Unemployment rises as The Great Resignation becomes “Quiet Quitting”

The unemployment rate checked in with a bang for August, moving to 3.7% from 3.5%, while 315,000 jobs became available. Is the the first big jolt in the wrong direction so many – particularly those in the “Yes, we are in a recession!” camp –  have been predicting? Job gains showed most forcefully in health care, retail trade, and professional and business services.

While the number of unemployed rose by 344,000 to 6 million.

Those considered active jobs seekers – they’ve looked for work during the last 12 months, but not in the four weeks prior to data collection – stayed steady at 1.4 million. They are described as “wanting and being available for work.”

Permanent layoffs increased by 188,000 to 1.4 million. New figures on what we all now know as The Great Resignation aren’t out yet, but the July number was 4.2 million, bringing the quit rate to 2.7%.

So why is everybody talking about Quiet Quitting?

Peacefully Sitting, Quietly Quitting

Quiet Quitting seems to be a perfect term for the complete lack of passion it describes. The Great Resignation was, and – as far as we know at the moment – still is, fuelled by enough passion to make people walk out of their jobs in the hope of something better. Something more flexible. Something more… remote.

These folk don’t have the same fire in their bellies. And that may be the underlying issue.

“Quiet quitting’ is a term that has taken social media by storm and is become something of a phenomenon in countries like China and Australia. Unlike other terms such as ‘job hopping’ or the ‘Great Resignation’, which can be defined easily, this acts as a teaser term, leading to lots of online questions around what it actually means.

Most sources say it began in China, with the term ‘tang ping’ or ‘lying flat’ taking hold across the country, among young people demanding a better work-life balance.

Ultimately, it means employee disengagement. Since job hopping and the Great Resignation were terms coined to describe new phenomena in the work place, this term could be seen as disingenuous. In reality, it appears to have been coined by people wanting to discuss an old issue by attracting people to the idea – which is actually very clever.

It would be a shame to think that people intelligent enough to come up with new terms for an old problem, then take social media by storm in various countries, are actually disengaged in their own jobs.

This really does conjure up an image of wasted talent.

Of course, the fact that it’s becoming so popular in the US – on the heels of the Great Resignation, is more than a coincidence. There is a feeling that burnout, or a desperate response to the onset of burnout, is permeating these trends.

So What Does It Mean to Quiet Quit?

Employees will often become disengaged if they feel overworked and underappreciated. The core of quiet quitting appears to be a refusal to do anything more than the basic duties a person was hired to perform. That doesn’t sound so bad on the face of it, but what it implies is toxic: employees who think of their jobs as nothing more than a paycheck. 

Let’s be clear. If the problem is that a business can’t cope with people fulfilling their employment agreements and doing what they were hired to do, it means the problem is with that business. They are expecting complete devotion and gratitude and unreasonable “flexibility”. 

If the problem is a lazy person clinging to the limits of their job at the expense of team spirit, or refusing to help others by going the extra mile now and again, the problem is with that person.

Clearly, there is no simple answer to solve this question.

However, quiet quitters do guarantee that teamwork will break down, because so much relies on people helping each other – rather than individuals performing pre-set tasks that exist within a relentlessly smooth, uninterrupted process.

That’s simply not realistic.

And once teamwork starts to break down, the company follows.

When people stop helping each other with simple tasks because ‘that’s not my job’ or ‘that’s not in my sprint,’ resentments start to build and cracks start to appear. It’s possible to think: ‘Well, it’s for the best if those types quit.’ That’s fine, but not if you’re responsible for creating those people by bringing them into your badly run company.

Quiet Quitting Vs. The Great Resignation

With fears of recession in the US, some believe the end of the Great Resignation is in sight, as employees start to fear losing their jobs. It now seems possible that one phenomenon will be replaced by another, equally toxic, phenomenon. If you cannot engage your employees, you will end up with teams of quiet quitters, slowly and indifferently destroying your business.

If a recession gives you the leverage to force reluctant workers back into the office, for example, what sort of engagement will you inspire? How much long-term value can you squeeze out of people’s fear of losing their jobs?

Try to imagine how that could go wrong.

Engaging your employees does not mean burning them out. If you can manage that, you should think about showing credit where credit is due. Office politics and cliques create quiet quitters wherever they fester. Breaking down office politics, giving praise, handing out cash bonuses for ‘above and beyond’ performance – these types of positive engagement can have great ROI.

A well-designed workflow and transparency in communications will also make a difference.

Hiring good managers is also a great way to prevent the production of quiet quitters in your company. Getting it wrong means trouble. Another method is using Ladders to find highly skilled, highly qualified professionals, pay them what they’re worth, and treat them in the way they deserve.”

And getting that right should also keep The Great Resignation at bay, too. (Maybe.)

So Where Are We Going With This?

With the drop in employment to 3.5% last month, some were quick to see this as the start of a move in the right direction, and evidence that the recession naysayers could be wrong. Fair enough, but Ladders CEO, Dave Fish, gave his advice clearly, and it was reported as follows:

If the current unemployment rate of 3.5 percent cannot be sustained and starts to move into reverse in the near future, Dave believes the consequences could be shocking for professionals across industries:

  • For employers: Employers will likely find themselves ripping up hiring strategies and going into financial survival mode. Current top-of-mind issues like retention rates will go out the window as the balance of power shifts and employees become worried about losing their jobs. Ironically, too much of a perceived shift will almost certainly backfire. Flexibility is here to stay, so employers who make too much of having the upper hand could pay a heavy price.
  • For professionals: Professionals who have been enjoying The Great Resignation will start to experience a colder world with less opportunities. However, as stated, they will also see that many remote-work and other flexible options will remain. Some may need to switch industries or brush up in new areas of expertise to gain those career options, but there is little chance that millions of people will simply accept that the game has changed and knuckle down.

“We have helped our members weather many storms over the past 19 years,” Dave told us, “throughout The Great Recession, the pandemic, and current uncertainty about the future. At the moment, we’re delighted about the new low unemployment figures, but still offering our Premium careers package to businesses at a discount, so they can gift a Ladders membership to any professionals who find themselves having job offers rescinded, or being laid off. 

“As we continue to navigate these economic challenges and bizarre contradictions, our team is committed to helping professionals compete effectively, and to provide the tools necessary to ensure their success, regardless of how the balance ultimately tilts.”

The Closing Gap Between Passive and Active Candidates

Male hr manager holding magnifying glass head hunting choosing finding new unique talent indian female candidate recruit among multiethnic professional people faces collage.

The pre-pandemic annual average voluntary turnover rate was made up of 31.9 million employees quitting their jobs. This year, it’s likely to jump almost 20% to 37.4 million. According to the Gartner November 2021 survey, 52% of employees said that flexible work policies will effect their decision about whether to remain or move on; 16% stated they would be willing to quit if asked to work on-site full-time, while 8% said they would quit if asked to work partially on-site.

“New employee expectations, and the availability of hybrid arrangement, will continue to fuel the rise in attrition. An individual organization with a turnover rate of 20% before the pandemic could face a turnover rate as high as 24% in 2022 and the years to come. For example, a workforce of 25,000 employees would need to prepare for an additional 1,000 voluntary departures.”

Piers Hudson, Senior Director, Gartner for HR Leaders

Tough crowd.

With the hiring and retention issue hitting hiring teams so hard, it’s tempting to wonder what the expansion rate on “hard-to-fill” positions is right now, particularly when bringing retention into the equation. With that in mind, hiring teams need to continue playing smart, looking into opportunities that may not have existed pre-pandemic, and developing new approaches.

Let’s take a look.

What Turns Passives Into Active Candidates?

Look at the numbers above again. They represent a lot of professionals in real-world jobs across industries sitting out there right now. Would you describe them as “passive”? If so, be careful when approaching any of them with a good offer, as they’ll likely bite your hand off.

Those passives have been primed for action.

To blow Ladders’ trumpet, our 7 million highly experienced, highly qualified members are identified in our database as active or passive; even though, as stated, that may not matter as much as it once did. Either way, those candidates can be reached out to very quickly through Ladders Recruiter.

Ladders Recruiter Resumes are immediately visible — and legible — on the search page, with full member contact information at your fingertips. Switching between a larger view and back to the same spot you left on the search page is a two-click thing, if needed at all.

You can sell yourself on the idea of how much pain that removes from the process.

Obviously, while this is a boon if you’re hiring for a “tough to fill” position right now, it remains a boon if you’re building a pipeline for the long-term. Passive candidates have a green light for hiring projects and should be worked into your upcoming hiring strategies.

So thinking of passive candidates as pending candidates — who just need to be reached out to in conversation —  could be an effective way of turning the tables on The Great Resignation. Even with that, there’s a lot more you can do to make the “new normal” roll up its sleeves and start working for you.

And it’s quite simple.

Mandates for Candidates? Not So Much

Mandating on-paper qualifications as a prerequisite to employment, rather than seeking-out real talent yourself, is not the right way to adapt to the new realities faced by hiring teams. The less we impose on potential candidates, the more potential you have to fill positions over the short-term and the long-term. How does that work? Easy. Just lighten up a little.

Like this.

How many “must-haves” appear in your latest job posts? If candidates don’t check all the boxes, including formal qualifications and years of experience, are they automatically filtered out from the candidate pool? Why not make the formal qualifications a “nice to have” and think harder about what those years of experience actually mean, for example?

If that thought-power doesn’t instantly hypnotize the rest of your hiring team, tests can be easily applied to the application process. These provide real-world data for yourself and your team to work from. A little “show, don’t tell” added into the hiring process doesn’t have credibility because a third party says it does, it has credibility because you watch it happen and know it does.

Making a big difference in any assessment.

You also should be willing to balance the hard and soft skills a candidate has against the core needs of the position, questioning which areas could easily be dealt with through training. This can often be the case in areas like software for team collaboration, in which successful adoption is probably not a major obstacle. 

A small investment could provide fantastic ROI for retention.


Stability Through Flexibility

If remote work is possible at your company, you’re in a good place. (Pun intended.) The numbers at the top of the article stand out in terms of how strongly employees feel about flexible work, particularly remote or hybrid options. Not to mention the fact that remote-work-mad 2021 marked the most profitable year for American corporations since post-World War II.

So there’s that.

The Great Resignation remains in power and employers playing hardball with “back to the office” mandates face a potentially serious backlash. Internationally, six-month four-day week trials are underway, with thousands of participating companies and a huge amount of anticipation about restructuring the way we all work forever. Inflexible leaders, determined to show everybody who the boss really is, could be set to become dinosaurs.

Adapt and survive, if you like. The bottom line is simple: If you’re conducting a reach out campaign to passive candidates, for a company offering flexible work options, your chances of a fast and positive response shoot up; particularly, of course, if the recipient doesn’t have flexible work options, or doesn’t have anything as tempting as what you can offer.

Investments and ROI. Again.


Over and Underlooked People

From 2020 to 2021, the number of people with disabilities in employment went up from 17.9% to 19.1%, after a drop from 19.3% in 2019, as compared to a 2020-2021 rise from 61.8% to 63.7% rise for people without a disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26% of adults in the United States have some kind of disability.

Once again, an investment in a reliable, qualified and experienced person with a disability could be another ROI boon for retention. Of course, everybody wants to make the right noises when it comes to championing people with disabilities — being patronizing always gets you applause in today’s world — but looking at what a person can offer as talent, as an expert, from a purely business perspective, could win your business a lot more.

And a remote work option is likely to give you a big boost in hiring and retaining this talent base. As an example, according to CNN, one Gabe Moses enjoys working his full-time call center shift while lying on his stomach on a mattress set on the floor of his apartment. His previous commute and long hours in an office often left him in pain and without the ability to speak.

Not good for somebody working in a call center.

There are many stories like that and others that make clear remote work isn’t a straightforward solution for every person with a disability. In less severe cases, for example, investments in special software needed to be made and many companies have risen to that challenge. Smart investments for great ROI is a recurring theme here, as it is in all business questions, and it’s highly likely to be the right answer to the hiring and retention question.

So who are the underlooked people?

They’re the people working in the companies you’re hiring for. Here’s the problem: People settle into a role, the boss is happy, everybody is happy. The person becomes that role. When it comes time to look for somebody higher up the ladder, the hiring team automatically looks outward, for that perfect fit, that shiny new expert.

And the person who knows the job inside out is invisible. Even though they’re supremely aware of all the inner quirks and idiosyncrasies of bosses, teams, systems, the flow, the go-to people, the stay-away-from people, the whole damn thing — making it much smarter to move such a person up and hire from outside for the position just vacated.

Or scratch your head when that person quits.

Never Mind the Gap

Given that we’ve all had a gap of some sort forced into our lives over the last two years, employment gaps are pretty much meaningless right now.

Gaps in resumes are abundant today. This is partly because many older, experienced professionals went into forced retirement during the pandemic. Many will return, if the incentives are right. And if hiring teams need reliable, experienced experts, not being a sap about a gap makes sense. Forced retirement aside, people were let go or furloughed left, right and center over the last two years, so let it slide.

Goodbye, gaps.

Wait — that’s the second gap closed in this article so far.

Something must be working.

Boom and Gloom: The Technology Downturn

3D rendering of a female robot looking sad and crying against a dark background.

While employment booms across industries, with employers adding even more jobs than anticipated in April – 28,000 above the Dow Jones estimate – the tech sector is showing serious signs of a downturn. Industry upswing stars include leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing.

So why is tech tanking?

Obviously, there are no prizes for anybody who has the correct answer. Lockdowns led to increasing numbers of consumers spending their time and their money online. The online world provided not only the best escape from a dreadful reality, but also a practical way to answer fundamental needs, like getting the shopping done.

Of course, that’s the simple version. Lockdowns affected everything, including the broader interests and investments of companies. Here we’ll look at companies that are either all out tech, or heavily invested enough at a core-offering level to be included.

The Great Resignation has left employers trying to find the best strategies to attract and retain new talent—often by throwing money at the problem—while tech is tightening its belt and layoffs in the industry are fast becoming an alarming trend.

Let’s take a look.

Business woman sits at her desk in a bright office, wearing a Virtual Reality headset with her hands up, touching thin air.
“This looks great! But I can’t find my keyboard.”

Metaverse Crashing to Earth?

Issues in the real world appear to have come full circle and kicked the metaverse in the purse, right where it hurts. On May 4th, Insider revealed a Meta internal memo stating that Facebook is freezing hiring and scaling back new talent acquisition across the company. Citing “challenges” that caused it to “miss revenue targets”.

Facebook’s global head of recruiting, Miranda Kalinowski, said—in a separate memo—that the company’s engineering team would be the first among those impacted. Facebook did freeze hiring at the beginning of the pandemic, but this was a sensible move, designed to give the company time to adjust and put new processes in place for health-aware onboarding.

This latest hiring freeze, on the other hand, is all about “our business needs and in light of the expense guidance given for this earnings period”—helped along by its Reality Labs division losing $2.9 billion in the first quarter.

Curse of the metaverse? Or barely a bump in the road? Speaking of which…

Man with a mobile phone watches as his Uber driver arrives.
“I can’t believe they still have to use real drivers.”

Uber Hiring U-turn

Uber is to slam the brakes on hiring after a “seismic shift” in investor sentiment, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced to employees in an email obtained by CNBC. Uber also plans to cut back on marketing and incentives spend. From this point forward, “We will be even more hardcore about costs across the board.”

He continued: “We have made a ton of progress in terms of profitability, setting a target for $5 billion in Adjusted EBITDA in 2024, but the goalposts have changed. Now it’s about free cash flow. We can and should get there fast.” Just like their drivers.

During the pandemic, Uber leaned heavily on its food delivery service Eats. After the lifting of COVID restrictions, revenue for Uber rose to 6.9 billion in the first quarter. The downside? A $5.9 billion loss during the COVID period, due to a slump in its equity investments.

Either way, Uber says: “We will be deliberate about when and where we add headcount.”

Animation showing Robin Hood in forest, holding bow loaded with arrow.
“Is it aim and fire or fire and aim? Tsk.”

Robinhood’s Aim

The original Robin Hood (Kevin Costner to you), was knocked spectacularly off balance at least once in his career. Likewise, retail brokerage Robinhood has announced it’s cutting 9% of a reported total of 3,800 employees. Shares fell more than 5% in extended trading after the announcement.

Rapid expansion last year somehow led to “duplicate roles and job functions”. Unfortunately, two heads were apparently not better than one and “these reductions to Robinhood’s staff is the right decision to improve efficiency, increase our velocity, and ensure that we are responsive to the changing needs of our customers,” according to CEO Vlad Tenev.

He added: “While the decision to undertake this action wasn’t easy, it is a deliberate step to ensure we are able to continue delivering on our strategic goals and furthering our mission to democratize finance.”

Woman using an indoor exercise bike with digital montior.
“I wish they’d make a real bike with a TV attached.”

Peloton in a Spin

Unable to bear the idea of running to stand still, Peloton cut around 20% of its corporate workforce – an estimated 2,800 people – and replaced its CEO, hoping a new lean look will impress investors and rejig its business for some muscular growth in the near future.

The announcement, which came earlier this month, followed rumors that the company could soon become the target of a takeover. However, the makeover news quelled much of that excitement, if not all of it. Many feel that Peloton will not escape that fate.

No matter how fast they peddle. Sorry, pedal. 

A Wall Street darling during the pandemic, the news in response to the announcement came with headlines like: “The Rise and Fall of Peloton” and phrases like “crash and burn”.

Still – no pain, no gain.

Terrible puns about the indoor-exercise success story aside, Barry McCarthy, former chief financial officer of Netflix and Spotify, is now the new president and CEO, while founder and former CEO, John Foley, is executive chairman of the board.

Most of the news since the announcement has been an exercise in things not working out: big borrowing, price slashing, stalled product production, and falling stocks – if people in high places are sweating right now, they appear determined to take the strain.

Peloton is going downhill, according to many key observers, but everybody remains fascinated by those spinning wheels. And they could get back in shape.

A male and female model step out of a limousine onto a red carpet.
“Vanity, vanity, all is… Ohh, nice dress!”

Cameo Yells “Cut!”

Cameo became a star after coming up with the novel idea of letting people pay their favorite actors, artists, athletes and celebrities to send them personalized video greetings. A crazy idea that hit big with the public, the company was valued at around $1 billion last year after gaining the attention of investors such as Amazon, Google, and UTA.

This month, it announced it was cutting approximately 25% of its workforce—87 members of staff in real terms, announcing a need to “right-size” the business after a pandemic-related reversal of fortunes.

Hit the reverse button back to 2020 and we see Cameo claiming the generation of around $100 million in gross revenue—4.5 times up on the previous year. Unfortunately, one-season-only shooting stars include high-flyers such as chief product officer, Nundu Janakiram, SVP of marketing, Emily Boschwitz, and chief technology officer, Rob Post.

Co-Founder and CEO, Steven Galanis, told Variety: “To support both fan and talent demand during the pandemic lockdowns, Cameo’s headcount exploded from just over 100 to nearly 400. We hired a lot of people quickly, and market conditions have rapidly changed since then. Accordingly, we have right-sized the business to best reflect the new realities.”

Some of the biggest stars in the world have found themselves on the cutting room floor, so this shouldn’t be the end of the story for anybody’s career. NEXT!

Contrasts and Questions

Contrasting the above with the rest of the economy is startling. In the world outside tech, employers are eagerly seeking new ways to attract and retain talent. The Great Resignation/Great Reshuffle continues to have a massive impact across industries: rising labor costs, inflation, and resignations are leaving hiring teams everywhere struggling to find their feet on continuously shifting ground.

Of the industry upswing stars highlighted at the start of this article, leisure and hospitality has had the biggest bounce back success, with job growth at 78,000. Does this signal that people are returning to their pre-pandemic habits, or that more people are learning to appreciate the “get up, get out there” lifestyle more than they did before it became prohibited? 

The tech industry skyrocketed during the pandemic and other industries suffered, so now the tables are turning. This is clear, so the real question is: How does it all balance out? If the issue can be readily identified, the tech industry can steer its way back to normalcy, right?

This isn’t Boom and Bust, it’s Boom and Gloom.

Or is it? 

Facing the Future vs. Facing Forward

As is often pointed out, tech industry trends are notoriously hard to track and analyze, because the business models are so specific to what they do and offer. Having said that, Ned Davis Research’s Veneta Dimitrova did analyze available data, including reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and concluded: “There doesn’t seem to be any leading tendency from that industry for overall employment growth.”

Then there’s inflation and the tightening of purse strings across the country. Amazon takes a hit in that respect. Back to the metaverse and we need to factor in Apple’s iPhone privacy changes, which impacted ad targeting—a potential $10 billion revenue hit—which is not to be sniffed at by anybody in this universe or, indeed, the metaverse.

If it was easy, we’d all be visionaries and business leaders, right?

Still, this places hiring teams in a bizarre world where everything is shifting with relentless speed, realities are either red hot or stone cold depending on needs, and each reality poses its own set of problems to be solved.

Ultimately, hiring managers with good recruiters on hand are always in a strong position. As mentioned in other articles, using experienced recruiters as talent advisors at the planning stages, rather than internal vendors to be issued tasks after the fact, could prove a winning strategy moving forward.

Of course, that depends on which direction you think forward is.

Good move, Netflix.”