As a leader in your business, you’ve probably already heard of the “quiet quitting” phenomenon, but you may not yet know how to respond effectively. Now that enough time has passed, we can look at the trend and draw a few conclusions.
This article covers what causes employee disengagement and how you can combat the issue in your organization.
The idea of "just getting by" was all over the news in the latter half of 2022. Employees weren't going the extra mile - they simply did the bare minimum needed for their jobs. This type of behavior is a problem for companies since, formally, they keep employees but in actuality, they lose skills and abilities.
The quiet quitting phenomenon is here to stay. According to a December 2022 study, 59% of quiet quitters were already setting boundaries at work before learning about the term “quiet quitting.” And 26% said they started quietly quitting upon learning about it.
Unfortunately for businesses, this behavior is widespread. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report for 2022 shows employee engagement is low worldwide, with only a measly 21% of employees feeling engaged at work.
That trend brings us to an important question.
What exactly is quiet quitting?
“Quiet quitting” is, first and foremost, not quitting your job. It’s when disengaged employees keep their job and stop their hard work. Many see the trend as a backlash to “hustle culture” the idea that working and “grinding” as hard as possible is the key pathway to success.
Quiet quitters are bucking that supposed guff.
The definition provided by Investopedia for this new term explains:
Quiet quitting refers to doing the minimum requirements of one’s job and putting in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm than necessary.
However, what it means to one employee may differ from what it means to another.
For example, Time Magazine tells the story of a teacher who decided to “quiet quit” by limiting her work to her contract hours, “nothing more, nothing less.”
Meanwhile, more vindictive, disgruntled employees might take the concept to a more negative level to a point of not working at all when they can get away with it.
Wherever your quiet quitters lie on the spectrum, it's important to consider the root cause behind a worker's decision to disengage from their work and only meet the job description.
Let’s examine the psychology behind the quiet quitting phenomenon.
Why are workers quiet quitting?
Why are employees stepping back? What is causing them to consciously decide to “quiet quit” and stop going above and beyond in their professional roles?
The recent survey by Gallup, which we mentioned earlier gives us a clue. Stress levels in employees worldwide are staggering, with 50% of Americans reporting daily stress in the workplace.
What's more, Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey found 46% of Gen Z workers and 45% of millennials feel burned out due to high demands at work.
Simply put, the causes of quiet quitting include:
- Employees’ workload is too intense.
- The employee receives inadequate compensation.
- Management holds inconsistent expectations.
- Management or employees communicate poorly.
- Employees’ work-life balance is drastically poor.
Here’s where your leadership skills come in to address the quiet quitting phenomenon before it takes hold of your team members.
Seven ways leaders can prevent quiet quitting
Managers shouldn’t see team members who set healthy boundaries in a negative light. Work-life balance is essential for good mental health and quality of life.
The problem is when a worker goes beyond just setting boundaries and consciously stops trying at work.
No business leader wants to have a team member secretly sandbagging their organization.
So what can you do about quiet quitters?
Follow these top 7 strategies to prevent the quiet quitting phenomenon from taking hold in your workforce.
1️⃣Know the signs of quiet quitting
When a worker decides to quiet quit, it’s usually an abrupt decision. One day they’re working their tail off in their role, and the next day, something has changed.
These are the top signs that you have a quiet quitter on your team:
- Lacking participation during group meetings
- Declining to socialize with colleagues
- Other workers report an increased workload
- Submitting projects late or with errors
- Only meeting the minimum job requirements
- Clocking out ASAP
- Doing tasks unrelated to work while on the clock
- Taking more PTO/vacation time off than usual.
Hence, it’s important to be aware of changes in an employee’s behavior and attitude.
For example, if an employee who was usually enthusiastic about their work suddenly becomes apathetic and disengaged, it’s important to take the time to talk to them and find out what’s going on. This can help to identify any potential issues before they reach a breaking point.
2️⃣ Build trust with employees
For starters, it’s important to create an open, trusting working environment that encourages employees to communicate their thoughts and feelings.
This can be done by implementing regular check-ins and providing employees with feedback on their performance.
Additionally, it’s important to be aware of the physical and mental well-being of employees, as this can be a major indicator of when someone is thinking about quitting.
Building trust isn’t a quick-fix solution, but it is the fundamental way:
- to develop a culture of care
- to keep employees engaged and motivated to work hard for your organization.
Employees need to know that their higher-ups genuinely care about them as human beings.
However, be sure not to confuse this trust-building endeavor with micromanaging. Surveys show that having a boss who's constantly looking over your shoulder is one of the main reasons people decide to quit.
Effective leaders can address this by improving organizational transparency that contributes to building a healthy work environment.
3️⃣ Reduce the frequency of meetings
You've probably heard that employees commonly make light of the ridiculous number of pointless meetings they must endure at work.
This could have been an email.
Too many meetings are seen as one of the main causes of quiet quitting. Meetings can be damaging for the workplace because they can take up loads of time and resources, and they often lead to confusion rather than clarity.
To ensure meetings don't cause too much stress, it's a good idea:
- to check planning to be certain they're properly prepared
- to send out an agenda and make sure that it is simple and easy to understand
- to keep meetings short and give everyone a chance to get their say.
Take note if your company revolves around meetings, day in and day out. If you’ve noticed that your employees aren’t as engaged in your meetings as you’d like, it is a sign you need to reduce the frequency of meetings at work.
4️⃣ Coach your managers
Some meetings are important, let’s not forget that. Leadership meetings with your managers can add great value to your workforce, helping all employees stay engaged.
If you’re a C-level executive or one of the other senior leaders at your organization, you can’t expect yourself to maintain trusting relationships with each of your workers. Your workers’ direct supervisors and other leadership teammates need to be responsible for creating that aspect of your company culture.
You can ensure this trusting workplace culture develops at all levels by holding leadership meetings. Use this time to review the best practices we’re covering here.
5️⃣Review your employees’ work schedules
As we touched on earlier — stress, high workload, and burnout are the key reasons workers disengage from their jobs.
That means the best way for leaders to combat quiet quitting is to make sure their employees don’t feel overworked. If you’ve developed trusting relationships with them, there should be a way for a dialog to occur anytime your employee genuinely feels too stressed out in the workplace.
But you don’t need to wait for them to tell you either.
Do you have wellbeing initiatives in place to help prevent burnout? Are employees often asked to work outside of “normal” business hours? If so, are they compensated well for their commitment to going the extra mile on the job?
Take a proactive approach to combat quiet quitting by setting up your workers for success.
6️⃣ Reconsider your employee compensation and benefits
When it comes to quiet quitting, poor compensation is the other major contributor next to high stress. The quip “act your wage” has gone viral like wildfire, like “quiet quitting,” encouraging workers to only perform at the level where they reside.
Ensure your workforce feels like "acting their wage" means doing a lot because you pay them what they deserve. Look into the average market rates for your industry and workers' professions, and assess whether your pay rate is competitive enough.
The same goes for benefits. Workers need time off to de-stress and practice a healthy work-life balance. Does your employee benefits package truly allow that?
7️⃣ Evaluate your work break and PTO policies
Big-picture benefits packages and annual salaries are one thing. The daily grind is another.
Employees want to be treated like human beings when they're at work. If your policies regarding bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, and other personal time at work are strict, consider allowing more leeway and applying effective solutions for PTO management.
All of these top 7 tips point back to a single, overarching method for combating quiet quitting. That is, help your workers feel comfortable communicating their needs and support them in meeting these needs.
Build trust and support employees as individuals to maintain high productivity levels. Empower them to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and you won’t need to worry about having quiet quitters on your team!
John is an experienced digital marketing professional. He spends most of his time testing different strategies and in his spare time argues his findings with his dog Zeus. You can follow him on Twitter.