When employees stop putting forth significant effort toward their jobs and just do the bare minimum of work to get by, they are "quiet quitting" — a term that has gained quite a bit of traction recently.
This trending mindset is now impacting companies throughout the United States, human resources professionals indicated to FOX Business.
"While the idea of employees simply working to meet job requirements certainly isn’t new, we’re seeing this term coined more now because it’s a result of burnout and a re-prioritization of a personal life over work," said Annie Rosencrans, director of people and culture with Hibob, a global HR platform based in New York.
That's "something that been sorely missing for many over the past several years," she added.
Here is a deeper look at what is going on today across American businesses.
What's driving the ‘quiet quitting’ trend?
There are many reasons that quiet quitting may be continuing and even ballooning in the U.S., Rosencrans indicated.
One is that many companies are operating with the same productivity expectations — but leaner teams.
As a result, she said, some employees "don’t feel appreciated or appropriately compensated."
With the "Great Resignation and now waves of layoffs," Rosencrans said, "many open roles weren’t filled. Yet that doesn’t mean the work disappeared."
She also said, "Instead, the remaining staff have taken on that burden and are losing patience with doing more without the salary to compensate for it."
Some employees may be jumping on the quiet quitting bandwagon because it is trendy and being talked about at the water cooler — and across the media.
"The trend appears to be ballooning due to the power of a provocative term catching attention on social media," said New York City career coach Matt Spielman, author of the new book "Inflection Points: How to Work and Live with Purpose."
"Quiet quitting has always been present in some form."
However, he said, the idea also may be catching on because "remote work environments [are] making it easier [for people] to not go above and beyond."
Among those staff people who are able to work remotely, it is far easier for them to feel less involved and less connected to a team — and easier for managers to break up with employees and vice versa, he also said.
"There are fewer boundaries of when work starts and when work stops," he said.
"To be clear, however, quiet quitting has always been present in some form."
How is ‘quiet quitting’ hurting American businesses?
The drop in productivity due to quiet quitting has an impact on American businesses, said Rosencrans of Hibob.
"Written warnings protect the company in case of a dispute if the employee ends up being let go."
Reduced productivity, a negative impact on morale and engagement, and the need for HR teams to become involved — and potentially for additional staff to be hired to fill production gaps — are all unwelcome consequences of today's quiet quitting.
"When workers’ individual levels of productivity drop and [it] happens for more than one person, the output of the whole organization suffers," said Rosencrans.
"That means a potential drop-off in profits, sales or customer satisfaction."
Additionally, the chipping away of a strong work ethic can hurt the morale and engagement of the employees who are continuing to go all out but now have to work with quiet quitters on their teams.
The strong performers who wind up working with employees who are "suddenly putting in less effort" may have to pick up that extra burden.
Additionally, high performers "can end up resenting [their quiet quitter] colleagues — or grow frustrated and look for opportunities elsewhere," she added.
A shift in employee behavior also may require the involvement of human resources teams to determine if replacements or additional team members need to be hired, Rosencrans said.
This will cost businesses "more time and money due to recruitment efforts, training and additional salaries on their payroll," she also said.
A job description almost never includes the full scope of a position — so managers must communicate what a job entails beyond what’s in writing.
This is why it is critical for leaders to understand what motivates their teams, she said — whether that is verbal recognition, stretch projects or extra paid time off.
"Managers who recognize the hard work and effort of their team members and reward them accordingly are more likely to avoid having disengaged employees," Rosencrans noted.
Amid the quiet quitting trend, "for managers to effectively run a business, they need to eradicate the reasons that people are disengaging."
How should management react to ‘quiet quitters’?
Managers can usually sense when someone is consciously disengaging, so it's important to talk to individuals when this behavior shows up, according to Rosencrans.
"Don’t wait for the staff member to come to you for help," she said. "If it gets to that point, it might already be too late."
Also, ignoring the issue or reprimanding staff will not be productive, she said — and in the long run, both parties may suffer.
To react positively, Rosencrans recommended being proactive and creating space in one-on-one meetings to understand how team members are feeling.
"Once you understand their pain points, work with them to come up with solutions collaboratively," she said. "Consider making changes to the role to promote more engagement and meaning."
Whether it is offering better work-life balance, access to therapy or career advancement opportunities, there should be a tangible deliverable at the end of the process, according to Rosencrans.
A suggestion from her human resources perspective is to find ways to get the quiet quitters engaged — and tangibly rewarded.
How should HR departments warn ‘quiet quitters’?
Human resources teams need to document warnings clearly in terms of the gap in performance between what is expected of an employee and what he or she is actually producing, career coach Spielman of New York City advised.
"People want to work harder when they feel heard, respected and connected."
"This expectation should have been clearly established at the outset of employment and engagement in the job function — and will be indisputable," he said.
Written warnings serve two main purposes.
First, they clarify company expectations so that team members know exactly where they stand, what they need to do to improve and what’s at stake if they do not, said Rosencrans.
"Second, written warnings protect the company in case of a dispute, if the employee ends up being let go from the company," Rosencrans added.
The key for HR teams and managers is to be specific by providing clear reasoning and actionable steps for the employee to take.
Managers must set expectations with staff about appropriate work behaviors.
Yet before going down this path, it may be best to reflect on whether this is behavior that the business provoked, said Rosencrans.
"Give employees a chance to share their own perspective on what’s causing their disengagement — then follow through with positive action if possible and appropriate," she said.
"Above all, be consistent. Treating people who display similar behaviors differently can lead to litigation."
What steps should bosses take?
To combat quiet quitting, managers must take an individualistic approach and spend time connecting (or reconnecting) with employees, according to Rosencrans.
If they suspect an employee of quiet quitting, they should have an open conversation first, she advised.
"They shouldn’t assume the worst, but instead should show compassion and make sure there aren’t any personal challenges [the workers are] facing that are impacting their work despite their best efforts," she said.
Employees are getting paid to do the jobs they were hired for — and all workers need to satisfy the requirements of their positions.
Managers must also set expectations with staff about appropriate work behaviors.
Since a job description almost never includes the full scope of a job, managers must communicate what a job entails beyond what is in writing, she said.
"If that’s made clear in one-on-ones and performance reviews, employees can be held to that new standard," she said.
She also said managers should make their best efforts to create a team culture that is positive and fun.
"People want to work harder when they feel heard, respected and connected," she noted.
"By creating an environment that employees enjoy being part of, they can help support engagement — and thus, productivity."
Still, at the end of a day, employees are getting paid to do the jobs they were hired to do — and all workers need to satisfy the requirements of their positions, jobs experts also indicated.