The Quiet Quitting Crisis: How Leaders Can Address it

The Quiet Quitting Crisis: How Leaders Can Address it

The recently coined term “quiet quitting” has been working its way around corporate offices and social media alike. Quiet quitting describes employees who do the bare minimum of their job duties and refrain from putting any extra effort into being engaged in their organization’s culture or work. This term is relatively new, with Google Trends showing web searches for “quiet quitting” increasing significantly in August of 2022 (Figure 1). Despite the recent use of this phrase, quiet quitting describes a phenomenon that has been around for years.

Figure 1

Google Trends Quiet Quitting

Disengaged workers have puzzled leaders and organizations for decades, so why is this phenomenon appearing to impact organizations at an increased level in recent months? One possibility is that layoffs hit a 20-year low earlier this year, providing employees with an increased sense of security in their jobs. Additionally, the staggering amount of job openings reported this year, conveys to employees that if they did get fired or laid off from their current role, there are a number of other opportunities available for them. Thus, quiet quitters can exist at organizations who either can’t afford to lose an employee or are unequipped to identify, address and prevent quiet quitting in their teams.

Can workers be punished when they are doing their job, but not going above and beyond in their role? Gabrielle Christman, President and CEO at Hunter International Recruiting explains her perspective, “Quiet quitting, or a lack of striving and withdrawal of emotional engagement is not new in the workplace. However, we are seeing this new trend increase following the COVID-19 pandemic with recent studies showing that quiet quitters are making up at least 50 percent of the U.S. workforce.” Christman continues, “As business leaders, it is our responsibility to understand and address quiet quitting in the workplace by reaffirming our employees’ purpose, connection, accountability and clarity in their roles.”

Here are Christman’s tips for how to address and prevent quiet quitting in the workplace.

1. Hit Reset

When you notice an employee meeting the minimum performance standards, and appearing repeatedly disengaged from meetings, activities and conversations over an extended period of time, you may be noticing signs of a quiet quitter. Start by addressing the situation and having an open conversation about the employee’s lack of engagement. Others agree, for example, Marty Walsh the U.S. Secretary of Labor advises employers, “If you are an employer, you should catch on early enough that your employees aren’t satisfied, aren’t happy, and then there needs to be a dialogue, a conversation.” Having open dialogue can reset the expectations of the individual’s role and the standard of excellence that sets your team apart.

So, as a leader, how do you approach this conversation? Consider mentioning the behavior in your next one-on-one and asking open ended questions about, the employee’s connection to the work and if there are any barriers preventing the employee from reaching their potential within their role. Make sure to go into this conversation with an open mind and leave room for discussions on how to improve in these areas. By addressing quiet quitting behaviors, you can create and action plan to get the employee back on track and identify the individuals who might fall behind.

2. Reaffirm Value of Work and Mission of Your Organization

With the ebb and flow of daily job duties, it can be easy to let time pass without reaffirming your employee’s individual contributions, how those roll up to represent the team and ultimately align with company-wide goals of the organization. Maybe you’ve identified quiet quitters in your organization, or want to take preventive actions, either way, taking time to bring it back to the basics can be an effective use of time. For example, recent McKinsey research findings indicated that when employees feel that their purpose is aligned with the organization’s purpose, it can cause stronger employee engagement, heightened loyalty and a greater willingness to refer others to the company.

Consider how you can work these topics into conversations. For example, you can incorporate meaningful discussions about work into employee one-on-ones and reviews. Additionally, utilize team meetings as a time to discuss your organization’s mission, vision and values to inspire and motivate employees in their daily work. Get your employees actively involved in thinking about how the work they do impacts the organization and the customers your company serves. These exercises can provide clarity to the employee’s perception of their contributions to the team, and reminds them why the work they do is important to others around them.

3. Equip Managers With Tools

Christman’s last piece of advice for senior leadership is to make sure that managers are equipped with the proper tools, data and trainings to address and prevent quiet quitting with their employees. Never underestimate the extremely important role that managers play in building and maintaining company culture. Direct managers have the unique ability to observe employees’ daily workflow, understand their personal motivators and communicate with them more frequently. In fact, a Gallup study found that managers account for up to 70 percent variance in employee engagement.

Providing managers with the understanding of the signs of quiet quitting and giving them an idea of how to handle a quiet quitter can make them more prepared if a situation arises. Additionally, encouraging managers to have open conversations about overall engagement, employee connection to the work and worker burnout, can prevent quiet quitting on teams and increase employee’s purpose and accountability in their role. By supporting your managers, you can create an ecosystem of engagement, and ultimately build a foundation for an engaged, and productive culture at your organization.

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