Quiet Quitting’s Impact on Unemployment

Quiet Quitting Unemployment




In a nutshell, “quiet quitting” is a philosophy of a growing number of younger workers (under 35) rejecting the notion that work must take over one’s life and employees should go above and beyond what their job descriptions entail. This can take many forms including turning down projects based on interest, refusing to answer work messages outside of working hours or simply feeling less invested in the role. “Quiet quitters” make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce — probably more in recent polls and increasing. While employees are not actually “quitting” their jobs, they are certainly less invested. This is a problem because most jobs today require some level of extra effort to collaborate with coworkers and meet customer needs, particularly with widespread labor shortages.

According to several national polls, employee engagement across the nation took a step backward during the second quarter of 2022, with the proportion of engaged workers remaining at 32% but the proportion of actively disengaged workers increasing to 18%. The drop in engagement began in the second half of 2021 and was concurrent with the rise in job resignations. Managers, among others, experienced the greatest drop. The overall decline was especially related to clarity of expectations, opportunities to learn and grow, feeling cared about, and a connection to the organization’s mission or purpose; signaling a growing disconnect between employees and their employers.

Most employers cannot afford to condone employees only willing to put in minimal effort or who are unwilling to go above and beyond when needed. From an unemployment insurance standpoint, if these employees are fired for “poor job performance” they will be eligible to collect UI. If they quit, each individual case will be handled independently as to what reason was provided to the employer for separation. However, if there are obvious and repeated patterns of withholding work productivity, insubordinate actions and/or flagrant neglect of job duties; the ability to issue corrective action and terminate employment remains unchanged. Do not allow “quiet quitting” to morph into non-verbal ways of undermining organizational objectives or interfering with the productivity of others. The challenge is recognizing discernable levels of disengagement and clearly defining “minimum standards”. Employers cannot leave this to their workforce to do.

The question then arises, how does an employer address this issue? The best way to eliminate unwarranted UI and turnover costs is through employee retention, but you do want to have engaged employees at the same time. Workforce experts agree “quiet quitting” is often a symptom of poor management. Consider the following:

  • Address manager engagement. Statistics show only one in three managers are engaged at work. Senior leadership needs to reskill managers to win in the new hybrid environment.
  • Managers must learn how to have conversations to help employees reduce disengagement and burnout. Managers working more closely with employees are in the best position to know employees as individuals, i.e., their life situation, strengths, motivations, and goals. Establish the habit for managers to have at least one meaningful conversation per week with each team member.
  • Managers need to create accountability and recognition for individual performance, team collaboration and customer outcomes. Employees must see how their work contributes to the organization’s larger purpose. Decisions about where people work, on-site, remote or a hybrid schedule should be kept in mind. Every organization needs a culture in which people are engaged and feel they belong.

Employees often quit their jobs after extended periods of “quietly quitting”. Exit interviews remain valuable tools for mining information about your organization’s culture to be used in a feedback loop to management.

In this growing “quiet quitting” culture however, the UI laws remain the same. In almost every state in the country, when an employee initiates the separation or quits their job, the legal burden of proof is on the former employee to show “good cause”/ “good cause attributable to the employer” or some similar statutory requirement. And an “attempt to preserve their employment”. This commonly means if the claimant has a potentially valid or legitimate reason to leave their job (a real workplace issue), they must also attempt to preserve their employment prior to formally quitting. Laws require the employee take some affirmative step to make the company aware of the problem and give the employer a reasonable opportunity to address the issue, such as:

  • Filing a complaint
  • Requesting a transfer
  • Requesting a leave of absence, or an extension of a leave of absence
  • Requesting a change in hours or work area
  • Filing a grievance.

Once this is done, the legal burden shifts back over to the employer. If the employer then fails to rectify a valid workplace issue, the employee can quit and collect unemployment benefits. Detecting an employee’s “attempt to preserve their employment” is sometimes difficult, especially in a “quiet quitting” culture. Consequently, management should stay cognizant of everyday conversations. This becomes much easier with frequent engagement, after developing an understanding of an employee’s communication style and work performance. This level of management involvement can help establish shared affirmative listening skills, often resolving issues before they throttle employee engagement or increase turnover. Encourage employees to expand on potentially problematic issues which appear to be recurring or are the focus of seemingly “casual” conversations. Then offer resolutions as appropriate, and document interventions or remedies offered.

More times than not, these simple but overlooked guidelines can succeed in reframing an employee’s employment experience and return dividends for the organization and employee alike.

If your organization is struggling with managing UI claims associated with voluntary quits, whether “quiet” or not, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re happy to learn more about your unique organization and offer objective insight!