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Quiet Quitting: What Small Businesses Need to Know

You’ve probably heard the phrase “quiet quitting,” which has made headlines and is being debated on social media. If you’re a small business owner who has employees, or is thinking about hiring employees, you’ll want to understand how quiet quitting impacts you and how to address it. Your employees are integral to the success of your business, so let’s dive in.

A Primer on Quiet Quitting

What is quiet quitting? It depends on who you ask. Some people describe it as performing your job duties exactly as described, without going above and beyond. Others view it as actively disengaging from work and shirking job responsibilities.

Who is quiet quitting? The consensus is that Millennials and Gen Z are the primary adopters of quiet quitting, although it’s possible they’re simply being more vocal about it than older generations. These generations are taking the lead on promoting work-life balance and mental health.

Why are people quiet quitting? There are varying reasons, but in general, more employees now desire to work in ways that meet their needs. Nathaniel “Nat” Alston, President & CEO of The Horizons Group, says the practice is not new, but it came to prominence during the Covid pandemic. People who started working remotely, getting extra sick leave, etc. noticed the benefits to their personal lives, health, and overall well-being. Nat explains, “People are coming into work now with a whole different attitude. They were falling under the traditional ‘work til they drop’ (and) now they want work-life balance.” Debra Keller-Greene, owner of Keller Professional Services, points out that quiet quitting could also be an indication that an employee is not satisfied with the work they’re doing or with the company’s culture. These employees might need additional support.

Small Businesses and Quiet Quitting

Entrepreneurs must be proactive about meeting the needs of current and prospective employees. Not doing so will affect their bottom line in “green money” and “blue money.” Nat Alston describes green money as traditional funds that are spent on costs such as job advertising and training materials. Blue money is time and energy spent on activities such as interviewing and orientation. Many entrepreneurs underestimate the effects of spending blue money because it’s intangible, but it comes at a cost. That’s why it’s so important to focus on hiring and retaining satisfied employees.

So how can small businesses meet the needs of their employees? Nat and Debra have some tips:

  1. Provide benefits that are suited to modern lifestyles. Small businesses that can’t offer competitive pay can offer perks such as flexible work hours, remote work options, family leave, mentorship opportunities, and training. Think about how you can support the work-life balance of employees, reduce their stress levels, and prevent burnout. Many employees value jobs that offer these benefits over higher-paying jobs.
  2. Set reasonable expectations for employees and stick with them. Write clear job descriptions and ensure that your employees understand and agree to the responsibilities. When it comes to evaluations, be sure to assess employees based on their performance as described in the job description. Sometimes “meeting expectations” has a negative connotation but it really means the employee is doing their job. When an employee goes above and beyond expectations, recognize them by thanking them or otherwise acknowledging their efforts.
  3. Connect with your employees. Give them opportunities to provide input into the business. If they’re struggling, whether at work or outside of work, ask what you can do to help. A few days off or providing mentoring can make a huge difference. You can’t give everyone what they ask for all the time – running a business requires making decisions that not everyone agrees with – but listening is half the battle. “They can see that you’re demonstrating an effort to make it work…your employee knows you’re listening to them and you’re responding to them,” says Nat.

Ultimately, not every employee is going to be a good match for your business. While small business owners can be proactive about meeting their employees’ needs, there are going to be instances in which the best option is to part ways. Debra offers this advice: “A simplistic performance management system is the key to addressing quiet quitting and identifying those employees with whom to invest more time, energy, and money in career development vs. those who you decide to let go based on documented poor work performance.” At the end of the day, it’s about supporting your employees so they can contribute to the success of your business.

Follow Nathaniel “Nat” Alston on LinkedIn.

Follow Debra Keller-Greene on LinkedIn.

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