Quiet quitting – 3 causes and what to do about it

by Rotageek on 14 March 2023

Employee engagement is at a low point at companies across the UK and abroad. The trend is being driven in part by what’s known as quiet quitting – where “disaffected employees choose to put in the minimal amount of effort necessary to hold onto their jobs, but no more,” according to Fast Company. And although we’re now seeing new buzzwords around the topic such as “conscious quitting”, “bare minimum Mondays” and “rage applying”, the sentiment is the same. 

For retailers, hospitality providers, and other employers, quiet quitting raises some major concerns. Is quiet quitting happening at your business? Why are workers doing it? And if so, what can you do about it?

There’s plenty of data to show quiet quitting is real and might be a widespread problem:

  • Only 9% of workers in the UK were engaged or enthusiastic about their work in 2022, says one Gallup survey.
  • More than half of workers in the US may be quiet quitters, if Gallup productivity data is correct.
  • The “quit rate” in US retail and hospitality is the highest among sectors and is outpacing the overall US quit rate by more than 70%, according to McKinsey & Company.
  • Retail turnover climbed as high as 65% in recent years, according to Ceridian.

That’s a lot of employees on a go-slow.

Fortunately, the seriousness of the problem has led experts to look at the quiet quitting phenomenon in detail, examine the causes, and find some practical answers. In this post, we’ve rounded up some of the best ones to share with you.

What is quiet quitting?

As we covered above, quiet quitting or “quitting in place” is where employees effectively quit doing their best at work, but continue to show up and collect their pay.

It has a similar impact to an old problem – presenteeism. Presenteeism is the act of being physically present but unproductive, or turning up sick, and it’s as old as employment. It’s also one of the reasons why employers care about workers’ wellbeing – because healthy and engaged workers are more likely to give their best.

With quiet quitting, many employees who are fed up with long hours “have quietly decided to take it easy at work rather than quit their jobs,” and so hard-working culture is being replaced by “coasting culture,” according to Business Insider.

But why is that?

Why are workers quiet quitting?

Some are blaming the rising cost of living.

“With increasing fears around the cost of living, workers are unwilling to leave jobs or make dramatic changes even if they’re unhappy,” says the CIPD’s People Management Insight. “They might be sick but they’re showing up. They might be actively disengaged or even hostile, but they turn up anyway. [It’s] far from ideal for employer or employee.”

Talent shortages in retail and hospitality might be enabling disengaged workers’ quiet quitting. Many employers simply don’t have the option of firing quiet quitters, because they fear they won’t be able to find anyone better – or anyone at all.

In this scenario, your best option is to try to re-engage quiet quitters and help them to give their best again.

Is it happening at your workplace? Data can show you.

Data drives most competitive business decisions today. If you want to find out if quiet quitting is happening at your workplace, the CIPD suggests that using software can help.

“Looking at the data will pay dividends,” says a recent People Management article. “Using software to optimise shift rotas and rosters can mean staff feel more valued.”

A schedule software solution can give you all sorts of insights into things like:

  • Rates of absence – so you can analyse absenteeism for individuals, teams, locations and the entire business
  • Time and attendance – so you can spot team strengths and weaknesses, and gauge individual performance
  • Voluntary turnover rates – this “will help you understand whether there’s a disconnect between what the role promises and what the role delivers,” says the CIPD.

If you think quiet quitting is a problem for your business, you can take a range of actions.

Causes and solutions


1. Employee flexibility – it might be the solution, not the cause.

One response is to provide more flexible working, which today’s workers consider extremely valuable.

“Employees say a flexible workplace is the most important thing for them,” says a recent Forbes article. In the cited survey, 94% of respondents said they would benefit from workplace flexibility, and specifically flexible hours, with advantages including “less stress/improved mental health” and “better integration of work and personal life”.

And research from Stanford University finds that flexible workers are 13% more productive and 9% more engaged.

Scheduling software is an easy and powerful way to provide more flexible working, especially for shift workers. With an employee app, workers can request shift changes, and volunteer to fill empty shifts, from their phone using a centralised communications platform. This has natural flexibility benefits for employers and managers.

2. Personal issues damage engagement. Use back-to-basics people management.

One thing to remember about quiet quitting is that it usually isn’t born of workers’ cynicism. More often than not, personal issues are at the root of employee disengagement and absenteeism. And every individual is different.

When you identify a quiet quitter, have a conversation with them as early as possible. It’s important that you:

  • Give them an opportunity to voice their concerns. Listen and find out what the problem is, so you can try to address it and bring them back on board.
  • Help workers communicate in what might be a stressful conversation for them, by asking open-ended questions such as “What would make work more fulfilling for you?”
  • Follow up with a positive action. If you don’t act on workers’ concerns, you may damage rather than build trust and engagement.
3. Burnout leads to quiet quitting. Time to address employee wellbeing?

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 report finds that wellbeing is stagnant and most workers live by the mantras “living for the weekend," "watching the clock tick," and "work is just a paycheque."

Only 33% of workers have high levels of overall wellbeing, and most don’t find their work meaningful. Meanwhile, stress is at an all-time high.

How can you improve this situation, so you can combat quiet quitting? Wellbeing and engagement go hand in hand, and that has made it a top priority for today’s competitive employers.

One way to improve wellbeing is to make the workplace fairer. Improving fairness can reduce workers’ stress and remind them that they aren’t just a resource to the company.

Workforce management software can help you:

  • Make shift distribution fairer, eliminating favouritism and over-burdening of staff.
  • Be more transparent with workers, letting them view their leave allowance, balance, and requests in their own mobile app.
  • Improve the overall relationship. Organisations using Rotageek see at least a 4-point improvement in employee fairness sentiment.

So, that’s our guide to quiet quitting, the issues behind it, and what you can do about it.

If you’d like to know more about how Rotageek can help you drive employee engagement, fairness, and wellbeing, click below to arrange a chat with a member of our team.

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