Revisiting the Basics of Moonlighting and Quiet Quitting


COVID changed the way people worked, and businesses functioned. Work from home (WFH) and hybrid work became the normal ways of working. Although employees found these options convenient, employers and their HR had to grapple with two new challenges – Moonlighting and quiet quitting. Social and mainstream media channels have been ablaze with these terms.

Let’s re-examine them once again.

What is Moonlighting?

The practice of taking up a second job while working full-time in one company is called moonlighting. A concept that originated in America, moonlighting is practised by employees

to either supplement or safeguard their income. The younger folks (Gen Z) do it to enhance their exposure by taking on newer challenges in their career.

According to the India Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022 by PwC, 71% of Indian employees are extremely concerned about being overlooked for career advancement opportunities.

Some IT corporates have openly dissuaded employees from moonlighting. An energy and infra company stated that this practice cropped up because of the hybrid work model. Their CHRO added that hybrid work does not work for them since their operations entail the physical presence of its employees. Another IT company and a food delivery app accepted it as long as it did not hinder their business operations. In some cases, the employees were expected to take prior approval before accepting an offer.

How Can It Be Prevented?

Companies can add a non-compete clause in the employment contract signed by employees. It prohibits an employee from working for two competitors concurrently. But employers who approve of moonlighting need to take stern measures to avert a conflict of interest. Otherwise,

one company’s time and resources could be exploited to perform another’s jobs. Usually, underpaid employees resort to this tactic to meet their financial commitments. Therefore, employers need to ensure that their employees are not underpaid.

Recently, we all read about an IT major that tracked and terminated employees working simultaneously with a competitor. They used the UAN to spot double entries in the employees’ PF accounts. Nowadays, there are plenty of tools to trace dual employment. But some companies believe that a better way to maintain a loyal workforce is by understanding employee sentiments and instilling a sense of belongingness.

What is Quiet Quitting?

A trending term, quiet quitting, refers to a scenario where an employee does only what is required to get a job done and nothing more! Also called silent quitting, this usually happens

due to a higher stress level or deterioration of interest in the job. Sometimes, a disgruntled employee could suddenly switch to the quiet-quitting mode. Some opine it’s just a way to strike the right work-life balance.

In certain functions, employees must go beyond the call of duty to deliver better results. If they resort to quiet quitting, it could adversely affect their productivity and the company’s overall performance.

Popularised on TikTok, the concept of quiet quitting has been trending on channels like Twitter and LinkedIn, among others. India-specific reports reveal that quiet quitting is not only prevalent in IT but also in the banking, defence and government sectors.

How Can It Be Curbed?

Quiet quitting is usually attributed to a mismatch between employees’ aspirations and employers’ expectations. Organisations can help bridge this gap by building a better rapport with their employees, maintaining an optimal workload and being transparent about growth opportunities. Managers’ accountability, approach and attitude can help tackle this challenge since they handle the people executing the tasks.

As per Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report, only 21% of the workforce was engaged at work.  

Quiet quitters become chronically disengaged at work. They also isolate themselves from the rest of the team members. Want a better indicator? Look for frequent dips in performance and work backwards. In the current scenario, taking a tough stance against quiet quitters may not always be prudent.

In Conclusion

Whatever is said and done, moonlighters and quiet quitters are not new to the workplace. They have always been there. But the recent incidents in some IT companies have stirred debates about the concepts of moonlighting and quiet quitting.

If a company accepts moonlighting as a practice, it is ethical. If not, it’s a no-no. In the case of quiet quitting, it is up to the stakeholders to identify the concerned people and take positive action. They can’t always make do with negative actions like warnings, penalties and retrenchment, especially in workplaces with a remote or hybrid work model. Employees are the most influential brand ambassadors of a company. Aren’t they?

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