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Hustle culture is out. 'Quiet quitters' now make up half the U.S. workforce

A Gallup survey suggests workers are increasingly bothered by a lack of clarity about expectations, fewer opportunities to grow and not feeling cared about.

At least half of all U.S. workers now do the bare minimum of what's required from them at their jobs, according to a new survey from Gallup.

Industry watchers and workforce experts have adopted the term "quiet quitting" to describe such workers: people who have chosen to reject the hustle culture that has dominated conversations around work and career for decades.

And in a pandemic era that has physically and emotionally stretched many employees thin, some have begun to speak up about some of the indignities of the modern workplace.

While quiet quitting is sometimes defined as simply enforcing boundaries between work life and personal life, the Gallup survey paints a different picture. The survey attributes the decline in engagement at work to a lack of clarity about expectations, fewer opportunities to learn and grow, not feeling cared about and a disconnect with the organization’s mission or purpose, said Jim Harter, Gallup's chief scientist for workplace management.

"Many quiet quitters fit Gallup’s definition of being 'not engaged' at work — people who do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job," Harter wrote. "This describes half of the U.S. workforce."

According to the survey, there are still more workers who are engaged at work (32%) compared with people who are actively disengaged, a third category that Gallup refers to as "loud quitters," who make up 18% of survey respondents. They have checked out of their jobs and are not hiding it.

But the gap between the two groups is at its lowest point in nearly a decade, Gallup found. The percentage of those engaged at work has fallen from a multi-decade high of 36% in 2020. Meanwhile, the percentage of actively disengaged workers has climbed from a low of 13% in 2018.

Most employees who are actively disengaged or are not engaged are already looking for other jobs, Harter said.

The trend began in the second half of 2021, when Gallup found that for the first time in more than a decade, the percentage of people in the U.S. who described themselves as being engaged with their work had declined.

The biggest drops in engagement were among managers and health care and social assistance workers. Both groups complained that they lacked someone who was encouraging their development. Managers also complained about lacking clear expectations, while health care workers had additional complaints about not having someone at work who cared about them.

The engagement problem is also acute among workers ages 35 and younger, especially those who are working remotely or in hybrid settings. Gallup found that fewer than 4 in 10 of those workers knew what was expected of them at work.

Organizations that demonstrated increased management involvement, communication, "upskilling" of managers and accountability had increases in their share of engaged employees, Gallup said.