Quiet quitting is nothing new but addressing employee disengagement has never been more important

It’s been described as a workplace phenomenon – but quiet quitting is nothing of the sort.

Indeed, in workplace terms, quiet quitting – when employees do the bare minimum to meet their job requirements and mentally check out – is about as novel as lunch breaks and water cooler chats. Regardless of what TikTokkers may want you to believe, it’s just a new name for a very old problem: disengaged staff.

And it’s a problem that shows no signs of going away, with a workplace report published earlier this year revealing that just 9% of workers in the UK were engaged or enthusiastic about their place of work – placing them a less than impressive 33rd out of 38 countries.

What leads to employee disengagement?

There are plenty of factors that could be contributing to employee disengagement right now. Often it comes down to employees feeling undervalued or underappreciated. For example, some may feel aggrieved that, at a time of once in a generation financial pressure, their salaries are tracking far below inflation. Others may be unwilling to go the extra mile because of unrealistic workload expectations from their boss, or feelings that their employer doesn’t care about their wellbeing or the workplace culture.

Whatever the reason, there are no winners when it comes to disengaged employees. The employer loses out on the potential productivity and growth that a motivated, engaged employee can bring to their business, while the employee risks developing a hardly career enhancing reputation for doing just enough and nothing more. Neither is a recipe for success.

And while there’s never a good time to have disengaged employees in your business, now is a particularly bad time. That’s because in the past such employees would typically move on, swiftly finding a more fulfilling job elsewhere. But with hiring slowing down slightly amid economic uncertainty, disengaged workers are now more likely to hang around for longer, opting to remain with their current employers until the dust has settled.

What can employers do to address the problem?

So, what can employers do to address the problem? The good news is that it is possible for an employer to reengage a demotivated employee – but tokenistic gestures are not the way forward.

A lot of businesses fall into the trap of spending ridiculous amounts of time, money and effort on gimmicky perks or impersonal, company-wide initiatives to boost employee satisfaction, but I’m yet to hear of this sort of action being a resounding success. If an employee is dragging their heels because they’re being denied development, no amount of duvet days is going to change that.

The solution is often far simpler: a good old-fashioned conversation. Of course, it’s all too easy to blame the employee for disengaging, but instead employers should take a step back, listen to the employee, and try to recognise how their own actions have contributed to the problem.

As an example, bad managers lead to disengaged employees and yet, how many managers are supported or trained to manage people? Most are suddenly thrust into management positions without any such help and expected to successfully manage individuals or teams of people. It’s not a realistic expectation and, ultimately, it’s damaging for everyone involved. Businesses have a duty to ensure their managers have the necessary skills, equipping them for success.

Understanding the root cause

There’s always a root cause behind any disengagement and listening to employee feedback will help employers to understand and resolve it, whether it’s addressing workload, wage or career progression concerns, providing clearer expectations, or creating a company culture that resonates with employees regardless of where they are working from.

There’s no magic bullet to improving engagement, it takes time and effort and a lot of listening – but those who do see less churn, higher productivity, better problem solving and higher profit margins. And right now, with the challenging economic backdrop, that sounds like a big win to me.

Interested in hearing more about how we can solve your challenges? We’d love to hear from you.

Man with short dark hair and beard wearing a shirt and jacket.

David Clark

Operations Director


David Clark