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More than half of American workers engage in "quiet quitting," Gallup finds

"Back to the office"? Not so fast…
"Back to the office"? Not so fast… 07:38

An employment trend known as "quiet quitting" — clocking in and doing the bare minimum at work — isn't a niche phenomenon, according to Gallup. with the polling organization finding that more than half of American workers routinely mail it in on the job.

Quiet quitting doesn't mean that a worker has left her job, but instead describes a number of general behaviors including setting boundaries and declining to work in the evenings or weekends. 

About half of workers are "not engaged," which means they are doing the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their jobs, according to the survey. While that share isn't all that different from past years, Gallup found there's been a recent jump in "actively disengaged" workers, or people who are loudly dissatisfied with work and taking to TikTok and other social media apps to complain about their job. 

With the pandemic adding stress to the workplace, the share of actively disengaged workers has jumped to 18% in 2022 from 14% in 2020, Gallup found. At the same time, employee engagement is waning, with only 32% of workers describing themselves as involved and enthusiastic at work, down from 36% in 2020.

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The emergence of quiet quitting is partly a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a massive upheaval in the labor market and in society at large. Millions of workers shifted to remote work, while others lost their jobs during the initial lockdowns. More fundamentally, the crisis also spurred some Americans to question their very relationship to work. 

"People are feeling less connected"

Now that companies are returning to offices or instituting hybrid schedules, some workers feel disconnected from those decisions and may not feel their employers care about them.

"There is something going on right now that says there has been a deterioration of the relationship between employee and employer, and that is contributing to it," Jim Harter, chief scientist for Gallup's workplace management practice, told CBS MoneyWatch. "That is troubling to me, that people are feeling less connected to their organizations."

One surprise finding is that managers are also quiet quitting in greater numbers, according to Gallup's findings. Only about 1 in 3 managers describe themselves as emotionally or psychologically engaged at work, with this group experiencing one of the biggest drops in engagement in its most recent survey.

That could spell more trouble ahead given that such managers can create a "cascade" of quiet quitting among their direct reports, Harter said. Managers have had their own pandemic-related stresses, which could explain the rise in disengagement, he said.

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"The role is more complex now because of all these hybrid and remote work situations, and they have to manage in different ways," he noted.

Quiet quitting has some very real negative outcomes for businesses that fail to engage their workers, according to Gallup. For one, most workers who are disengaged are already looking for a new job, the survey found. 

"If you have a high percentage of disengaged workers, there are numerous outcomes we've documented that are big risks. You'll lose more people to the competition — that's a big one right now with the [tight] labor market. And the other is you will have a less efficient workforce and lower productivity overall," Harter said.

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And the rise in the number of workers quitting, one facet of the so-called Great Resignation, was concurrent with a drop in engagement that started late last year, Gallup found. 

How to combat quiet quitting

Workers can slip into quiet quitting when they don't know what's expected of them at work, when their employers don't give them an opportunity to learn and grow, and if they feel disconnected from the company's mission, according to Gallup. 

"If organizations don't get on top of it, this increased separation between employee and employer, where people don't feel as loyal to their organization, then it will continue," Harter said. 

Managers can combat quiet quitting by checking in with their employees via one "meaningful" discussion each week to set goals and provide feedback so that managers can get to know their employees' work-life situation, Harter said. 

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For instance, half of workers want a clear boundary between their personal and professional lives, while the other half want a more blended situation, he noted. Managers should get a grasp of what their employees prefer and help them achieve the balance that works for them. It's also harder for competitors to lure workers away if they feel engaged at their current job, Gallup's research has found.

"One side note is that if people are engaged they require a much bigger pay raise to leave their employer," Harter said. "People who are actively disengaged will leave for a smaller amount."

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