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How to neutralize "Quiet Quitting"?

Have you heard the term “quiet quitting?” I first came across the expression while reading a Gallup article on the subject. I, initially thought it meant that employees just leave, quit work without saying anything or giving notice and do not show up anymore. I was surprised when I learned what it really meant: Quiet quitting is when an employee does just what is needed for them to get paid. Gallup estimates that at least 50% of employees are just getting by—that means not spending any extra effort on doing their job, not going the extra mile and not attending work social events.

Immediately, I thought of the difference between engaged, disengaged and actively disengaged employees who become toxic to their colleagues and to the workplace. But I was also conflicted: Isn’t it enough for employees to do what is required of them? I think the answer lies somewhere in between, in finding a balance between the ever-elusive work/life balance.

The Work/Life Balance

The Covid-19 pandemic rocked our work and life. The workplace before Covid-19 is obsolete, but many managers are not evolving at the same rate and are still applying old principles and techniques. As a result, employees are dissatisfied and disconnected, especially the younger generations (millennials and Gen Z) who often do not feel they have a clear development path and want a manager who acts as a coach.

The pandemic made all of us realize that we might need to reorganize our priorities, that there is more to life than work. Many of us started appreciating family more and enjoyed having time to do other things that we enjoy besides work. In other words, we are not mainly defined by our work anymore. Unfortunately, many workplaces have not adapted fast enough to accommodate this new employee mindset.

The Other Reason For Disengagement

I do believe that the disengagement started way before the pandemic. Employees have long felt disenfranchised when dealing with inequitable environments. When employees feel that they can’t be who they are or need to downplay their identity to fit in with the majority, it can be detrimental to the workplace culture as a whole.

Examples include not feeling comfortable enough to wear your natural hairstyle or having to listen to offensive jokes. In an unwelcoming environment, a person with a disability may hide their disability, a gay employee might avoid having pictures of their partner in their office or a mother may avoid bringing up daycare. It could mean employees don't hang around employees from the same ethnicity to avoid being lumped under a certain label. In these instances, employees hide who they really are for fear of being labeled differently.

This practice may be more common than you think. According to a MindGym report (registration required), 61% of employees bend themselves out of shape to fit in at work. NYU Law professor Kenji Yoshino and Christie Smith, a managing principal at Deloitte, studied the cost of conformity at work and found the need to hide who you are has a direct correlation with your commitment and dedication to the organization. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Yoshino and Smith report that the practice stifles talent, decreases employees’ confidence and engagement and holds women and minorities back. After surveying roughly 3,000 employees at more than 20 large firms in the United States, Yoshino and Smith found:

  • 66% of employees felt their sense of self was undermined

  • 51% felt that their opportunities were limited in the organization

  • 50% felt their sense of commitment decreased as a result

Those employees felt included only if they followed certain rules, either formally or informally accepted by the majority or the organization itself. In addition to managing their jobs, they managed part of their identity to be accepted so the majority would not feel uncomfortable. Of course, this creates a lot of stress and unnecessary feelings of frustration and rejection. When people try to fit into the boxes drawn for them, it is not only bad for business, but also for their well-being. So, it's no wonder employees are quiet quitting.

The pandemic brought higher levels of stress and uncertainty, but it also magnified the unhealthy work environments that existed before. As the saying goes, people leave managers; they do not leave workplaces. The solution to quiet quitting lies in the hands of organizations’ leaders and executives. It starts and ends with them. The key is inclusive leadership that creates psychological safety for all.

If you have more ideas please share them in the comments

Diversity starts at home,


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Sahar Andrade, MB.BCh

Diversity, Inclusion, and Leadership Consultant- Certified Social Media Strategist

Sahar Consulting, LLC

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I help corporations and organizations create/ increase their employee engagement through Diversity, Inclusion, effective communication & Cross- Cultural leadership practices that result in everyone feeling appreciated, valued and respected for who they are; elevating morale and harmony hence increasing their productivity which translates to more revenues.

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