A recently coined term, “quiet quitting” has gone viral across the U.S., describing workers who – rather than quitting – simply clock in and out without putting effort beyond the minimum requirements of their position. And it’s real – at least 50% of U.S. workers fit this description, according to a recent Gallup poll.
The causes behind quiet quitting? Lack of clarity when it comes to expectations, lack of care for workers, lack of purpose and connection to the company, and lack of opportunities to grow. All of these issues stem from poor management. So, what should you do as a leader if you have employees who fall into this category?
Well, the first step is to assess why you think it’s happening. Let’s take John as an example. John has been working at a large tech firm for three years as a project manager. Over the past few months, his manager has noticed a change in his drive and output. He’s completing one-third of the workload in the same amount of time as before and has been quiet in group meetings. How can you assess the situation and motivate John to work hard again?
MAKE EXPECTATIONS CLEAR FROM THE START
Are you staying true to the position description you displayed to the employee in terms of workload and duties? Do not pull a bait-and-switch, where you say you need one thing and then demand another when they start working.
If you’ve set clear expectations, the next step is to be specific. If you provide specific and measurable goals for leaders and they, in turn, provide them for their teams, there should be no room for quiet quitting. For example, it’s the difference between telling a worker that they need to be in the office for 12 hours each workday and just telling them to come to work. If there’s no specificity, you can’t complain if they work slower than you’d prefer.
Create these goals and expectations and communicate them to all levels. Then establish a system for checking in to make sure the work is getting done. If John knows he is expected to complete three projects per month, he is more likely to stick to it than if he was given the projects with no hard deadline.
SHOW WORKERS YOU CARE
If you don’t care for people, why should they care for you? It’s that simple. You should strive to be a talent-centric organization; in other words, all about the people, your people.
Ask your staff what they need. It can be as simple as making sure workers get a mental health day or providing managers with money to take their teams out to lunch. Plan a sit-down with an employee at ground level who has never spoken with you one-on-one. Ask them how work is going and what they’d like to see improved. A few minutes of your time shows you care, a lot. After talking to his CEO for the first time, John feels empowered to sell their product.
PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW
Your employees need to feel like they have room to grow in their position or into a new position. This all comes, again, from being a talent-centric organization. As a leader, you should have a retention strategy in place focused on succession planning, development strategies, and leadership development strategies.
Sit down with John. Ask him about his career goals and if he has an interest in a higher position. If he doesn’t, ask him how you can help him be a better employee. Is there a course he’d like to take on the side? These conversations should be quarterly.
GIVE EVERY WORKER PURPOSE AND CONNECTION TO THE COMPANY
A lack of connection to the company stems from a lack of alignment at the executive level. If leadership is on the same page regarding the company’s vision, culture, and strategy, they should be able to disseminate that to every employee. So ask your team, “What is your vision for the company?” If everyone answers the same way, you’re ready to align the rest of your workers. But if there are inconsistencies, it’s time to recommunicate your ideas to your team and find cohesivity.
You want to be hiring people specifically because they align with your vision. Maybe John isn’t feeling connected to higher-ups because he doesn’t know the overall vision of his company and how he is contributing to it. Once he understands the vision, he can go about his everyday tasks with purpose, knowing the bigger picture.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Quiet quitting has quickly sparked a new term, “quiet firing” to describe what some managers are doing to combat the trend. It refers to managers that revoke opportunities and attention from the employee in question. They may exclude the employee from a new project or put off their promotion.
But why keep someone who’s not doing the work? It’s easier to just fire them, or create a “culture of feedback” and follow the steps above.
Even if you don’t have quiet quitters, these are practices that will help your organization. Talk to your employees, often, and make sure they are getting what they need to be happy. And remember, hiring someone doesn’t only require the candidate to sell themselves to you, but also requires you to sell your company to the candidate – over, and over, and over again.