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‘Quiet quitting' is nothing new, but it is bad news for both employers and employees

By Shandel McAuliffe | |7 minute read
‘Quiet quitting' is nothing new, but it is bad news for both employers and employees

‘Quiet quitting’ went viral on TikTok and debate around the concept rapidly unfolded in the media. And it is serving as a real wakeup call for businesses to refocus their values and leadership principles.

But is quiet quitting entirely new? Despite thousands only recently taking to social media to brag about their silent ‘revolt against the corporate machine’, the sentiment behind quiet quitting has been around for years. But as COVID-19 brought nationwide lockdowns and working from home, it gave many people the opportunity to slow down and re-evaluate their relationship with corporate life. Today, the latest research from Gallup suggests that up to 50 per cent of Americans are now quiet quitters, abandoning any desire to go ‘above and beyond’ at work.

You may think that this doesn’t sound disastrous, after all, why should employees do more than is required of them in order to succeed? But it’s the root of this trend that is the real issue. A pervasive hustle culture that for years made many feel that doing their job wasn’t enough - and while ‘quiet quitting’ may now be the buzzword, the number of actively disengaged employees has been on the rise since 2019.


What we are actually seeing is a wave of dissatisfaction spreading among employees, as resentment grows for the tasks afforded to them and the constant expectation to go ‘above and beyond’ becomes unsustainable. Inevitably, the quality of the work produced, and the creativity of thought begins to rapidly decline.

And rightly so; who wants to do something five days a week that doesn’t inspire or motivate them?

The issue lies with businesses that are too slow to adapt to change and engage with employees in new ways. Although the pandemic did offer a critical juncture for people to reassess what they want and need, we were grappling with extreme uncertainty and to some extents still are. It is now the responsibility of employers to carve out a well-balanced future for all of their employees.

We must foster an environment where people feel valued, appreciated and inspired, seeing clear opportunity for progression while being recognised for delivering high-quality work. For many, this has been lost over the last few years while we focused on navigating unprecedented change. Businesses now have a responsibility to implement core principles of leadership into the frameworks of how they operate. These aren’t new, but they need to be re-established:

  • Sustained flexibility: Employers need to embrace that their employees have a life outside of work; ‘always on’ should not be the expectation. Instead, we need to respect people’s boundaries, and put in place processes that facilitate those, especially when working at home.
  • Open communication: Passions, interests, and motivations change continuously. We should establish spaces that allow for open dialog and change. If an employee is dissatisfied with their current role, they need to be comfortable saying they are, and what changes can the business make to their position to address that? Direct, authentic and honest communication is critical for effective employee engagement.
  • Clear career paths: Employees need to know what they can do in order to reach the next stage of their career – and how the business will support that. In not providing clear paths for your employees, you are allowing them to stagnate. You do not want to foster an environment where quiet quitting seems like the most logical solution.
  • Fair compensation and reward based on merit: We are a performance-based business, and this is exactly what the standard should be. Compensating employees fairly while encouraging innovation and rewarding people for great work is the key to fostering a motivated workforce.
  • Trust: The reality is you can’t monitor the work of every single employee, but you can trust that in hiring the right people and supporting their wellbeing and growth, they will be driven to achieve more. Ensuring you hire the right people who share the same values as the team and believe in a company’s mission, they should come to the table with a can-do mindset.

What makes or breaks a business is its ability to do things differently, to change habits and adjust to new ways of working. With these mechanisms in place, the process of change management will become seamless, even in unpredictable circumstances.

This is not about encouraging a hustle culture that leads to burnt out, disenfranchised employees – that would not be good for business either. Instead, this is about adapting and creating an environment that nurtures trust, promotes talent, empowers curiosity and gets the best out of our people in new ways. Without this, we run the risk of quiet quitting leading to a long list of actual resignations.

Paulo Pisano, SVP & chief people officer at Booking.com



Employees experience burnout when their physical or emotional reserves are depleted. Usually, persistent tension or dissatisfaction causes this to happen. The workplace atmosphere might occasionally be the reason. Workplace stress, a lack of resources and support, and aggressive deadlines can all cause burnout.

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel has recently returned to Australia after working in the UK for eight years. Shandel's experience in the UK included over three years at the CIPD in their marketing, marcomms and events teams, followed by two plus years with The Adecco Group UK&I in marketing, PR, internal comms and project management. Cementing Shandel's experience in the HR industry, she was the head of content for Cezanne HR, a full-lifecycle HR software solution, for the two years prior to her return to Australia.

Shandel has previous experience as a copy writer, proofreader and copy editor, and a keen interest in HR, leadership and psychology. She's excited to be at the helm of HR Leader as its editor, bringing new and innovative ideas to the publication's audience, drawing on her time overseas and learning from experts closer to home in Australia.

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