What is Quiet Quitting and what caused it?


We are sure you know about "Big Quit", but have you heard of "Quiet Quitting"? This new phenomenon reflects a lack of motivation and commitment from teams that is so deep that they only do the work listed on their job description.

How did this happen? Who are the quiet quitters? And how can you, as HR professionals and managers, adapt and reconnect with these employees? 

Quiet Quitting: definition

💡 Quiet quitting is a recent phenomenon in the workplace. This concept describes the action of employees who do their work but no longer seek performance.

The end of the hustle culture?

Quiet Quitting is not really about quitting at all, but rather about slowing down. Quiet quitters do their job, for the same pay, the same recognition, but less stress — they keep to their schedules and stick to their job description, no more, no less. 

Some people will say that quiet quitters are just lazy people. But they are more like deeply disengaged employees who no longer wish to define themselves by their work and choose to respect the contract that binds them to the company, without seeking to outperform to obtain a promotion or a raise. 

This means no more answering emails outside working hours, helping colleagues on other projects, taking on new responsibilities, or taking on the work of others. Work is no longer the central concern of these quiet quitters.

A Tik Tok-popularised phenomenon

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, many videos on the social network Tik Tok, mainly used by young people (60% of users are 16-24 years old), question the world of work.

In the summer of 2022, the Quiet Quitting phenomenon was popularised on this platform by Zaid Khan, a New York engineer, who explained the concept of "Quiet Quitting" in a viral video that has been viewed more than 3 million times. Since then, videos featuring Quiet Quitting have multiplied and accumulated more than 125 million views, widely spreading the concept among the younger generation.


What caused the Quiet Quitting phenomenon? 

The origins of employee disengagement

Quiet quitting emerged in the wake of the post-Covid phenomenon “Big Quit” (or Great Resignation). In 2021, more than 41 million people quit their jobs in the US. In Australia, one in five people changed jobs in 2021 and 2 million people are ready to quit their jobs in the next 6 to 12 months (source). 

Both the Quiet Quitting and the Great Resignation are caused by two main factors. 

  • Employees' new aspirations in a post-Covid world: the enduring months of lockdown and health restrictions, as well as the (forced) transformations in the working world, have given rise to new expectations among employees. They are seeking more meaning in their daily lives, are asking companies to commit to their well-being and work/life balance, and want to protect their mental health.
  • A dynamic job market with huge demand for skilled workers in certain sectors and a shortage of suitably qualified candidates. Talented people find work easily, have many opportunities to choose from and are therefore less afraid to give up their job.

Employees’ priorities at work

Find out more in our latest study about well-being at work



A generational gap 

The Quiet Quitting philosophy is above all promoted by the younger generations, and more particularly Gen Z

These young people are looking for meaning and aware of climate and societal issues — they are truly disenchanted with the business world. They also are more aware of mental health issues and attach a great deal of importance to work/life balance. Work is not the main focus of their lives. 


Quiet Quitting: how can companies adapt and tackle employee disengagement? 

Installing a new ping pong table in the office will not be enough. Companies must reconnect with quiet quitters and act on the levers of engagement at work.

Act on the real motivational levers

Gift vouchers are good. But they are not enough! First and foremost, employers must focus on the most important motivational levers, which are compensation, work content, work/life balance, skills development, and relations between colleagues and between managers and employees. Management needs to adapt each of these elements to re-motivate their teams.

Providing a more fulfilling work environment

Quiet quitters want more freedom and companies can respond to this. By promoting work from home, switching to a 4-day week (it's possible!), and implementing new solutions to create a fulfilling work environment that protects mental health.

Remote working: how to improve your WFH strategy?


Reconnecting management and employees 

Managers are the direct contact point with employees. This is why it is essential to train them to detect weak signals of disengagement and to respond to them. They are also the key bearers of the company's vision, values and project. They must embody the company's mission as best they can in order to give individuals a sense of community.

Extreme cases: what solutions?

In some cases of Quiet Quitting that negatively affect company performance, HR professionals will have to take more radical action. Formal warnings and disciplinary sanctions may be appropriate. Ultimately, the employer can go as far as dismissal on the grounds of capability, provided that it can justify this decision. 

What is Quiet Firing? It is a toxic response from managers to ‘Quiet Quitting’. 'Quiet firing' involves managers who want an employee to quit and gradually make them feel unappreciated and under-qualified. The manager prevents the employee from developing, participating in new projects, taking time off or getting a raise, until the employee has not other choice but to resign.

There is no miracle solution for re-engaging quiet quitters. But companies must take this phenomenon seriously and adjust to this new vision of the business world: a world in which people are no longer defined by their work and seek, above all, a good balance between professional and personal life.