An Outbreak of Quiet Quitters?

September 15, 2022 Kathy Cuff

In a new survey, Gallup found that at least 50% of employees in the U.S. are “quiet quitters.” These are people who essentially quit working but stay at their jobs. I've seen this firsthand in interviews I've conducted—people freely admit that they're doing the bare minimum. They're not looking for another job, but they’re not going out of their way to do much more than what's being asked of them.

The pandemic has certainly played a role in this behavior. During its height, people saw that they could quit their jobs and find work elsewhere. They discovered they could not only relocate but even choose another field of work.

This was always possible, of course, but the pandemic brought it into sharp relief. Texas A&M psychologist Anthony Klotz, who coined the term Great Resignation, predicted that people would have pandemic epiphanies—moments when we reassess our lives and make dramatic changes. This is one of the subtexts of the Gallup article.

People are still reassessing their work-life balance.  They’re thinking, “Life is short. I'm either going to pursue something that I always wanted to do or give as little I can to what I’m presently doing.”

I suspect that the numbers are even higher than what Gallup reports. It could get worse if senior leadership doesn't recognize what’s happening. And I'm not talking just about individual contributors. The 2022 Blanchard Manager Challenges Survey, aptly titled “Stuck in the Middle,” shows that mid-level managers are struggling the most. They are overworked, they don't have enough time, and they have too many priorities.

Organizations need to recognize this and take action to improve existing systems and processes.  The Blanchard report shows that, right now, mid-level managers don't have the support to do their jobs right:

  • 77% cite insufficient staff
  • 71% report inefficient processes
  • 66% identify outdated systems

A closer look at quiet quitting

When the pandemic first struck, people rallied. We said, “We’re all in this together.” There was a tremendous spirit of community and bonding. There was an understanding and appreciation for what was happening.

Then people became profoundly tired. The pandemic got the best of us. A lack of connection with colleagues was certainly a factor. So was the return to the work treadmill.

People I talk to now say they are extremely busy and booked with back-to-back meetings. It feels like the movie Groundhog Day—the same thing day after day. Hundreds of emails, meetings, and exhaustion. It's awfully hard for people to be engaged and excited and to give discretionary effort when they feel this way.

Managing change

We are obviously going through a period of tremendous change. This can leave people feeling in the dark and disenfranchised, especially if organizations aren’t listening to employee concerns and accessing the gaps. It's an elephant in the room.

It’s a time for asking good questions—and finding solutions

For senior leaders, proactively addressing disengagement comes down to asking questions and listening to the answers. Asking good questions is essential in a time of great flux, and we are certainly in one. But it isn't that simple. It requires an environment of psychological safety, so people feel they can answer honestly. It also requires the questioner to remember to be careful what they ask for—because they may hear something they don't like.

One of the most frustrating things is when an organization sends out a survey asking employees to give honest feedback. People dutifully complete the survey. Then nothing happens and people wonder why they were asked in the first place. It's a demoralizing experience. The next time a survey comes around, people answer it halfheartedly.

Senior leaders should be asking how they can make the lives of their mid-level managers easier. If a senior leader can't give the direction or support a manager needs, they should point them to a resource who can help them.

A time for reconstruction

As the pandemic ebbs, we are entering a period of reconstruction when organizations are remaking themselves. Giving managers the support they need to move forward is essential—because managers look after the welfare of individual contributors, who take care of customers. And when this happens, it’s a win/win/win for the organization, its people, and its customers.

Learn more about what you can do to help the managers in your organization.  Download a free copy of the 2022 Blanchard Manager Challenges Survey here, courtesy of The Ken Blanchard Companies.

About the Author

Kathy Cuff

Kathy Cuff is a Senior Consulting Partner for Blanchard®, where she works with clients to create effective and positive learning environments that motivate people. She is the coauthor, together with Ken Blanchard and Vicki Halsey, of the book Legendary Service: The Key Is to Care. Kathy has trained in a broad array of industries, including retail, pharmaceutical, medical, financial, technology, healthcare, and government. Kathy’s areas of expertise are customer service, leadership, self-leadership, organization development, and change management.

More Content by Kathy Cuff
Previous Resource
Hired as a Remote Worker, Now Boss Wants You to Report to the Office? Ask Madeleine
Hired as a Remote Worker, Now Boss Wants You to Report to the Office? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine, In the middle of the pandemic, I took a job that I love and am good at. At the time, my bos...

Next Resource
Managerial Challenges 2022: Easing the Burden
Managerial Challenges 2022: Easing the Burden

Today’s managers are dedicated—but many are suffering from too many hours, too little clarity, and too few ...