Quiet Quitting: How to Address & Overcome it
By Thom Dennis, CEO of culture change and leadership development specialists, Serenity in Leadership
The past three years have seen an undeniable shift in the way that the working world functions and saw the launch of the term ‘quiet quitting’ whereby workers feel disengaged and uninspired and thus only complete their work to a bare minimum standard. In its 2021 Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum ranks ‘youth disillusionment’ as eighth of 10 immediate risks, and it is not only the younger generations that are unhappy. The 2022 State of the Global Workplace report from Gallup shows only 21% of employees are engaged at work. So why is quiet quitting happening?
Some argue it is as a result of a shift towards a generation’s newfound priority for a work-life balance. Others argue it is a consequence of the increase in remote and hybrid working, but the greatest fear is this is a product of demotivated workers, poor mental health and burnout. Whatever the reason, quiet quitting is affecting performance and outcomes for businesses and is an ever-present concern for employers.
HOW CAN YOU IDENTIFY QUIET QUITTING?
Decreased productivity. One of the greatest indications that quiet quitting is present is when employees simply meet basic requirements as opposed to exceeding them. Whilst it is important to make the distinction between minimum effort and disciplined working boundaries, clarity on why employees are not willing to go the extra mile or put in sustainable effort whilst banking working hours needs to be ascertained.
Change in personality. The tone that your employees present both socially and professionally in the workplace is often a key indicator of the passion they possess for their work. It is useful to ask yourself whether you have observed a noticeable shift in a specific employee or group. Is a once passionate and inspired worker now seemingly uninterested, disengaged and switched off?
Isolated from the team. Quiet quitting does not always manifest itself initially through work performance. It can often be a sign when individuals begin to distance themselves from the wider team. Although not being as socially engaged doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is not working to their potential, it does provide a strong indication that their mind is elsewhere. Often people will detach themselves emotionally first, before their work standards begin to slip.
OVERCOMING QUIET QUITTING
Understanding the ‘why’. Identifying the ‘why’ behind an individual’s change in behaviour is at the heart of any solution. Is their disengagement a result of burnout? Are they being bullied? Perhaps that worker is experiencing some difficult personal challenges. Or, that individual could be a new starter and have a poor attitude to their work. Or is this phenomenon being seen across a team or the organisation as a whole?
Good culture. One significant way to combat the feeling of disengagement and demotivation is to ensure that your employees feel seen, heard and valued. The more they are made to feel that they can address concerns or struggles, the more they will. The more they feel motivated and valued and have a clear purpose, the better the outcome.
Prioritise one-to-ones. How frequently do you meet with your employees to check-in with them professionally and personally? Meeting with your colleagues regularly provides you with a helpful understanding of that person’s wider context. By asking whether they are happy at work, whether they need more challenges and how things generally are, you may be able to pick up undercurrents, if not specific issues, to perceive a more accurate picture of why that person is working in the way that they are.
Review the company’s purpose. Companies often come up with a statement of values, mission, and increasingly, purpose, but the senior management don’t live these crucial elements. For people below the C-Suite they see the communication of these (normally expensive) projects and what is generated is cynicism and reduced engagement. For six months, just live the values and align behind the purpose; when the workforce then see the roll-out of the values, it will all make sense because the behaviours of senior management are congruent and already in place.
Assess your work policies. Whilst it is widely reported that workers value balance more as a result of the pandemic, remote working has for some, led to lower engagement. Hybrid working is often touted as the best of both worlds but it’s too soon for that to be evidenced. Meanwhile enabling balance, flexibility and connection are key, as is knowing your workforce on an individual basis and for your policies to align with their needs and preferences when possible.
Maintain a sustainable workload. It is common for quiet quitting to be born from a place of overwhelm and burnout. When an individual is too weighed down with pressure and expectation, it is common for their response to eventually result in productivity paralysis. Having realistic and attainable goals set jointly, enables creativity and productivity.
Thom Dennis, CEO of culture change and leadership development specialists, Serenity in Leadership