A Supervisor's Guide to Understanding Quiet Quitting

A Supervisor's Guide to Understanding Quiet Quitting

Are you familiar with the term "Quiet Quitting"? It's a hot topic that you might be hearing about more often. So, what exactly is quiet quitting? The Wall Street Journal defines it as "not taking your job too seriously." The term started appearing via social media as Gen Z and younger Millennials began rejecting the idea of going above and beyond in the workplace. Instead, they prefer to satisfy only the minimum requirements at work and focus most of their time and energy outside the workplace. Supervisors should be able to identify and work with employees who have decided to quietly quit.

The newest generation of employees is similar to past generations; they enter the workforce and quickly realize that work is hard, time-consuming, and not nearly as much fun as they thought it might be. However, what is different today than in years past is the ease and ability with which social media plays a role in how we think, feel and act. The latest generation entering the workforce also recently emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to isolation and potentially contributed to a lack of social skills. In addition, the workforce's newest employees have only known a world that provides instant gratification. With the rise of social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, reactions can be made and received at a moment's notice. The immediacy with which younger individuals can access desired information could create blurred boundaries in the workplace. Some members of the newest generation of workers feel empowered to push back on job demands. These employees refuse to let work stress and anxiety dictate their lives. While this is certainly positive, younger workers may have a difficult time understanding how their emotions fit into a work environment.  

This brings us to a much larger realization about employees and their commitment to work. Companies with a highly engaged workforce see higher productivity and lower turnover rates. As a supervisor, you want to lead a team of engaged employees. However, the statistics may not be in your favor with the latest generation entering the workforce. As a whole, U.S. employee engagement is dropping. According to a Gallup poll, Gen Z and younger Millennials (born after 1989) have the lowest workplace engagement among all generations currently in the workforce. If you wish to learn more about the importance of Employee Engagement, please read our blog

So, what can supervisors do to address the realities of the new workforce? There are a few things that could indicate an employee isn't engaging with their job (It's important to note that any one of these doesn't mean an employee has quietly quit. However, two or more simultaneously might merit a conversation with the employee):

  • Absenteeism — Disengaged employees often start taking more time off from work. This doesn’t include sick time or earned PTO, rather when employees find ways to disengage and be absent from their work as often as possible.

  • Low Productivity — Watch for drops in an employee's productivity or an increase in recently missed deadlines. When an employee has quietly quit, they will become disengaged, and their quality of work will suffer.

  • Second Job — Have your employees started a small business on the side or taken on a secondary job? A second job and interest in entrepreneurship could be a great sign of superior work ethic. However, if interest in outside projects takes precedence over an employee’s role with your company, it should be addressed.

  • Isolation — Are your employees communicating as frequently as they used to, or do they keep to themselves? If an employee is no longer a team player and has stopped interacting with coworkers, this could indicate a problem.

While this list is in no way exhaustive, it does provide general insight that could help supervisors identify when a member of their team isn’t happy. Here are a few tips to ensure your employees stay engaged and don't quietly quit:


1. Create Open Dialogue

Ensure your employees can communicate with you openly and honestly. Help them understand that their thoughts and ideas are valued and appreciated. Involve them in the decision-making processes so that they feel they are part of the team.


2. Provide Flexible Work Schedules

Employees worked from home during the pandemic, and many realize they are just as productive in their own homes as in the office. Therefore, some employees will mentally "check out" when forced back into an office setting. Be as open and flexible as possible when working with employees and allow them some options in their work schedules.


3. Discuss Wellness Benefits and Programs

Educate employees on the perks available from your insurance and HR teams. Helping employees relieve stress and anxiety promotes engagement and boosts productivity at work.


4. Schedule Regular Check-Ins

Schedule 15-minute check-ins with your employees each week. Talk to them about their projects and tasks. Try to determine if you have provided them with the resources needed to complete the tasks by deadline. If not, you should reevaluate your guidelines and get them the help they need. Use these check-ins to understand how their workload affects them and how you can help.


Stress and burnout can happen to all of us, but supervisors must engage employees and help them work through difficulties. Supervisors who treat employees well and provide the proper tools can help keep them fully engaged in the workplace. As a supervisor, you should strive to help your employees find meaning and purpose in their work. Employees want to be acknowledged and appreciated for their contributions. When you create an environment where your employees can thrive, you help them lead better, more fulfilled lives, which is what they genuinely seek.

If you're interested in learning more about quiet quitting, please check out the AEU LEAD SOS Podcast: A Quick Take on Quiet Quitting. 

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