COVID is on the wane and likely the result of more people being vaccinated and boosted. At last … finally. However, there is a new resulting twist and although not new to the working world, it does have a new name. It’s called ‘Quiet Quitting’ and is impacting numerous businesses and throughout the organizations. A very recent Gallup poll found that about half of US workers could be described as “quiet quitters,” meaning they fulfill their job description but are psychologically detached from their work.
Although it sounds like it refers to someone resigning from their position, it is not that. Rather, it describes a person pulling back from the hustle culture of going above and beyond what a job requires. COVID is given as the motivation and clearly it upended employees’ priorities and companies’ workplace policies. COVID has resulted in what is referred to as the ‘great resignation’. This saw over seventy-one million people leaving jobs within one year … April 2021 to 2022. it is also the force behind the employee who stayed at their job and yet made the conscious decision to do the bare minimum to satisfy their job requirements … or Quiet Quitting (QQ).
One contributing reality was the remote work environment that accompanied the pandemic. It helped to put the spotlight on a work-life balance. As workers learned to adapt to this it also allowed them to appreciate and even enjoy this outlook on life. It is one that many felt they had been missing. And, along with this appreciation, came the awareness that their leaders were less focused on the balance aspect. They just appreciated those who went above and beyond. Although the individual team members were still fulfilling their job responsibilities, they were much less inclined to buy into the ‘work is life’ culture. Enter the clash of these two mind-sets.
What are signs of quiet quitting that leaders can see as indicators of this? There are several:
- Scheduled meetings that a person does not attend … although they were expected.
- A noticeable reduction in one’s productivity measure in daily output or as related to a team project.
- Unreliable attendance most often demonstrated by ones’ arriving late or leaving early with regularity.
- Feeling less attachment to or interest in team projects … wherein the overall success requires this from all to maximize success.
- Failure to be an active participant in needed planning.
- An overall lack of interest, passion or enthusiasm related to the expected and needed work.
There are three questions that company leaders should be asking themselves. First is ‘what do the employees want from me in order to reverse this current trend?’ Here are some key desires and needs:
- The manager’s ability to build a relationship with their employees where they are not counting the minutes until quitting time.
- The manager’s ability to balance the push for results with a concern for other’ needs.
- The manager’s ability and drive to create a work environment that is a place where people want to go the extra mile. All giving 110% the efficiency and results are elevated.
- Making certain the one’s reports clearly know that they and their work is both valued and appreciated. This enhances ones’ motivation to be actively engaged and thus, ones’ lack of this receiving this leads to QQ.
Another question a leader needs to consider and explore is ‘what habits must I incorporate into how I work with my reports in order to reverse this disruptive trend?’
- The initial question considers when examining those reports that one feels are demonstrating QQ is whether this is a problem with the direct reports. Or … is it with me and my leadership abilities?
- Take a hard look at your approach toward getting results with your team members. When asking your direct reports for increased productivity, do you go out of your way to make sure that team members feel valued? Open and honest dialogue with colleagues about the expectations each party has of the other goes a long way.
- Question the degree to which you as leader demonstrate the trust conveyed to the employee. This is the number one behavior that impact the reports willingness to be an active team participate. When trust is present, they also presume that their manager was concerned about them and their well-being. Trust is conveyed with these three components:
- The positive relationships with all of ones’ direct reports. This means the leader enjoys connecting and enjoy interactions with them. With some this is easier than with others however looking for and discovering common ground will build mutual trust.
- Consistency in being totally honest and delivering on what has been promised are ways to earn the desired trust.
- Demonstrating ones’ expertise through being current on all aspects of the work is necessary. Knowing that your opinions and advice are trusted and provide a clarity and a clear path forward further trust.
The third question for a manager/leader to ask themselves is ‘what are the ways I can manage QQ’ that can improve both employee happiness and protect the workplace productivity?
- No Sunday emails.This may be an attempt to get a head start on one’s week however it serves to elicit anxiety, stress, and resentment. It’s a firestorm. Then sure otherwise wait until Monday.
- No weekend work.The firestorm strikes again? Then sure and understandable however firestorms don’t occur often nor should the request for weekend work.
- Reduce the number of meetings and their length. Meetings should be work sessions or about strategy—not status checks. Managers need to ask themselves why they are calling for a meeting and whether it is truly productive.
- Limit workplace “fun activities”. For all that has been written and suggested about allowing for fun time with the team remember than many workers want to do yoga and have happy hour on their own time and with their own friends. Don’t go overboard.
- Set goals based on achieving milestones and quality of work. The fact is that with remote working you can’t know if your employee is working a full week or full days, but does it matter? If they know what is the assignment is and when it is due and the work is top-notch, isn’t that enough?
Here’s the bottom line of this surge in Quiet Quitting. There is going to be an employee who is unhappy or not doing adequate work. This being the case parting ways is the right decision especially with those who spread negativity and disharmony throughout the team. Quiet quitting can affect other employees who might still want to give 110% and move up through the company. While workers may have the desire, and the right, to be happier in their jobs than in the past, they don’t have the right to have a detrimental impact on their employer, especially when that employer is a smaller business.
Leaders need to willingly accept the confront the reality of the QQ surge. This means altering their actions and incorporating things that are important to their reports. In doing so they will have successfully transitioned into a leadership style that is prudent in today’s business environment. And, will help to silence the form of ‘quiet quitting’ currently gaining steam with undesirable and unwanted impact.