Quiet Quitting: Why We Need to Move Beyond Extrinsic Motivation

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By Bryan Barnes and Felicity Doddato

Quiet Quitting: Why We Need to Move Beyond Extrinsic Motivation

Quiet Quitting is when employees put forth the minimally required effort for a job. It’s easy to miss— there’s no dramatic exit, no big announcement, and no direct confrontation. Quiet quitters just try to get through the day as quickly as possible.

Quiet quitting doesn’t happen because of laziness; it happens because of a lack of intrinsic motivation. Unmotivated employees can become unengaged, exhausted, and burnt out over time. This isn’t just a problem for employees— it’s an expensive problem for organisations. As the number of new employees increases, cost also increases. However, if you are able to identify these employees early on, they can be a great source of information about what needs improving in your organisation.

Burned out employees cost companies $125 – $190 billion each year.

Burnout is caused by work overload and work-life imbalance, but it also includes emotional exhaustion, feeling isolated from others at work, and depersonalisation—feeling disconnected from the job you’re doing because you’ve done it so many times before without satisfaction or appreciation. Burned out employees cost companies around $125 – $190 billion each year. The cost of turnover is high, and it takes time to find, hire, and train a new employee. When these costs are multiplied over several employees, the numbers add up quickly.

What does quiet quitting look like?

Quiet quitting occurs when employees are not properly motivated, engaged, and rewarded. When there’s no one around to tell us how good we are at what we do (or how bad), the sense of pride disappears and turns into something else: apathy, resentment, sadness. It can even become an emotional void where all that matters is getting through the day.

The problem with quiet quitting is that it doesn’t always happen on a grand scale; sometimes it can build up over time through small decisions—employees might begin to ask themselves “How much effort should I put into this? Is my work valued here? Shouldn’t I be spending more time focusing on other goals?” These seemingly harmless questions can turn into major performance deficits, without realising how much damage has been done along the way.

Extrinsic motivators don’t work as well over time.

Why are employees becoming so burnt out? There may be a lack of motivation. Many organisations tend to put more emphasis on extrinsic rewards for their employees, such as bonuses or commissions. But these types of rewards don’t always work. Extrinsic motivation drives individuals using external influences. These can either be rewarding (e.g., money, good grades, fame); or punishing (e.g., threat of punishment, pain).

Extrinsic motivators can be a good way to get your employees started on the right path, but as time goes on, they won’t work as well. Employees who are unmotivated and don’t particularly like their job will perform just enough work to get their reward. They won’t make an effort to develop new skills because they aren’t necessary to keep getting paid. This can lead employees down a slippery slope towards unethical behavior such as stealing or lying about productivity levels. Extrinsic motivation can also lead to burnout—employees who are motivated by rewards and punishments often experience a higher degree of burnout than those who are intrinsically motivated

Intrinsic motivation is more sustainable over time because it’s based on internal factors rather than external ones. When an employee loves what they do—whether it’s writing fiction or building bridges—they’ll continue doing it even if there isn’t any additional reinforcement from outside sources like promotions or raises (although, this doesn’t mean that those things shouldn’t exist). People who are intrinsically motivated tend not to quit their jobs because of dissatisfaction either; employees who are internally motivated are less likely to quit compared to others with similar levels of skill and education.

Better motivation means better engagement

You might think that extrinsic motivation is the best way to get your employees engaged, but it’s not. Intrinsic motivation is what leads to true engagement.

When employees are intrinsically motivated, they’re more likely to be engaged in their work. While there’s no one definition of engagement, it generally refers to workplace satisfaction and an employee’s emotional commitment to their job. Engagement is distinct from motivation because engagement measures how an employee feels about their job—not whether they’re doing it because they want a higher rating or raise.

Ensure that your employees’ jobs have purpose, meaning, and add value to the organisation overall. If an employee is working on something that has meaning for them but not for their employer or clients, then it’s likely that they will have low motivation because of the disconnection between what they are doing and why it matters. By using intrinsic rewards like instilling a sense of pride in the work your organisation is doing instead of solely using extrinsic rewards like money or praise, you can maintain higher retention rates compared to using external rewards alone.

Engaged employees are more likely to be productive and innovative, and they’re less likely to leave your company for another job. If you want your employees to be engaged, then you need to provide them with intrinsic rewards—not just extrinsic ones.

Intrinsic motivation means more than just letting people work from home

Working remotely is a common and relatively easy way for managers to give their employees more flexibility and motivation. But increasing motivation comes from allowing employees to how they spend their time and energy on the job, not just where they work.

When you give employees the freedom to choose how they spend their time on the job, it gives them an opportunity to find what makes them most effective. Different people have different work styles and levels of motivation. Some employees may excel earlier in the day, where others are night owls who prefer later hours. Allowing greater flexibility creates an opportunity to build an environment where your team is more likely to be engaged and creative, producing more value for your organisation, and improving job satisfaction.

Providing regular feedback and opportunities for collaboration helps employees know what they need improvement on. This will help them grow professionally, which means they’ll be able to do their jobs better and lead others in the future. The best way to do this is by creating a culture of open communication, where employees are encouraged to ask questions and express their concerns, as well as offer suggestions to their colleagues on how to improve their performance.

One effective tool for providing useful constructive feedback and encouraging team collaboration are leadership and team development workshops that focus on engagement, satisfaction, and motivation. The applications offered at Jenson8 can provide specified and relevant soft skills training for employees, as well as function as general trait assessments to help your organisation hone in on what motivators are working, and which ones might not be.

When you build a culture of collaboration at work, it helps keep things interesting and engaging for everyone on the team. Employees will feel like they’re working towards the same goal, creating a sense of community and belonging at work.


Quiet quitting can become a problem within any organisation, but it doesn’t have to. Intrinsically motivate your employees by providing them with opportunities for growth and development as well as meaningful work that aligns with their personal values and interests. This will help them feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves—a team—and feel more engaged at work and have something to look forward to each day!

You can’t control the actions of your employees, but you can control whether or not they feel engaged in their work or feel like they have a sense of purpose. Jenson8’s platform can be used to ensure that your workplace environment is one that in engaging, intrinsically motivating, and successful. If you want to learn more about how we can help, contact us today!

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