Building a Culture That Combats Quiet Quitting

Increase engagement by improving the employee experience

If there’s anything we know about social media, it’s a great way to spread information — for better or worse — sometimes leading to changes in every aspect of our lives: our jobs, families, hobbies, and even our ideologies. 

TikTok in particular is popular amongst every age group, and primarily ages 10-19 (32.5 percent of users) and 20-29 (29.5 percent). Significant influence comes from this app. People regularly report buying things they saw on TikTok, cleaning or organizing differently, or learning new information about niche topics. 

One of these topics is the concept of “Quiet Quitting,” which refers to quitting your job in all ways, stopping just short of actually departing the organization. When people quiet quit, they execute their job duties but don’t go “above and beyond.” Basically, they do exactly what is listed in their job description, and nothing more. Some have also called this “acting your wage.” Employees clock in, do their jobs well, and clock out at their scheduled time. They take breaks, utilize their PTO, and maintain boundaries between work and their personal lives. Quiet quitting does not necessarily equate to laziness, though this might be the case for some.

As you might imagine, this has started a national, if not global conversation. TikTok and Instagram influencers such as Sarai Marie have weighed in in favor of quiet quitting. Conversely, business leaders such as Kevin O’Leary (who you might know as Mr. Wonderful from Shark Tank), are less than impressed. “Quiet quitting is a really bad idea,” he said in a recent TikTok video. “If you’re a quiet quitter, you’re a loser.” While he gives no explanation as to why he feels that way, one can surmise that, as an entrepreneur, it doesn’t benefit any of his business investments to have employees who do the bare minimum.


Quiet quitting may seem like a movement led by young people, but the truth is that workers of all ages are participating, possibly without even knowing it. Why? Because quiet quitting is just a trendy new term for disengagement. And you can combat it by building a culture that supports and retains your employees — both physically and mentally.     

Why are people quiet quitting? 

For the first time in over a decade, employee engagement declined in 2021. According to a study surveying 57,000 U.S. employees throughout 2021, 34 percent of employees were engaged and 16 percent were actively disengaged; this is in contrast to 2020, when 36 percent were engaged and 14 percent were disengaged.

This is happening for a couple of reasons among many: wages have been stagnant for well over a decade, yet the cost of living is ever-increasing. Thanks to the Great Resignation, employees now have the power. The job market is in their favor, and they can easily find roles at organizations that work to keep them engaged. Additionally, burnout rates are high thanks to the global pandemic from which we are still trying to recover, where millions of people watched their loved ones suffer from or succumb to a potentially deadly virus, causing many to rethink their priorities. Coupled with the stress of trying to stay afloat in an economic downturn, it’s not hard to see why people feel overwhelmed.  

So when employees have negative experiences within the workplace, it leads to the belief that the organization doesn’t value them, their health, their happiness, or their lives. These beliefs don’t encourage your employees to go above and beyond for you, because they don’t believe you are going to go above and beyond for them. Organizations that don’t prioritize culture will continue to feel the effects of quiet quitting, the Great Resignation, and acting your wage for years to come. 

The impact of quiet quitting

Quiet quitting works well for those who feel mentally checked out of their jobs. They continue to earn a paycheck while not being actively engaged. They don’t feel connected to the organization as a whole. 

But when someone quiet quits, that often means that the person next to them has to pick up some slack. This creates resentment which leads to even more disengagement. A culture of disengagement leads to poor business performance. So it benefits you to create a culture that encourages engagement and alignment. 

If you want a high-performing culture of A-players, you have to be willing to invest in your people. This doesn’t mean planning more company picnics. It means intentionally creating new and positive experiences for your people on a daily basis. If you want them to hold the belief that your organization supports them, you have to create experiences that prove it to them.  

Closing the engagement gap

A chasm is opening in the workplace between leaders and other employees. This gap continues to widen as workers feel increasingly misunderstood, underappreciated, or resentful of a job that doesn’t help them grow.

There are ways, however, to repair the damage being done. There are two powerful tools in your repertoire that are free to use and offer significant ROI: feedback and recognition. When you use these tools, you accomplish several things at once: you align your employees with the results you need to achieve, you help them connect their roles to the overall success of the organization, and you create a positive experience that leads to a positive belief, which is generally a feeling of being valued. 

Here is how to use these tools and maximize their effectiveness. 

What do we mean by “feedback?”

Four out of 10 workers become disengaged when they receive very little or no feedback. When people receive feedback, they are encouraged to grow professionally, and many say that opportunities for professional growth help them remain engaged. 

Have you ever received feedback about a task you did incorrectly? Most of us have; unfortunately, not everyone knows that feedback is most effective when it gives us a better understanding of how we can improve, and some actionable ways to get there. When done well, this is called constructive feedback.

Think about a time you went above and beyond, and whether or not you received feedback about it. Appreciative feedback is just as important as — if not more important than — constructive feedback. When you show appreciation to your people, they form beliefs about their importance in your organization. This helps them more easily connect the work they do every day to the overall success of the organization, which motivates them to continue the desired behavior in the future. 

It’s impossible for any person to know how well they are performing compared to expectations if they don’t receive regular feedback from their peers and leaders.

How feedback boosts engagement

Appreciative feedback is easy to give. You simply point out the actions that are helping that person achieve the organization’s results. The difficulty comes in framing constructive feedback in a way that’s actually helpful to the person receiving it. 

Constructive feedback is when someone addresses with a colleague what their work-related weaknesses are and provides actionable steps to address them. When you provide constructive feedback, it should come from a place of wanting to support a person’s professional growth. It should also be clear about what the weakness is and ways to improve. Here’s an example of valuable feedback:

“Here’s where I feel you demonstrate ‘Own the Result’: You’re an excellent writer and I always appreciate how thorough you are with your work. Here’s where I think you could demonstrate ‘Own the Result’ even more: if you’re up against a tight deadline, don’t hesitate to reach out to your teammates for help.”

The person on the receiving end of this feedback now has an actionable plan for improving the ways in which they contribute to the organization. Next time they are up against a tight deadline, and they’re feeling like they will fall short of the expectation, they are empowered to seek a solution that doesn’t involve missing the deadline.  

Feedback, when done right, improves employee engagement. It creates an experience where your people are supported by managers and leaders, and where they can understand how they are performing compared to expectations. 

This leads to the belief that managers and leaders have a genuine interest in supporting people to succeed at work. This will motivate your people to reflect on their areas of improvement and take actionable steps to address them. As a result, your people will bring greater contributions that help the business grow.

The number one way to leverage feedback to boost your engagement is to train everyone in the organization to seek it. As a leader, you should be open to feedback when you receive it. Not only that, but you should seek it out. 

Sometimes, people may become defensive when they receive feedback, even if they solicited it. When they’re in this mindset, they aren’t actively listening. This creates an ineffective conversation. Training your people to receive feedback helps them get comfortable with conversations that can be uncomfortable to many.

When you do receive constructive feedback that’s hard to hear (and sometimes it will be), simply say, “thanks for the feedback,” rather than reacting in the moment. Then take some time to process the feedback you’ve been given. While you’re doing that, you can make an actionable plan to address it. After all, if you aren’t willing to make changes based on feedback, then it’s not worth anyone’s time to have a feedback exchange.

What do we mean by “focused recognition?”

Focused recognition is a low-cost, high-impact strategy that increases employee engagement. Yet, a study found that companies aren’t doing enough of it: only 33 percent of U.S. workers strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days.

Focused recognition is openly acknowledging and expressing appreciation for an employee’s specific positive contributions to the organization, and it can be done in many ways.

Organizations with strong cultures empower people to tie what they do to the results they need to achieve, giving employees a sense of purpose. When you can tie someone’s positive actions to a Cultural Belief (guiding principles that your organization chooses based on the beliefs you want people to hold), you can also recognize them for impacting your key results in a positive way. In this form, you maximize the effectiveness of the recognition.

How focused recognition boosts engagement

Focused recognition makes your people feel valued. When you give focused recognition, you create an experience for your employees. This experience positively impacts their belief that their contributions matter to their managers, leaders, and the overall organization. 

In turn, your people will be motivated to go above and beyond because they want to be dependable to colleagues and the business. As a result, your people are not only engaged at work, but they are also less likely to leave the organization. This helps with retention and your bottom line because you’ll spend fewer resources to replace employees. 

Don’t let your best people go

At this point, executives have two choices: ignore culture and continue to see engagement rates plummet. Or, invest in a culture shift that puts employees at the forefront, creating new experiences that engage and support employees along their professional journeys. This, in turn, only grows the organization through innovation, productivity, and retention. 

Your top talent is only one bad experience away from completely disengaging. Don’t let it happen. Invest in culture. 

Related Stories

Learn More

4 Steps to Creating a Culture of Accountability

Learn More

Responsibility vs. Accountability

Learn More

Why Companies with a Good Product and Strategy Aren’t Succeeding

What Can We Help You Find?