SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — A trend dubbed “quiet quitting” is growing as more and more workers disengage from the daily 9-5 grind and turn down overtime.

Quiet quitting happens when an employee consciously cuts back on their own productivity and engagement at work — without actually leaving the job.

What is ‘quiet quitting?’

A TikTok video explaining the trend went viral with nearly half a million hearts. “Quiet quitting (is) quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work. Work is NOT your life. Your worth is not defined by your productive output,” TikToker @zkchillin proclaims.

As @zkchillin suggests to Gen Z, quiet quitters shift time and energy toward maintaining a healthy life balance, improving personal wellbeing, and working just hard enough to fulfill one’s job description.

“You’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life,” he said.

A Gallup poll surveyed a random sample of 57,000 employees and discovered that the trend began around the summer of 2021. “For the first year in more than a decade, the percentage of engaged workers in the U.S. declined in 2021. Just over one-third of employees — 34% — were engaged, and 16% were actively disengaged in their work and workplace,” Gallup primary researcher Jim Harter wrote.

“Engaged employees are involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. Actively disengaged employees are disgruntled and disloyal because most of their workplace needs are unmet,” Harter wrote.

“Employee engagement in the U.S., even amid the pandemic-driven disruptions of 2020, continued to pace upward, reinforcing a decade-long steady improvement pattern that led to record highs. The second half of 2021 saw a drop, resulting in the annual figure of 34% engaged workers in 2021,” Harter wrote.

Gallup measured employee engagement by asking about specific workplace elements, such as, profitability, productivity, customer service, retention, safety and overall wellbeing.

Some quiet quitters reported feeling like no one at work cares about them, nor values their opinions. Unclear expectations, a lack of opportunities to succeed, insufficient access to equipment and materials, and lackluster feedback were also grievances felt by employees.

What’s driving the ‘quiet quitting’ trend?

Workforce burnout is happening at the same time that employers are facing leadership challenges, including rising quit rates, enforcing COVID safety workplace rules, and handling complex schedules for remote, on-site, and hybrid employees. Trying to match worker preferences with leadership expectations is tricky in 2022, Harter said.

Looking ahead toward the end of 2022, some economists are forecasting a recession on the horizon. Quiet quitting could lose traction once real quitting decreases in some sectors of the economy. Several Silicon Valley tech companies resorted to hiring freezes and layoffs earlier this summer.

‘Quiet quitting’ vs. actual quitting

Madeleine Nguyen, CEO of Talentdrop recruiting company in San Francisco, said hiring trends are swinging back to pre-pandemic levels. “There was a job candidate arrogance that cropped up a year ago. Candidates had all these demands. Now the pendulum is swinging back to the employer’s side. Candidates cannot make whatever demands they want.”

A looming recession is causing many companies to make smarter business decisions through thoughtful hiring practices, she said.

Nguyen noted that there are many sectors of the economy where job candidates and current employees still have the advantage. The hospitality and retail industries continue to face shortages in staffing. “Restaurants are still struggling and retail cannot hire fast enough,” she said.

During the pandemic’s upheaval, some workers planned on quitting their jobs and finding better opportunities sometime in the future. If hiring rates continue to drop in 2022, those plans are likely to change, she said.

Nguyen added, “Now that things don’t look as strong, especially if you are a tech worker, maybe your job seems great all-of-a-sudden.”