Quiet quitting, the “trend” of doing the bare minimum to meet the requirements of your job description and nothing more, has become an acknowledged phenomenon of 2022. Although the act is not something new, it has become more widespread.
A June 2022 Gallup survey of workers aged 18 and older showed that quiet quitters “make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce—probably more.” This trend can be seen as a means of silent rebellion against the blurring of work/life boundaries—it’s not just e-mails encroaching on out-of-office time but also texts, WhatsApp group messages, and even Zoom calls, not to mention the implied criticism of those who leave their desk at the appointed time.
But while no one can argue against employees who are “acting their wage” rather than living up to unrealistic expectations, it can make your workforce management more difficult. So, as a manager, how do you address employees who you suspect have mentally checked out?
Understanding the Problem of Quiet Quitting
It is easy to think of quiet quitting as a symptom of a work-shy generation—that employees who are responding passive-aggressively to day-to-day tasks are simply “snowflakes” with an inflated sense of self-worth. But when more than one person is showing signs of disconnection, it can be an indication that the issue lies within the business and, more specifically, the company culture.
“Quiet quitting” doesn’t necessarily mean the whole company culture is failing, but it can mean your employees feel their voice isn’t being heard, particularly if they previously raised concerns and haven’t seen any action being taken. So, they give up. They sit back and do the bare minimum until one of three things happens: They find another job, they wait until someone notices and documents performance issues, or their leader finds a way to reengage them and their team. And the latter isn’t always easy.
How Do You Motivate and Support Employees Who Aren’t Fulfilling Their Role Potential?
A large part of “quiet quitting” management comes down to leadership. If leaders aren’t strong on performance management and are incapable of getting the best from their teams, the CEO needs to ensure they are getting proper leadership training. Otherwise, you’re never going to produce the desired results. But you also need to focus on the culture that’s been created around performance within the organization. What are employee expectations? Is this model being lived up to? If it is and individuals aren’t responding to it, managers need to find out why. You can start by asking smart questions, but the important part is listening to those answers.
Only once you understand why someone is performing—or otherwise—can you formulate an action plan with that individual. And it’s imperative that person be a part of this process and engaged in a successful outcome. If not, and he or she has no interest, then it may be time for the worker to move on. The trick then is to take steps to ensure you don’t repeat the pattern with the person’s replacement.
How Do You Hire the Right People to Avoid Quiet Quitting?
The best way to ensure employee engagement and avoid quiet quitting is to make sure employees know what they’re signing up for in the first place. So, your hiring process needs to be aligned with the company’s vision and values. But you also need to think about how you treat new hires.
Allowing integration, setting expectations, and ensuring open communication are all important when onboarding new staff—how you’re going to engage each employee, how you’re going to create a structure of growth so no one slips through the gaps, and that you’re making sure opportunities are available for all. Leaders who are clear on vision and goals and give consistent feedback will generally have strong teams because everyone knows where they stand. If a culture of open and transparent communications is created, the expectations for success are clear. And if you’re not sure if you’ve got it right, ask your team directly. Involve them in the process so you can build a plan to recalibrate and engage everyone as a team. And don’t forget to include a strategy for supporting burnout.
How Do You Create a Culture in Which Employees Feel Able to Open Up About Burnout?
Forbes recently reported that 52% of workers experience burnout. And that number is on the rise. Creating a culture in which employees are not afraid to admit they’re struggling is the first step toward combating burnout because unless you have a strategy to support workers through burnout, you’re going to continue to lose your best talent.
But you need to take a top-down, open and honest approach. Leaders often avoid questions they don’t want the answers to, but it’s those tough, open conversations that have the most impact. Employees need to know if support is there should they need it and what the repercussions might be if they take it.
People need clarity on vision, goals, performance, and growth—they need to understand their personal impact on the overall picture and feel valued. But they also need reassurance about the future should things go wrong.
There’s nothing new about “quiet quitting.” Most of us have encountered someone at work who’s gotten defeated and decided to check out and do the basics rather than take control of the situation. But the landscape has changed, and the talent market is now global. People have more options, and the idea of a “job” has changed. With employees looking for more purpose, those who don’t feel they have one are quicker to disengage. And the number of people collectively feeling defeated is increasing. So, when they come together, it can be very damaging to a company’s culture and growth.
Jenna Bayuk is Founder of Kinship Kollective.