Workers ‘quiet quitting,’ and bosses are encouraged to take notice

Most working people have probably at some point decided it’s time to change jobs — but apparently there’s a new workplace practice that takes place before the dissatisfied worker actually moves on.

“‘Quiet quitting’ is a process where employees perform the duties of their jobs but no longer accept additional work without additional pay,” Dr. Christopher Kayes, professor of management at the George Washington University School of Business, said. “Basically doing the minimum amount of work that’s required for them to keep their job.”

While minimizing productivity has gone by different names —  including a work slowdown and working to the letter of the contract — a recently-posted TikTok video about “quiet quitting” has employees and employers talking.

@zaidleppelin On quiet quitting #workreform ♬ original sound — ruby

“Workers no longer have psychological commitment to their jobs and to their employers,” Kayes said. “Maybe they’re feeling they’re working in a toxic work environment, don’t feel supported, or don’t feel they have the flexibility they need.”

Kayes said threatening an employee probably won’t work.

“In this environment that’s unproductive, because they’re going to not only lose good employees — they’re going to have a really hard time replacing them, in this job market.”

For employers who have been struggling to fill vacancies, Kayes says it’s important to recognize and take action when an employee seems dissatisfied.

“The biggest thing a boss can do is just listen to the worker and say, ‘What is it I can do to support you, to make this job a better place for you, and a better fit,'” Kayes said.

The worker may end up eventually leaving, Kayes said.

“Once an employee moves to quiet quitting or displays other job withdrawal behaviors — maybe showing up late or spending excess time doing nonwork activities — then it’s probably too late.”

And, as to whether employees who are quiet quitting are sabotaging future career opportunities, Kayes said that’s not an issue, at least for now.

“For workers, the labor market is really in their favor, so they can quiet-quit one job and find another within a week or two,” Kayes said. Employers are willing to hire new workers without recommendations or applicants who don’t have all the background or skills listed on a job description.

“They’re so desperate to fill positions, they’re willing to train them,” Kayes said. “The power has really shifted to the worker, and they have a lot more options.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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