Quiet Quitting: How to Deal With a Passive Employee
— January 16th, 2023
Quiet quitting signals the death of office culture.
Quiet quitting is passive-aggressively checking out.
Quiet quitters will be the first to be let go when the labor market cools.
5 Ways to Beat the Great Attrition
Your LinkedIn feed is probably humming right now with the noise of various opinions like these on the “Gen Z workplace trend” that swept through the latter half of 2022, and shows no let-up in 2023.
There’s nothing we love more than a new catchy buzzword–even if it’s applied to a phenomenon that’s been in existence since the year dot.
Quiet quitting refers to the practice of employees doing the bare minimum in their jobs. They perform the tasks necessary to maintain their jobs but never go above and beyond. Some believe this is essentially being a disengaged worker, while others argue that quiet quitters are perfectly content in their work life—just not emotionally invested.
Why now for quiet quitting?
The use of the term quiet quitting is relatively new. It first emerged in March 2022 when a video describing quiet quitting trended on TikTok. A Gallup survey released in September 2022 revealed that at least 50% of American workers are quiet quitters.
While the COVID-19 pandemic itself didn’t spawn quiet quitting, it did arguably kickstart a movement where employees questioned their dedication to work.
More specifically, they now had the time and the inclination to ask themselves why exactly they prioritized their work above their home life. This new arrangement of “working from home” highlighted how they could achieve a better work-life balance.
In effect, workers were presented with a golden opportunity to completely reassess their lifestyles.
Another by-product of the pandemic, “the Great Resignation,” saw many workers leave their jobs to pursue other opportunities. This mass resignation meant many organizations faced staff shortages, making it more important than ever to retain current employees.
“It’s a worker’s market” became a common refrain. Employees, feeling more secure in their roles, perhaps decided they could take their foot off the pedal without the risk of losing their jobs.
For others, it became essential to maintain those new pandemic habits, such as not answering emails or phone calls outside of work hours, downing tools at exactly end-of-play, or taking their full allocation of holidays and sick days.
What are the effects of quiet quitting?
Regardless of your own viewpoint on the ethics of quiet quitting, we must acknowledge that it is a practice that is trending globally.
And it’s a significant threat.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that quiet quitting isn’t a particular problem. Workers are doing their jobs, right? Well yes. But for organizations to thrive, they need their people to buy in, to get actively involved, and to put their hands up. In short—be fully engaged.
The growth in the trend of quiet quitting coincides with a record drop in productivity rates in the US during the first two quarters of 2022. A drop in productivity has several implications. It can hamstring an organization, and cause it to cede advantage to its competitors.
Of course, it can also dramatically impact an organization’s bottom line. The drop in productivity in 2022 cost the world $7.8 trillion, which equates to 11% of global GDP!
More worrying for the long term, the Gallup survey revealed that the engagement levels of workers under the age of 35 dropped by six percentage points between 2019 and 2022.
This suggests that work ennui is becoming more prevalent among the Gen Z and younger millennials demographic. This does not bode well for the future of work.
So how can organizations reduce quiet quitting and encourage more engagement among their people? Let’s have a look at some of the tactics for improving worker engagement.
How to manage quiet quitting in your organization
1. Focus on engagement levels
We’ve written at length about the importance of employee engagement. It simply cannot be overstated. Engaged employees are more enthusiastic about their work, and will be more likely to go that extra mile. Organizations need to work on making people feel valued, but also, and this is crucial, showing them that their work has value.
Traditionally, organizations focused on offering high salaries and excellent benefits in a bid to boost engagement, but that alone doesn’t impress the Gen Z cohort. They need to feel a sense of purpose in their job. Here are some ways to foster that sense of purpose:
● Create an open and transparent workplace
● Clearly communicate all relevant company decisions
● Personalize and tailor communications to boost readership
● Recognize employees’ work
● Encourage employee feedback and two-way conversation
● Invest in employee well-being and development
● Consult employees—they are experts in their area—to offer key insights
● Set up peer-to-peer groups where workers can train each other
2. Stick to your promises
The Great Resignation forced organizations to re-evaluate their internal culture and their relationship with their employees. To improve staff retention, many promised to introduce programs aimed at improving employee conditions, including well-being, work-life balance, and flexible work schedules.
These promises re-invigorated workers, who saw them as proof that organizations listened to and valued their people. Now is the time for organizations to stand by those assurances.
Half-heartedly enacting stated promises, or not keeping them at all, is a recipe for disaster—and a fast track to quiet quitting.
3. Assess your culture
What does your culture say about your organization? Is it employee-centric and inclusive? Does it value worker feedback? Does it have staff well-being at its core?
Some organizations may only need to make minor tweaks to their internal culture to boost employee engagement, but for others, it will require wholesale changes.
To be a successful modern organization, you must approach employee wellness holistically and consider both the physical and mental health of your employees at every step along the way.
Remember, the culture your organization projects to the outside world needs to align with the internal culture. Start with an audit to find out where your people stand and work from there.
4. Enlist and train strong managers
Good managers become great managers by listening to their team and understanding what makes them tick and what motivates them. The best practice of setting aside time for weekly 1:1 meetings with each member of the team helps to maintain morale and increases engagement levels.
Often the first to be cut from a busy work schedule, these meetings can take the form of a simple ten-minute call or a quick coffee. The point is to be meticulous about regularly checking in with each worker.
Managers need not focus solely on work topics; this is an opportunity to get to know their people better, find out about their home lives, understand what challenges they may be facing, and connect on a human level.
Managers who truly know their people can then interact with them in ways that build trust and loyalty. The characteristics of a good manager are more than just the obvious skills. In fact, soft skills can often be even more important than your typical skills.
Here are some key soft skills for instilling loyalty and dedication in your employees:
● Being open to feedback
● Communicating clearly and effectively
● Flexibility and openness to change
● Successfully motivating employees
● Resolving conflict
5 Ways to Beat the Great Attrition
A manager notices that a worker is scaling back on their efforts and doing the bare minimum each day. Alarm bells should be ringing.
Quiet quitting can cause a ripple effect throughout an organization.
And what’s more, quiet quitting is often the first stop on the slippery slope to actually quitting.
Turn this threat into an opportunity. Don’t allow one disaffected worker to cause waves of discontent. Open up the channels of communication. Listen to your people. Then work to ensure that your work culture is attuned to their needs.
Make sure they feel valued and looked after. Engender a feeling of mutual respect between workers and leadership. Not only will you build real trust and loyalty, and retain your employees, but you’ll elevate and improve the overall employee experience, thereby attracting new talent and creating a more harmonious, engaged workforce.