“Quiet Quitting” Isn’t Just About Employees


If you’ve been listening to NPR or watching CNN recently, there’s a new buzzword out there that is directly relevant to the employee experience: “quiet quitting.” The term apparently originated in a TikTok video earlier this year. It refers to the practice of putting in the minimum amount of effort and time at your job in order to focus on work-life balance or other interests—or while you wait to be fired or are looking for other employment. 

The trend reflects pandemic-accelerated employee burnout, lack of engagement with a job or company, preparation for resignation, and work-from-home disruption. It is particularly prevalent among Gen Z and millennial workers, for whom motivation and being able to identify with the values of one’s company are particularly important. It is hard to see quiet quitting as anything other than a failure of employee experience management.

Whether this is something new, or just a new name for lack of employee engagement, quiet quitting has also been taken as a positive development. To its defenders, quiet quitting is about identity empowerment, work-life balance, and mental health and well-being. In some posts I’ve read, there are even hints at a neo-Marxist labor-empowerment discourse against worker exploitation, the same discourses that led to unionization and the 40-hour work week. It will certainly be a fascinating dialogue to watch as recession fears worsen.

How Quiet Quitting Impacts Customers

The people who seem to be missing from this discussion are the customers. In line with total experience theory, apathetic advisors, agents, tellers, or service reps who lack enthusiasm and are unengaged cannot be expected to provide very good customer experiences. Burned-out employees are more prone to making mistakes, which at financial institutions in particular can trigger a grievous amount of stress. 

At a time when customers are seeking out human-to-human interactions (see our “Return to Analog” discussion in our recent customer experience trends report), the employees they are looking to for connection are less engaged. Consumers will look unfavorably on brands where they suspect or sense that many employees are quietly quitting, and this will hurt loyalty, engagement, and overall customer experience.

There are a few things companies can do to protect customers from quiet quitting practices and defend against poor brand perception:

  • Be open about employee experience initiatives. This includes being transparent about feedback mechanisms, employee incentives, mission statements, work-life balance—any kind of employee experience improvement initiatives. These programs are often hidden in the company intranet or deep within the careers section of the website. Being more public about these projects—on social media, on the website, in newsletters—can communicate to customers that the brand takes employee experience seriously and is acknowledging the quiet quitting trend.
  • Incentivize social media activity. One of the places where customers are likely to engage with employees is on social media. Brands should consider incentivizing their employees to share, like, and otherwise engage with brand announcements and official brand posts. Customers will interpret this as employee engagement with their companies and view the company as proactively fostering a nurturing, likeable work environment.
  • Invest in regtech and employee training. On the more practical side, companies can invest in tools and initiatives that directly mitigate some of the effects of quiet quitting. Regtech or digital adoption solutions can reduce errors and omissions along with other mistakes that might be caused by burned-out employees, potentially avoiding acute customer angst. Training programs designed to improve skill sets and develop careers could be a way to drive engagement and improve employee experiences. At the same time, these programs can address the knowledge gap caused by employee turnover and lead to more positive customer experiences.

Supporters of the “quiet quitting” trend will argue that rejecting overachievement results in happier employees, in turn resulting in happier customers. But if they’re wrong, and apathy, disengagement, and sloppiness are actually the hallmarks of the quiet quitting trend, then financial institutions and insurers need to protect their customers from the negative effects this might have on their overall experiences with the brand.

To learn more about this and other trends impacting customer experience today, read our latest report, 10 Trends in Customer Experience: Expanding Scope and Managing Expectations.