Managing Quiet Quitting In The Workplace

Oluwafemi Olafusi Written by Oluwafemi Olafusi · 3 min read >

There is a new phenomenon popularised by TikTok known as quiet quitting in which employees will only perform work within their defined work hours and job description. Employees will not actually resign from their employment, but rather, they will refuse to go above and beyond their work duties and hours.

In the TikTok video the narrator reflects that “you’re not outright quitting your job but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality where work has to be your life.”

Ideally, even employees who are quiet quitting should be performing to the best of their abilities within the scope of their role. However, organisations are most likely to grow and be successful when they have a team of employees who are motivated high performers, performing reasonable additional hours and pushing the boundaries of their role.

Managing quiet quitting in the workplace will present challenges for employers. It is likely that there is a disconnect between what an employee considers appropriate work performance and an employer’s expectations. The key to managing the quiet quitter is to have a team of skilled managers who can address performance issues and maintain an open dialogue with employees.

The problem is that some companies and their managers don’t treat people like human beings. When workers are systemically harassed, micro-managed and subjected to abusive behavior, they become disengaged. If the boss doesn’t offer any path for growth and development and the employees’ ideas and input are ignored, it leaves them feeling worthless. Despondently, they believe their job is going nowhere and a dead end.

Reasonable expectations

While a quiet quitter may refuse to work past their contracted hours, employers should be aware that employees can be asked to perform reasonable additional hours. The weekly hours of work is 40 hours for a full-time employee, an employer may request an employee work reasonable additional hours.

To determine whether additional hours are reasonable, an employer must consider any work health and safety risks to the employee, their personal circumstances including their family responsibilities and whether any notice was given to the employee that they may be required to work additional hours. Further, employers need to be mindful to pay any applicable overtime or penalty rates.

In addition to requesting employees work reasonable additional hours, employers have the right to require their employees to follow lawful and reasonable directions regarding how they perform their work. Those directions can include requiring employees to perform additional duties.

Exceeding performance expectations

In order to cultivate a high-performance culture, employers should work to motivate their employees (including any quiet quitters) to exceed their defined performance expectations.

One way to motivate employees is for employers to introduce incentives linked to performance and value creation. For example, for employees who create, sell or run a product that creates value, employers should consider providing commission or a portion of the revenue to the employee. Similarly, if an employee’s high performance helps an employer’s bottom line, then that performance should be recognised through financial bonuses or non-financial rewards.

While it may seem unnecessary to reward employees for performing their role, ignoring the quiet quitting phenomenon is to ignore workers’ concerns that they are undervalued. This can lead to the risk of employers losing their top talent, and increase their recruitment and training costs.

The Signs Of ‘Quiet Quitting’

An employee might be a quiet quitter if he or she is chronically disengaged at work, doing the bare minimum of what is required. When employees are not functioning fully, it can become an invisible drain on a company’s engagement and productivity. Those people that were always in meetings but never did anything are likely quiet quitters. Quiet quitting is made easier in the hybrid or remote work model as it’s easier to hide. Quiet quitters are managing only to the minimum set of performance expectations.”

Find some indicators that a quiet quitter is among your ranks.

  • Disengagement on a chronic basis.
  • Performance only to the minimum set of performance standards
  • Isolation from other members of the team or poor teamwork
  • Withdrawal from any non-necessary conversations, activities or tasks
  • Attendance at meetings but not speaking up or taking action
  • Teammates report a sudden increase in their workload in having to pick up the slack
  • Lack of enthusiasm at work
  • Lacking performance

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

On the surface, the profile of all quiet quitters looks the same. But it’s important that employers exercise caution in judging the motives of quiet quitters. A deeper look unearths a variety of factors that can lead employees to check out and not measure up to their potential. A disgruntled worker, overlooked for a promotion or raise, might operate from a place of passive-aggression and deliberately withdraw and drag feet out of anger.

How to manage poor performing employees

There is a direct correlation between committing to addressing poor performance and creating a high-performance culture.

In some circumstances, employees who are quiet quitting are also engaging in poor performance in their role. Employers are within their rights to performance manage these employees, and should undertake the following steps:

  • identify and understand employee and employer rights and obligations from a range of sources, including federal and state legislation, common law, awards, enterprise agreements, individual contracts, policies and procedures;
  • identify the work standards expected of employees;
  • implement a performance assessment process to identify when those standards have not been met;
  • effectively communicate unsatisfactory performance to employees;
  • make any necessary adjustments to the position;
  • arrange proper training and team meetings; and
  • ensure regular feedback and mentoring.

Disciplinary action

When the above steps fail to address an employee’s performance problems, an employer should consider disciplinary action. The most common disciplinary procedures are counseling, verbal or written warnings and termination of employment. Other disciplinary alternatives include suspension and demotion. The level of disciplinary action taken should correspond to the seriousness of the performance issue.


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