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Quiet Quitting or Improved Employee Engagement — Pick One

As we emerge from the most life-changing pandemic in a century, discouraging workplace trends, like "quiet quitting," are commonplace. So what works to improve morale and productivity?  

Almost everywhere you turn online, the term "quiet quitting" or “ghost quitting” keeps showing up. Consider these recent stories:

Zerohedge.comLabor Day Lament: Quiet-Quitting Is Stifling Business: "Quiet quitting is when a worker checks out mentally. They aren’t engaged with their work. People would have called them slackers or coasters in the past, but now it’s become a trend.

"Employee engagement has declined for the first time in 10 years. In a 2021 Gallup poll, based on a random sample of 57,022 full- and part-time employees, just over one-third were engaged with their job.”

CNN Quiet quitting is the latest workplace trend, but it doesn’t mean what you think: “'It’s about stopping doing work that people think is beyond what they were hired to do and not getting compensated for,' she said.

"Employees still excel at their jobs, but they aren’t working overtime to do it, former engineering consultant Paige West told CNN." The problem with the “quiet quitting” media storm: “Take the latest example: ‘quiet quitting,' a term to describe a means for employees to regain more of a work-life balance by doing the bare minimum in their job and resisting the widespread encouragement by bosses and senior staff to work beyond the requirements of their role. The term rose to prominence after a TikTok video explaining the concept went viral: on this platform, the hashtag #quietquitting now has more than 70 million views. The concept has since been covered by many media outlets — often in the format of explainers setting out what the term means or think pieces delving into its political implications. Among others such as the 'Great Resignation' and the 'YOLO economy,' the notion has almost overnight come to represent the widespread belief that younger generations have fallen out of love with professional ambition.

“Articles in GQ, Grazia and the Independent have argued that the trend is a welcome relief in the 'hustle' of the modern workplace, while writers published in the Evening Standard and by the BBC claimed that the very existence of a new buzzword describing a 'working to rule' approach — a form of protest often used by trade unions in which employees do exactly what is stated in their contracts, and nothing more, in order to slow down production — highlights how normalised overworking has become. But despite the subtle anti-work sentiment at the heart of the trend, and its enormous popularity, 'quiet quitting' means little for those struggling in the current work climate. Instead, it only helps to obscure the structural issues that got us here in the first place.”

CNBC.comIs quiet quitting a good idea? Here’s what workplace experts say: "Experts said the concept is worrying because it can go beyond simply striking better work life balance.

“'Quiet quitting removes any emotional investment you might have from your work, which is sad given the fact that most of us spend so much of our time at work,' said Wat.

'Most of us want to be proud of the work we do and the contributions we make. We want to see our impact and feel good about it. Quiet quitting doesn’t allow for that.'" — The Generational Divide on 'Quiet Quitting'
statista - quiet quitting-2.jpg


Regardless of what definition you use for quiet quitting, this trend is a growing challenge for leaders in the public and private sectors.

I spoke with several twenty-something professionals who acknowledged the trend was popular and even growing in our post-COVID, hybrid work environments in both the public and private sectors. Their logic: Many people need to work two (or more) jobs due to inflation, and/or have a "side hustle" that makes them some extra cash by monetizing a hobby.

Which leads to some important, age-old questions that are getting harder to answer as we head toward 2023:
  • What can be done to improve morale, productivity and engagement in hybrid office situations?
  • How can management engage in the “right” level of interaction with staff — without being seen as “big brother,” or counting keystrokes?
  • When are terms like “improper job fit,” “work-life balance,” “working remotely” or “quiet quitting” just excuses that some staff misuse to hide a lack of passion, skills, effort or competence?
  • Should management be training more? How much?  
  • Who owns that problem in the organization and what can they do? (Note: It may seem obvious that the supervisor and employee are central to this, but what about HR, finance (who set salary ranges), senior leadership and others?   


HR experts who advise global leaders in the public and private sectors say the key to addressing this trend is always employee engagement and building stronger relationships. offers 7 tips to increase employee engagement without spending a dime. Here’s one of those tips under the headline “give individual attention":

“One challenge to boosting employee engagement is figuring out which approach will work best in a multinational, multiethnic, multigenerational workforce. The answer could well be different for each person.

“At Timberlane, a Philadelphia-area shutter manufacturer with 70 employees, Brandi Yanulavich, a people and culture specialist, gives applicants a test from The Predictive Index that analyzes their individual tendencies. She shares the results with managers so they know which new hires want public recognition, for instance, or who hates speaking to groups. That data is also used to match workers with the tasks they feel most comfortable doing. In one instance, a salesman thrived when, as a break from his day-to-day desk job, he was given a role training new employees.

“The survey results also help the company hire people who are well-suited to particular jobs, which leads to higher engagement, Yanulavich says. And the results help managers better understand their own communication styles and what motivates their teams.”

Deloitte offers advice at their human capital websites, and here are three tips (with details at the link):
  • Take a "supportive management" approach
  • Create a positive work environment
  • Encourage "trust in leadership"

Under the trust category, Deloitte recommends: “To inspire this trust in leadership in the post-COVID-19 period, we recommend having frequent check-ins and transparent conversations between directors, managers and employees so that employees feel included in what is happening within the organization. Moreover, it is also imperative for employees to learn about individual growth opportunities.”

And one more: lists 5 Employee Engagement Trends In The Post COVID Era that I like. Here they are (again, with details at the website):
  • Embrace flexibility
  • Reimagine the employee experience
  • Bring compassion to every conversation
  • Focus on developing your talent
  • Leverage employee strengths to drive engagement


I also like this video on quiet quitting and how to deal with it:
Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.