Stopping the 'quiet quitting' trend could be all down to your boss

Young people in co-working creative space.
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The idea of "quiet quitting" may not be anything new. But over time it can become a problem for companies, and putting an end to it is ultimately down to managers, according to business leaders.

"It's on leaders and companies to change," Anjali Sud, the CEO of video platform Vimeo, said on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday.

She believes there needs to be a "reskilling" of leaders that is vital for them to connect and engage with employees.

"I don't think most leaders feel equipped to do that and I do think that without it the same phenomenon of phoning it in or quiet quitting can in fact lead then to not being able to retain and make productive great talent," she added.

Thierry Delaporte, CEO and managing director at IT company Wipro Limited, also sees quiet quitting as a chance for leaders to reflect on how they need to adjust to the changing labor force. This includes realizing that employees are looking for company culture and a "sense of purpose," as well as shifting how you engage with them.

"It goes actually beyond communicating, it's connecting. How do you make sure that, you know, the people understand where we are going and why."

The term quiet quitting was coined in 2022 on social media — with different definitions. Some say it is as simple as setting clearer boundaries, other say it means doing only what is in your job description and some believe it boils down to doing just enough work to avoid getting fired. What it, crucially, does not include is actually leaving your job.

Some experts, including Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, also believe it is a continuation of the Great Resignation. People who were unable to resign or were unsuccessful in changing their work environment started asking questions, he said.  

"I think underlying that is still the fundamental psychology of fairness," he added. "They're trying to figure out given what I receive from my employer, what's a fair way to reciprocate?"

Long term, it's not just about quiet quitting either, the Davos panel suggested. Instead, changes to how leaders approach working culture will also be crucial to recruitment and retainment.

Martine Ferland, president and CEO of consulting firm Mercer, says there could be trouble ahead without such shifts due to aging and declining populations.

"The demographic pyramid is not looking in our favor in terms of having a lot of choice in the talent pool," she said.

Shifting the focus to skills is one way to tackle this issue, she suggests.

"We're really talking about changing from jobs to skills," she said, adding that this included "organizing work around skills."

Other panel speakers suggested focusing on engaging current employees in efforts to shift culture and make changes before it's too late. Sud says that Vimeo is testing this by working with employees across all levels to drive culture.

Grant suggests having "entry interviews" and "stay interviews" in favor of exit interviews. Checking in with new and current employees to see what their expectations are and what they are concerned about, and then trying to address this proactively can make a significant difference, he believes.