The contentious issue of quiet quitting in the workplace or putting in minimal effort to avoid termination is considered by some to be a logical repercussion of COVID-19. But businesses are under extraordinary pressure of the Great Resignation trend, local talent moving abroad for better opportunities and a general shortage of skills.

Employers argue that staff who are not engaged or quietly getting by without putting in much effort are a drain on resources.

This can lead to overall dissatisfaction in the workplace and, in some cases, may prompt management to take deliberate actions that result in the employee leaving the company, also known as ‘quiet firing’.

Examples of quiet firing include overlooking certain employees when it comes to promotions, pay rises or bonuses or as notes: “purposefully withholding development and leadership opportunities…”

How big is the problem of quiet quitting? According to, global office occupancy rates rose to 50.4% in late January, dropped to 45.6% by early February, and then slightly recovered to 48.6%, indicating uncertainty about employees’ return to the office post-COVID-19.”

The publication referenced a survey by Gallup, released in 2022, which said that up to 50% of Americans may be disengaged at work.

A piece on quotes Zaid Khan, who succinctly describes the situation: “I recently learned about this term called quiet quitting, where you’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond.”

While it is difficult to quantify the issue from an African or South African point of view, Nicol Myburgh, Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit, says there is some understanding of what has given rise to the issue.

“We know that burnout is a growing concern in the workplace today, across many industries. There are many factors at play here, including socio-economic stress, mental fatigue and the impact of remote working. It is important for business leaders to be cognisant of what the reasons may be for the situation – however, they cannot afford to simply allow the situation to continue. This is not an option.”

“In today’s economy the margin for error is so small, with competition for business and resources so fierce that no company can afford to lose the competitive advantage that a motivated, focused labour force represents. Many business decision-makers are aware of the need to make up for lost time and lost business, and ‘dig deep’ to ensure they are still relevant to customers and vastly different markets.”

Quiet hiring

But there is opportunity in every adversity and in as much as employees can ‘quietly quit’, employers have the opportunity to ‘quietly hire’, train up employees and refresh existing skills sets, Myburgh continues.

According to Forbes, quiet hiring is the term used when a company develops new skills without formally recruiting a full-time employee.

This can be done in various ways, Myburgh explains, including by giving existing employees more responsibilities or widening their job scope/description and/or outsourcing to contractors.

Ben Wigert, director of research and strategy for workplace management at Gallup, says that forcing employees to come to the office under threat of discipline leads to disengagement, fear and distrust.

Wigert adds, “The optimal engagement boost occurs when employees spend 60% to 80% of their time – or three to four days in a five-day workweek – working off-site.

“Low employee engagement can hinder the development of a strong and inclusive company culture, making it challenging to achieve ambitious goals.”

The pressure to hire new workers will in turn have an impact on the maintenance of operations, and increase training budgets in an already stagnant economy.

Myburgh says CRS Technologies has drafted a few guidance points that businesses can use to better manage the quiet quitting trend and avoid having to take drastic measures to control a frustrated, confused and tired labour force.

Key factors to consider include:

• Keep increases in workload short-term;

• Compensate your team;

• Make stepping up optional;

• Be upfront about role growth;

• Utilise employee recognition strategies;

• Build rapport and relationships.

Myburgh says, “Like many labour-related issues in business today, quiet quitting is something that won’t be easily dealt with or quickly eliminated. But a consistent, well-thought-out strategy that is well communicated and in line with compliance and governance policies and practice will most certainly help to eliminate many potential problems. CRS Technologies has extensive product and technology knowledge and is committed to adding value to its clients.”

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