, a team member may attend an appointment, take their kids to/from school during a workday, or work on a project during the evening if they so choose. As long as work is getting done and communication is happening, we’re all happy!
Fostering a winning culture prioritizing communication, flexibility, and autonomy is vital to today’s workforce.
What Is Loud Quitting?
Loud quitting is a more overt form of disengagement, where employees openly express their dissatisfaction and disapproval before actually leaving their jobs.
It often involves public outbursts, confrontations, going against management’s wishes, acting in a way that harms the business, and even using social media to vent frustrations.
In terms of historical context, loud quitting has been observed in various industries for generations. It’s also very common…
1 in 5 [Americans] report to be loudly quitting. And 61% of them are actively seeking a new job.
But, unlike quiet quitting, they aren’t showing up to work and quietly coasting – they’re making it known that they’re unhappy.
The image of a flustered, heated employee kicking, causing a ruckus in the workplace, or deliberately scheming against their boss is one that’s been used time and time again in various forms of media.
However, just like quiet quitting, loud quitting has gained visibility through high-profile cases shared on social media platforms.
The rise of online platforms has given employees a louder voice to express their grievances publicly.…and coining a phrase to describe this type of behaviour in the wake of a major workforce shift only makes it natural that it became somewhat of a buzzword!
Scenario: Once on good terms with their manager, an employee feels their leader has crossed them. They act maliciously rather than talking it out (perhaps they only have a performance review once a year and aren’t comfortable approaching their boss). They fail to deliver material to clients on time, routinely show up to work late or skip meetings, and slander their company on social media.
What Does Loud Quitting Mean For Business Leaders?
Loud quitting can seriously affect an organization’s reputation, employee morale, and employer branding. While quiet quitting can be a slow burn, loud quitting can be detrimental in a short period of time.
To reduce the impact, HR professionals and business leaders should:
- Encourage open and transparent communication channels to address employee concerns
- Promote a culture that values feedback and provides avenues for employees to express their opinions without fear of retribution – as we noted earlier, Modern Performance Reviews that take place quarterly and conducting surveys can help with this, so can leaders having an open door policy
- Conduct exit interviews (if/when they eventually resign) to gain insights into employees’ reasons for leaving and identify areas for improvement
- Address any instances of loud quitting or inappropriate with your team appropriately; the worst thing you can do is pretend it isn’t happening
- Have an employee handbook that clearly outlines expectations – harmful and unprofessional behaviour should not be tolerated, and your team should understand that
- In certain situations, a termination may be warranted – consult your HR Professional and/or Lawyer – this should only be considered seriously if other methods are not working and your ‘loud quitter’ is starting to influence other employees negatively
- Be prepared in case your disgruntled employee slanders you on social media, or to other employees
What Is Quiet Firing?
Quiet firing refers to employers discreetly letting go of employees without explicitly firing them. This can be done through sidelining, reducing responsibilities, or creating an inhospitable work environment to encourage voluntary resignation.
Like quiet quitting and loud quitting, quiet firing has long been a part of workplace dynamics. It isn’t new, but the phrase has become quite common. Historical terms include ‘managing out’ and, in more legal terms, ‘constructive dismissal.’
With increased focus on employee rights and fair employment practices in recent years, some organizations are under scrutiny to ensure transparency and fairness in their employment decisions.
Quiet firing is not a good practice and can have legal implications. If an employee proves they were constructively dismissed, they will be owed severance and other damages. Always consult your Lawyer, Advisor and/or HR Professional if you have any questions. Treating employees fairly is crucial.
Scenario: An employee has been in their role for several years. Their boss, for whatever reason, decides to try and persuade them to resign on their own. They revoke their responsibilities and even relocate them to a smaller office space. They increase their tasks (especially those that are tedious or thankless) but decrease the perks that once came with the role.
What Does Quiet Firing Mean For Business Leaders?
Quiet firing can erode employee trust, damage team dynamics, and negatively impact organizational culture.
To maintain a positive work environment (and avoid quiet firing at your company), you should:
- Implement fair and transparent performance management practices, providing employees with clear expectations and regular feedback
- Communicate openly with employees about changes that may impact their roles or career trajectories
- Be open and honest with your people. If they’re not thriving at your company, the ultimate kindness for everyone involved may be to give them working notice so that can explore their options with some financial security
- Foster a culture of trust and psychological safety where employees feel comfortable expressing concerns or reporting potential issues
2023: The (Supposed) Emergence Of ‘Grumpy Stayers’
…you heard it here first!
Or, maybe you read other business articles recently that described the next phase of quiet quitting as ‘grumpy staying’…which, in some cases, may feel like a comically accurate term.
But, spoiler, it isn’t new and exclusive to 2023.
If you’ve ever seen The Office, Stanley might be the first character that comes to mind when you hear the phrase.
Although loveable, he was rarely a ray of sunshine in the workplace and barely did any work.
While it’s impractical to expect your entire team to be bubbly and enthusiastic around the clock, grumpy stayers display persistent negativity, low morale, and resistance to change.
This can include moodiness, distrust in management, slacking off on the job, making it known that they’re disinterested in being there…and doing the bare minimum.
Some teams may shrug off the actions of their resident grumpy employee. But, it’s important to consider that the grumpy stayer may contribute to a toxic work environment and hinder productivity and team morale over time.
In some instances, grumpy stayers keep their job because they know they can – perhaps they’ve been there for decades or know a critical process nobody else does. Sometimes, there is a lack of other job opportunities for them elsewhere.
How Should Leaders Address Grumpy Stayers?
Much like quiet and loud quitting, as a business leader, you should strive to have regular conversations with your team members individually and communicate openly with your team.
Inappropriate behaviour should be addressed; sometimes, your grumpy stayer may feel forgotten or lost in their role. A conversation (or a quarterly performance review) could be enough to provide clarity and set them down a more productive, positive path!
Whatever you do, do NOT engage in similar behaviour – this would be an instance of quiet firing, and as we noted above, this only worsens situations and should be avoided at all costs.In a way, and in certain situations, quiet firing is just what a grumpy stayer desires – a lack of oversight and direction as an excuse to do next to nothing and get paid for it!
Conclusion: What Does The (Corporate) Future Hold?
With a new buzzword circulating in the corporate world and media every few months, it can be overwhelming to keep up to date with today’s workforce and know what’s happening with your team.
It’s no secret that today’s workforce has values, needs and wants that are different from their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts. This does not necessarily mean that they don’t want to work – rather, they want to work for companies with the same values, and approach work from a humanistic perspective.
Quiet quitting may feel like an ‘anti-9-to-5-grind’ movement, but it goes deeper than that. For instance, many middle-class jobs have been lost in the past 40 years due to offshoring and automation.
During the 2008 financial crisis, many ‘lifers’ got laid off unexpectedly.
Additionally, there has been an increasing compensation gap between many executives and everyone else underneath them.
This is a very complex and deep topic, but to put it simply, quiet quitting isn’t a Gen Z or Millennial trend that developed post-Covid.
A percentage of working people have been disengaged and done the bare minimum forever…but we’re hearing about it more with the emergence of remote work and the rise of social media (where people now more than ever realize how powerful their voice is, and how far-reaching their content can be).
However, whether you’re dealing with quiet quitting, loud quitting, or grumpy stayers, the proactive approach is the same:
- Hire the right people, and get them in the right seats at your company (Castle HR is here to help with that)
- Have a solid onboarding strategy to acclimate your A-Players
- Keep up with your team – Slack and Teams work great for remote workplaces
- Hear them out – conduct surveys and quarterly performance reviews to help with goal setting and letting them know that you care about them and their future
- Encourage a healthy work-life balance and, if possible, provide autonomy if that is what your team wants
- Watch for signs of burnout; nobody enjoys 18 Zoom calls a day
- Adapt to modern preferences and listen to your team
- Address any issues immediately – if you let poor behaviour and actions slide, other people may adopt the same attitude over time, and this can ruin your culture or turn it toxic over time
And, when it comes to quiet firing, remember that you’re in a leadership position, and people reciprocate the energy they receive from you. You should always conduct yourself respectfully and professionally, even when dealing with a difficult situation, like a quiet quitter!