Spilling the Tea on Quiet Quitting

Thursday, October 13, 2022  |  Helen Acke McComiskey, Strategic Advisor

Quiet quitting – or, as it has been recently rebranded, act your wage – is a term and a movement that has lots of people talking these days. But what exactly are they talking about?

Despite what some might think, quiet quitting is not new: It’s been around for decades, but social media has now made it more popular, and it has gone viral. Quiet quitting is when employees – specifically, younger employees – become so disengaged with their jobs and employers that they do the bare minimum to fulfill their job requirements. This causes several problems for employers – quality of work suffers, conflicts between co-workers increase, deadlines are missed. The list goes on and on. What’s an employer to do? The key word to note when reading anything on quiet quitting is “disengaged.” Employees who are quiet quitting are disengaged, and therein lies the problem. Well, how did we get here? Is there anything that can be done to save these disengaged employees? How do we prevent further disengagement?

How did we get here?

There are myriad reasons that employees become disengaged: e.g., low wages, lack of flexibility in hours, or feeling their work is not valued. According to a recent Gallup poll, as much as 50 percent of the U.S. workforce qualify as quiet quitters. That’s half of the workforce essentially being disengaged. In a recent Raddon study, we found that 45 percent of respondents were disengaged – the word we use is “detached” – and the most detached group overall is millennials (who are ages 26–41 in 2022).

Figure 1: Engagement Segments of Nationwide Employee Survey Respondents by Generation

Source: Raddon Research Insights, 2022


While the pandemic helped shift people’s priorities more towards time spent with family, friends, and hobbies instead of focusing on how much time they are willing to put in before and after work hours – time is not the number one driver of disengagement. When Raddon polled millennial employees on key drivers of engagements (such as the social aspects of the job, the duties of job itself, the company culture and rewards earned from the job), we found that other concepts – like friendly colleagues, interesting work and managers recognizing their efforts – were at the top of the list of driving engagement. Unfortunately, over the course of the pandemic, fewer millennials scored their job and company well on these metrics.

How do we prevent future disengagement?

The first step is to understand what motivates and drives your employees. Interestingly, simply asking about their engagement increases that very engagement. Multiple surveys (including our own) have shown that employers who take the time to ask their employees about their engagement level have better employee engagement and fewer detached employees, particularly among millennials. Disengagement drops by almost half for those institutions that survey their employees about how engagend they are at work.

To show this comparison, Figure 2 demonstrates the differences between the nationwide results shown earlier with the results from the institutions that participate in the Raddon Viewpoint Employee Survey program.

Figure 2: Engagement Segments of Viewpoint Employee Survey Respondents by Generation, Compared With Nationwide Results

Source: Raddon Research Insights, 2022

Furthermore, results showed that employers who surveyed their employees have higher Net Promoter Scores (a measure of the willingness of employees to recommend their company as a place to work) than they did in 2019.  That improvement comes across all generations, including millennials.

Figure 3: Net Promoter Score: Would They Recommend Their Company to Friends and Family as a Place to Work (Viewpoint Employee Survey Respondents)

Source: Raddon Research Insights, 2022
* Net Promoter Score calculated as the percentage of those ranking their institution as a 9 or 10 (Promoters) minus the percentage of those ranking their institution as a 0 through 6 (Detractors)

Often employers are leery of surveying their employees because they are afraid of what the results will be. But how can you fix something if you don’t know it’s broken? The results are clear! Employees who are asked for their feedback are more engaged, and organizations that make employee engagement a priority have higher satisfaction, better productivity and a better handle on employee attrition.

Is there anything that can be done to save the disengaged employees? Yes, but that assumes that organizations want to save them. Certainly, there are many disengaged employees that employers would jump through hoops to prevent from leaving or quiet quitting – if they only knew why they were leaving. It all comes down to trust! In some cases, employers may need to rebuild trust with employees; in others, they need to establish trust early on with new employees. Whatever the scenario, trust is the first and best way to begin to save disengaged employees and to prevent disengagement in the first place.

When we surveyed financial institution leaders to rank the five most essential elements of a good culture, trust overwhelmingly was number one!

Figure 4: Most Important Elements in a Good Corporate Culture (from survey of 90 financial institution leaders)

Source: Raddon Research Insights, 2022


In the end, when you dig deeper into what is driving the quiet quitting phenomenon, it comes down to a few basic human principles:

People want to be heard. Survey your employees: Ask for their feedback, and then act on the things that can be changed. Successful organizations measure employee engagement annually and make employee engagement a priority.

People want to be acknowledged. Feeling that their work, their time, and their efforts are not valued is a top reason for quiet quitting. This goes beyond salary – it includes promotions, career advancement, and public recognition for success. Providing career path opportunities is key to keeping employees engaged and motivated.

People want to be paid fairly. Pay is the number one reason that both engaged and disengaged employees look for new jobs. Salary and appreciation (or lack of appreciation) are intricately connected in many people’s minds. If someone feels they are underpaid, it is likely they also feel underappreciated and will seek a position where they will feel more valued (i.e., will make more money).

People want to trust. People want to work in an environment and culture of trust. They want leaders who deliver on their promises and set good examples of the organization’s overall culture.


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