"Quiet quitting" is the hottest new buzzword and trend. You see articles written about how more and more employees are quietly quitting and how employers are concerned about this "new trend" and its effect on their business.
But quiet quitting isn't new. It's a new term for an old behavior.
The great divide
Quiet quitting is when an employee doesn't leave their job but stops going above and beyond—stubbornly sticking to their job description.
There is a debate between some employers and employees about the nature of quiet quitting. Some employers worry about employees' productivity, while some employees argue that quiet quitting is redefining work and life boundaries, as well as protecting their mental health.
Research shows that quiet quitting happens because of the work culture—which starts at the top. Employers who aren't effective leaders have more people quiet quit (or outright leave to look for new positions).
The quiet quitting test—and cheat sheet
Whatever side of the divide you may fall on, quiet quitting comes down to employees' mental health, employee engagement, and employee satisfaction. If any of these are low, employees may reduce their energy spend at work, doing the bare minimum. They may already have one foot out the door. If you're concerned that an employee might be quiet quitting, ask yourself the following questions, and then take steps to answer and address them.
Do your employees seem burned out?
Notice the signs. Do your employees seem exhausted (beyond just needing that extra cup of coffee in the morning)? Do they seem more isolated and cut off from their colleagues? How do they respond to new projects? Do they take the initiative to contribute or offer up their ideas?
What you can do: First, you have, hopefully, established a culture of trust with an open-door policy where employees feel they can come to you if they have issues. Regardless, keep the lines of communication open. Talk with your employees. Maybe they're in the process of moving, or a loved one is ill. Work with them to find solutions, whether readjusting their workload or giving them paid time off to deal with what's happening at home. When employees feel supported, they can give their focus to their issues and come back with a clear head and less stress.
Do your employees seem consistently disengaged?
Are they attending meetings but not contributing? Do they put off projects and wait till the last minute to do them—and then not turn in quality work? Do they engage with their colleagues about work and non-work areas in their lives?
What you can do: When employees are disengaged, it usually means they feel bored, stuck in their position, or unvalued. Consider offering opportunities like access to online courses or tuition reimbursement so that they can add to their skill set. Look at their job role. If their position and role haven't changed much, reevaluate and see if any new skills can be added, or offer them new projects that will be challenging but that you know they can accomplish. Let your employees know you value their contribution, and they will give you their best in return.
Has their personality taken a U-turn?
Are they turning in work that's full of errors and mistakes? Are they making excuses? Are they showing up later and later to work—or not coming in at all (and not notifying you)? Are they becoming more argumentative?
What you can do: First, gather your observations instead of jumping to conclusions. For example, if they turn in work full of errors and mistakes, note the assignments and projects. Then, talk to the employee. Tell them you've noticed their quality of work has changed and ask them what's going on—sometimes, the employee may not even realize they're turning in work full of errors and mistakes. Making them aware of what they're doing and developing a plan of action together will help create clarity about what needs to happen next while also providing them a chance to air their frustrations or talk about the challenges they've been struggling with.
Are they financially struggling?
Do your employees often take or ask for paycheck advances? Are they borrowing or withdrawing money early from their 401(k)—or not investing at all? Is there an increased frequency of days they’re taking off?
What you can do: One word: compensation. Employees have multiple expenses: housing, healthcare, student loan debt, and gas, just to name a few. To ease the burden of these expenses, consider your compensation, which has two parts. The first part of compensation is benefit offerings. For instance, you can offer health insurance or healthcare savings cards, so the cost of getting sick goes down, or you can provide monthly stipends that employees use for personal expenses (bills, student loan debt, etc.).
Also, consider the other part of compensation: salary. Are your employees being paid a fair and competitive salary (one that is at least the average market pay for their position)? If you are not already, conduct compensation conversations (at the very least) yearly. Review their role and what else factors into their total compensation, like retirement funds or Paid Time Off. Remember to show your appreciation for the work they do and how they contribute.
Questions to ask yourself as a leader
If your employees still seem burned out, disengaged, or completely changed, you may worry about your leadership style and if that may lead employees to quietly quit. If this is the case, take a step back and give yourself an honest, objective test. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you go out of your way to ensure employees feel valued?
- Do employees feel comfortable talking to you?
- Do you have positive relationships and connections with employees?
- Do you keep your word and do what you promised?
- Do employees trust your opinions and advice?
- Do you feel comfortable talking with employees about compensation?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is no, turn this into a learning opportunity. Ask your employees for feedback on how you can get better, and then implement that feedback. By learning how you can improve, your employees will see this and learn to trust you and your approach, and the possibility they will quiet quit decreases.
Even the best organizations will have employees who are quiet quitters. That is inevitable. But when you trust your employees, care about them, and help them feel comfortable engaging with you and their colleagues, they feel like a valuable part of your organization. And an employee who feels valued is an employee who will want to contribute—and stay.
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Photo by khaosai