3 min read

What You Can Learn from The Quiet Quitting Phenomenon

Image of male sitting at desk in front of laptop with eyes closed, hands rubbing each side of temple on head.

Quiet quitting has gone viral on social media. Employees are letting the world know that they are setting boundaries; they are only going to do what is required and are no longer going above and beyond at work. Gallup reported that quiet quitters make up at least 50% of the workforce.

Our attitudes and priorities have shifted dramatically as a result of the events of the past three years. Employees need employers to recognize that they have a life outside of work, and are very discerning about where they invest effort and focus energy.

Quiet quitting is evidence that employees feel the demands at work far outweigh the rewards. They're feeling burned out, and in the absence of any evidence of change from the employer, they are taking matters into their own hands.

They are also looking for more purpose and value. This desire predates the pandemic. In his book, Drive, written 15 years ago, author Dan Pink suggested that every employee needs to feel a sense of purpose, autonomy, and mastery.

It's never too late to change

Quiet quitters don't believe their employers value or care about them. If this sentiment continues to percolate, it can erode your employer brand and heighten the risk of employees leaving.

LinkedIn Workforce Insights recently addressed a newer phenomenon called "fast quitting" - employees leaving organizations before hitting the one-year mark. They see the writing on the wall and are quickly jumping ship.

The world is changing, and it is natural to experience challenges as we move through such massive transformations in how we work. To retain a stable and productive workforce and create a positive employer brand, we must be open, flexible and fair.

Perhaps, instead of viewing quiet quitting as laziness or defiance, we need to see it as an attempt on the part of employees to spur change in our workplaces.

There is no quick fix. However, the following tips will help you get started.

  • Take the temperature of your team. As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. Exploring the signals employees send and engaging in meaningful conversations are good first step toward letting employees know you care about them and want to address issues in your workplace.
  • Manage work organization and processes. How work is organized and done has changed since the pandemic. Knowing how to lead a hybrid workforce and what direct reports need to feel a sense of purpose requires intention and flexibility, and shifting focus from what work must be done to how work should be done.
  • Engage workers and leaders with curiosity and openness. Engage employees in open, honest conversations to get their insights and feedback. This is not about judging or finding blame. It is about embracing continuous improvement and letting employees know you value their opinions.
  • Seek feedback regularly. Don't rely on a once-a-year engagement survey to inform your actions. Feedback must be ongoing. All individuals in your workplace should be provided with channels and opportunities to share what is and is not working and suggestions for improvement.
  • Make it safe for people to share their opinions and observations. Employees must feel psychologically safe speaking the truth to power and sharing opinions and ideas. They won't step forward if they feel fearful of retribution. Gallup research suggests that leaders should engage in at least one 15- to 30-minute meeting with direct reports every week. These conversations can be used to solicit opinions and ensure team members feel valued, trusted, and empowered.
  • Remember, actions speak louder than words. Talking about workplace mental health, inclusion, and engagement is not what workers value most. They value feeling respected and included and having more positive than negative experiences. Most people know that everything cannot always be perfect; however, if they feel appreciated and supported, you will have positive credits to draw upon during hard times.
  • Build competence in psychological safety. Gallup reported that only one in three managers is engaged at work. Some leaders are disengaging because they feel ill-equipped to manage and support their teams in our new world of work. Check in with your managers and leadership team members to see how they're feeling and whether they need support. Consider providing training to build skills and competence.
  • Recognize there is no finish line - Your workplace culture is constantly evolving. The actions you take to address quiet quitting shouldn't stop when you feel like you've turned a corner. Only by applying a Plan - Do - Check - Act approach can we sustain a work environment that inspires loyalty and ownership - one that employees feel proud to be part of.

The more your employees believe they are trusted and valued, the more likely they will be inspired to do their best work, and, when needed, go above and beyond. Not just because they feel like they must, but because they want to.

Get to know the author – Dr. Bill Howatt

 
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