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Quiet quitting vs. loud quitting: A step-by-step guide to identify, understand and mitigate

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By now, you’ve surely heard about quiet quitting – and its obvious counterpart, loud quitting. They were trendy buzzwords, but they describe an all-too-common problem in today’s workforce: disengagement.  

In a time when retention is top of mind for HR pros, the disengagement trends – whether it be loud or quiet – can be a slippery slope toward more turnover. And that’s the last thing you want. 

But although they stem from the same issue, there are distinct differences between the two – and they require different techniques to mitigate and resolve the issue. Here’s how to spot each type – and what to do next.

Step 1: Identify the problem

Before you can begin to resolve the issue, you need to know what you’re working with and be able to identify loud quitting versus quiet quitting. 

Quiet quitting

Quiet quitting is “when employees meet role requirements and work their scheduled hours but do not go above and beyond what their employers might expect of them,” according to Gartner. 

Put simply, they’re doing what they need to get by and nothing more. “[They] tend to exhibit minimal effort. They do the bare minimum that their job requires without complaining, but they won’t go above and beyond for others,” says Laurel McKenzie, senior behavioral scientist and North American lead at CoachHub. 

Quiet quitting may look like: 

  • A significant drop in engagement
  • Absenteeism or an increased number of sick days, and
  • A decline in performance, project completion times or productivity. 

Loud quitting 

“Loud quitting” is another form of disengagement, but employees are open about their disenchantment and disengagement. “Loud quitters are more vocal about their discontent and explicitly express their unhappiness, desire for change and their intention to leave,” says McKenzie. 

Loud quitters won’t be hard to spot because they’re actively disengaged, and they’re not afraid to show it. They may complain more vocally and more often, outright refuse to do tasks that they don’t consider necessary or share their contempt with colleagues, which may prompt even more workers to become disengaged. 

If you think these trends won’t affect your organization, consider this: Over half of employees are quiet quitting, and one in five (18%) are loud quitting, according to recent Gallup research. 

Step 2: Understand the core issue

Once you’ve identified whether employees are loud or quiet quitting, the next step is to get to the root of the problem. “While both types of quitters differ in their behaviors, the underlying sentiment of dissatisfaction can be similar,” says McKenzie. 

You may want to take a look back at employee surveys or other data to get your finger on the pulse of your workforce. Look for trends of disengagement, dissatisfaction or disenchantment and then dig deeper to see what could be causing those feelings. You may also want to examine different areas employees may be dissatisfied, such as culture, benefits & compensation or learning & development. 

Sometimes, disengagement like loud and quiet quitting can be due to perceived inequity between the amount of work employees are doing compared to the benefits they receive for their work.

“In order to find equity, quiet quitters are reducing their work to match the amount of rewards or benefits they are receiving,” says McKenzie. “Loud quitters are instead voicing their disgruntlement with this inequity in order to improve the rewards or benefits they receive to match their work.”

Step 3: Prevent it from spreading

Disengagement trends like loud or quiet quitting can spread across an organization, especially if it’s rooted in a deeper, company-wide issue. 

“For quiet quitters, HR leaders should focus on fostering a culture of open communication and feedback,” says McKenzie. “Creating a safe space for these employees to express their feelings and concerns can help address any imbalances and work towards a resolution.” 

On the other hand, loud quitters require a more proactive approach. “Acknowledging their concerns and working with them to find suitable solutions can help mitigate potential turnover and improve retention,” says McKenzie. “Ultimately, organizations must adapt their leadership style and foster an environment that encourages candid conversations to address both types of quitters’ unique needs before it’s too late.”

No matter what type of disengagement issue you have on your hands, here are three actionable ways that you can help remedy the problem before it goes any further: 

  • Provide one-on-one opportunities with quiet or loud quitters to share their feedback, such as stay interviews to help prevent turnover
  • Create or revamp your employee recognition program to reward and recognize your top performers to prevent disengagement, and
  • Audit current wellness benefits and their usage and adjust as necessary to ensure employees are prioritizing their mental health.

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