How to re-energise your Employees and Retain your Best Talent.
What is quiet quitting?
Coined by career coach Brian Creedy in March 2020, and gaining increasing popularity on TikTok ever since, quiet quitting is a newly trending term for an old behaviour: worker dissatisfaction and disengagement.
Quiet quitting, also known as Silent Quitting or Soft Quitting, describes individuals who have actively disengaged from their jobs, choosing not to offer any more of their time, enthusiasm, or effort than is necessary to stay employed. They opt to do the bare minimum based on their job description and salary.
Whilst some critics associate this behaviour with entitlement, laziness, or worse, passive aggression toward the employer, those that self-identify as quiet quitters see it as a solution to rebalance their feelings of burnout, of work-life boundaries being repeatedly over-stepped, and a solution to regain the autonomy they feel they have lost.
Quiet quitting, therefore, is a way for employees to express their feelings of dissatisfaction within their roles when they feel that there is no other viable way to do so. For you as an employer, it is your last opportunity to address this dissatisfaction, to keep the skills and experience of talented members of staff before actual quitting occurs.
How prevalent is quiet quitting?
In a June 2022 survey, Gallup, leading workplace consultancy and global research company, found that at least 50% of the US workforce were now made up of quiet quitters, those who classified themselves as not engaged at work.
In the UK, only 9% of workers felt enthused by their work and workplace (compared to 32% in the US). This suggests that in the UK the number of quiet quitters is likely to be even higher.
Gallup’s data shows that disengagement in the workplace is at its highest in almost a decade and continues to rise.
Why is quiet quitting an issue for businesses?
Workers scaling back on additional effort and work hours is, of course, an issue in businesses that rely heavily on that additional effort to exact their competitor advantage. It is a direct threat to those that cultivate cultures where going above and beyond for the company is core to progression, growth, and productivity.
The loss of free labour because of quiet quitting is not the biggest issue for businesses, It is in fact the impact the attitudes of disengaged employees have on your company. The decisions and actions your employees make everyday affect the outcome of your business, your success, and your bottom line. Engaged employees create significantly more positive business outcomes than those making decisions and acting from a foundation of disengagement, discontentment, and possible disgruntlement. Put simply, engaged teams achieve more.
What can lead to quiet quitting?
Quiet quitters describe the following as reasons behind to their shift in attitude:
Overwork / burnout from mid- to long-term increases in workload that employees cannot handle, see no sign of ending, and feel unable to negotiate a reduction of without effecting their career or manager’s opinion of them.
Inadequate compensation offered for the work done. Employees feel undervalued and taken advantage of and choose to “act their wage” by reducing their effort to a level they think is commensurate to their pay and benefits.
Poor work-life balance from personal-life boundaries not being respected or upheld – for example, by out of hours requests, interruptions during vacation or holiday not being approved.
Unsupportive mangers do not make employees feel like they have their backs or have their best interests at heart. A poor employee-manager relationship that lacks trust is a key determiner in predicting an unengaged employee.
Unclear expectations from management and lack of performance feedback leaves employees dissatisfied and uncertain.
How to spot quiet quitters.
Quiet quitters can be identified by the changes in their behaviours. They are your superstar employee until they are not. You may watch them move away from their usual behaviour of contributing ideas, taking initiative, offering additional effort to get the job done, and being fully engaged in meetings; toward them taking an increasing number of personal and sick days, no longer approaching you, and staying silent in meetings or discussions. They may also become hostile when approached to do additional work and markedly reduce their productivity, especially once targets or goals have been achieved. They may no longer participate in social activities and may withdraw from the team entirely.
These are signs that they are lacking meaning and purpose in their role, and it’s time for you to find out what you can do to help.
What can I do about quiet quitters?
Gallup’s research shows that the manager or team leader alone accounts for 70% of the variance in team engagement. Take this opportunity to reengage with your team members to retain the experience and skills in your business.
Open and regular communication: create an open and supportive environment when employees can speak honestly with you without it affecting their career progression, job security, or relationship with you. A strong, trusting relationship with a manager is the primary bolster against disengaged workers. Ensure part of this communication is regular feedback, focusing on the employee’s strengths.
Listen, take action, and deliver on your promises: quiet quitting is usually preceded by signs of rising dissatisfaction. Look and listen out for these and meet employees’ opinions and feelings with understanding and respect. Plan and work toward flexible solutions that enhance engagement and meaning for the employee and work well for the company.
Encourage work-life balance: keep work to working-hours or clarify your expectations of out of hours working. Respect requests for time-off and ensure your team enjoy their holidays without worrying about work.
Advocate for your team: employees that feel their manager has got their back and has their best interest at heart are more engaged and willing to go above and beyond.
Understand your impact: sending emails at all hours may work for you but you are likely putting undue pressure on your team to do the same, thus encroaching on non-work time that is valuable to them and key to their continued performance. Make sure your team understand what your expectations of them are and that not acting like you is OK.
Keep increases to workload short-term and optional: if you don’t, you are removing your employees’ autonomy and forcing them into an arrangement that differs from the role they agreed to when starting the job.
Equipped: make sure your team have all the equipment, materials, training and resources to they need to do their job well.
Recognition: when employees choose to go above and beyond, or produce stand-out work, acknowledge it and make sure they know you appreciate it. Show employees that their opinions, their contribution, and their ideas are important.
Clarity of expectations: it’s easy for employees to misread the behaviours and expectations of their leaders, leaving them feeling uncertain. Be clear of your expectations repeatedly and consistently.
Discuss development: not everyone wants to take on additional responsibilities and progress. And not all roles allow for people to stay in the same role for years. Be open and honest during recruitment and during times of change. Map careers with your team members so that you both understand what the future you are working towards looks like. The more you know about your individual employee’s goals and desires, the easier it will be to motivate a successful, high-performing team.
Correct compensation: employees can feel undervalued and disrespected when their efforts are not fairly rewarded. The balance can usually be reset with a combination of salary, benefits, perks, flexibility, mentoring programmes, upskilling, coaching and training, clear expectation management, feedback, and appreciation. By building a relationship with each member of your team, you can learn to understand what is important to them and what they are motivated by.
A note for leaders.
Employee engagement ultimately comes from the top. If your middle managers are quiet quitting themselves, then the above tips aren’t going to help your already overburdened manager reengage anyone. If you are seeing a move toward disengagement and an increase in quiet quitters, or actual quitters, then it’s time to look at your working environment.
The natural ideological defence of quiet quitting argues that employees should not feel pressured to work outside of their job description or feel an enduring imbalance in the effort: reward ratio. And, if they do, then this is simply an opportunity to evolve a workplace culture into something fairer, more sustainable, and more in line with modern cultural change.
It is therefore likely that the recent increase of awareness of the new term quiet quitting, instead of being an issue to reverse, may be just the catalyst you need to review, grow, and reengage your staff to help you bring the best out in everyone who works for you and for your business.