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Incentive compensation: a motivational lever to stop ‘quiet quitting?’

Incentive compensation: a motivational lever to stop ‘quiet quitting?’
June 22, 2023

Business performance

‘Quiet quitting’ is a new phenomenon which is testing the business world. It involves refusing to make work a major part of life. Employees are therefore clearly disengaged, and the consequences for companies are not insignificant. What are the causes of quiet quitting and what can be done to combat this growing demotivation among employees?

Quiet quitting, or leaving your job without quitting

“The term ‘quiet quitting’ can be confusing because employees who claim to be part of this movement, or who sometimes unconsciously adopt it, aren’t really quitting. Quiet quitting is really about renouncing the culture of absolute performance, the idea of excelling at work, and working more and more, without counting the hours, even if it means putting work before everything else.” Dalale Belhout, head of content at DigitalRecruiters,

Just 6% of French employees say they’re fully dedicated to their work. This is the surprising and worrying result of a study recently published by Gallup. This finding should be compared with the 23% of young workers who say their mental health it suffering. This malaise is reflected in the ever-increasing number of work stoppages.

So, it comes as no surprise that employees, especially the youngest, are deciding not to sacrifice their time or their health to their jobs. In the wake of the American ‘Great Resignation’ earthquake, whose tremors are being felt as far away as France, quiet quitting embodies this redefinition of what means. Today, a career is no longer an end in itself, but a mere tool for achieving happiness. And as with any tool, it’s out of the question to be enslaved to it.

Quiet quitters want to regain control over their lives and a good work-life balance. Investing their energy and free time in ways other than work is now essential. In concrete terms, these disengaged employees have decided to stick to their job description and refuse to overdo it. Quiet quitters are therefore no longer volunteering to take on new tasks or stay longer at work. While quitting or even slacking off is unimaginable, neither is investing in their company.

The results are significant for companies as a whole. Quiet quitters, no longer feeling fully part of their companies, are becoming less productive and less efficient, limiting their communication with their colleagues, and consequently sending their companies into a negative cycle – with extremely unfavourable consequences in the long term. In addition to a general loss of performance, personal disengagement reflects, and increases, the risk of burn-out and psychosocial harm.


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Identifying the causes of quiet quitting to better combat it

“[...] Quiet quitting reflects a real malaise on the part of employees. It’s vital to take this suffering into account and to train senior managers in managing this generation Z. It’s important to understand that the aim of this movement is to be respected and recognised, without necessarily wanting anything more.” Manon Mathiot, admissions marketing and communication project manager at the group,

To explain the phenomenon of quiet quitting, it’s tempting to see it as a quest for greater meaning at work. However, the causes of this disengagement are more likely to be found in companies’ management strategy.

Trying to blame employees’ disengagement on an unfulfilled desire to give meaning to their work stops the real causes of quiet quitting being identified. The large-scale resignations faced by certain sectors since the health crisis speak for themselves: it’s the lowest paid and least qualified employees who are behind the Great Resignation. In addition to the demand for better pay, there is also a desire to be more valued and to enjoy everyday life at work. This explains why many highly paid managers are more likely to leave their company if its management strategy is felt to be toxic.


It’s not so much a lack of meaning as a feeling of injustice that accounts for quiet quitting. If an employee feels that they aren’t being paid or rewarded fairly, that they aren’t being given enough information, that they’re being discriminated against, or that their opinion is never taken into account, they conclude that the company hasn’t kept the promises it made when they were first employed. Why, then, should they keep their commitments by giving their best when their management is not keeping its end of the bargain? Quite logically, employees are deciding to limit their investment to the level of compensation they receive in exchange.

Can quiet quitting really be curbed by incentive compensation?

“Incentive compensation is an effective lever for employees who are relatively unmotivated. It will provide that little extra something that can boost motivation and increase the commitment of employees who still want to invest in their company. However, it won’t be enough for the real quiet quitters who are demotivated by their work as a whole. Their demotivation is more the result of management resignations than pay alone. It’s therefore necessary to revive their daily life at work to turn them away from their quiet quitting.” Fabien Lucron, Primeum’s development director and expert in incentive compensation.

Not everyone seeks to complete a high-profile task through their job. Wanting to do a job that only provides satisfactory material comfort and is enjoyable to do is just as commendable as wanting to accomplish a social, environmental or scientific task. So, the real issue at stake is happiness at work.

Quiet quitters are employees who no longer feel happy at work. Since they no longer derive pleasure from their work and feel wronged, they’re withdrawing from it. To stem the phenomenon of quiet quitting, the best solution is therefore for companies to review their entire management strategy so as to restore employees’ desire to participate in their company’s overall performance.

It goes without saying that remuneration plays a part in re-engaging employees in everyday life at work. A consistent fixed salary and appropriate incentive compensation, based on realistic objectives, encourage employees to invest in their work. Nevertheless, if incentive compensation is used exclusively as a lever to combat disengagement, without taking into account the overall management culture, it’s bound to prove insufficient.


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The 10 golden rules of incentive compensation

Find out the incentive compensation white paper gathering best practices and pitfalls to avoid to set up incentive compensation plans

Blog post author

Hervé de Riberolles

For more than ten years, I have been leading a number of projects for our customers to diagnose and re design the incentive compensation systems of their teams. The diversity of environments (sectors, countries, populations) that we face, my team and myself, requires a perpetual adaptation of our methods and our offer. The motivation of employees is, from my point of view, exciting, constantly evolving and at the crossroads of several areas of expertise. That's what makes it so interesting.

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