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Quiet Quitting

Perhaps you’ve noticed something different at the grocery store where you usually shop. The person behind the meat counter isn’t as cheerful as she used to be. She might have even been a little short with you. Maybe you don’t see people smiling or laughing as much as at work. Or maybe you notice it yourself. Work isn’t fun anymore, and you question whether you really want to go the extra mile anymore.

You’ve just experienced quitting firsthand.
It’s evident that the workplace is upended. You’ve undoubtedly heard of the Great Resignation. When the pandemic put the brakes on normal life, everyone had time to reassess their lives. Work-life balance became a priority. We thought long and hard about what we wanted out of our jobs. More importantly, we wondered whether our organizations were a good fit for our values.


The Definition of Quiet Quitting

We must preface our discussion with a caveat. Quiet quitting is nothing new. Nor is it something unusual. It’s a normal facet of the workplace and employment. The difference is the prevalence and spotlight on the causes—and solutions. It can happen so slowly and inconceivably that maybe the person experiencing it isn’t aware of it happening. That makes it especially insidious.

Quiet quitting employees are the antithesis of the hustle culture. The latter describes the drive that compels one to respond to an after-hours email or conference call invite while on vacation. Quiet quitting squelches those actions. Instead of stepping up, it is waiting on the sidelines until you have to do something. An employee will only do what's necessary to get paid and nothing more.

A precise definition of the quiet quitting meaning is somewhat elusive. These individuals aren't doing anything wrong per se. They simply are doing only what’s necessary. They are silent when a call for volunteering for a task comes. You won’t see these people staying late or participating in non-mandatory team-building. You may wonder, what has changed to cause someone to become so disengaged?


The Causes Behind Quiet Quitting

The timing of the Great Resignation and quiet quitting makes one possible cause evident, the pandemic. It had unprecedented repercussions on our collective mental health. It made us realize the importance of socializing. The consequences of the pandemic also took a toll, with an unstable economy, rising gas prices, escalating public unrest, and out-of-control inflation.
The result is unparalleled stress.

According to Gallup, 59 percent of individuals report feeling stressed by yesterday’s events. Today’s world makes worry, anger, and physical pain common issues. The world is hurting and suffering from its effects. The combined impact of the pandemic, the current state of the world, and their consequences have created the perfect storm leading to one of the main causes of quiet quitting.


The Curse of Employee Burnout

Its occurrence was inevitable. The Great Resignation gave many employees the push they needed to take care of their lives and make lifestyle changes. However, an unstable economy took this choice off the table for many individuals. Instead of leaving, they kept the chairs warm and checked out mentally from their positions. The problem was that the work didn’t go away even if they weren’t tackling it.

Employees who stayed on the job because they had to or simply because they didn’t want to make a change took on extra work. The result was burnout. According to the Gallup burnout study, 76 percent of workers feel burned out at work. The effects are profound, from decreases in efficiency to cynicism to exhaustion.  The American Psychological Association (APA) called this stress a mental health crisis.

Burnout negatively impacts employee productivity. It can also cause spikes in absenteeism. However, its effects are far-reaching. Stressed individuals report unhealthy weight gain, increases in alcohol consumption, and conflicts in their personal relationships. Of course, these things spill over into an individual’s performance on the job and fuel negative attitudes that can erode employee morale.


Causes of Workplace Burnout

Gallup identified five leading causes of employee burnout. Top on their list was being treated unfairly at work. Other issues included unreasonable workloads, lack of clarity, non-existent managerial support, and excessive time pressure. The hiring crisis plays a role in many of these factors, with individuals expected to do more with fewer workers shouldering the workloads.

Nevertheless, another f the roundamental component exists in this equation, leadership. One of the unfortunate effects of the quiet quitting backlash is the managerial side of the coin with quiet firing. Instead of addressing problems, they ignore them. In turn, resentment builds in employees who feel this lack of support and empathy. These are not emotionally intelligent leaders.

Perhaps, the elephant inom isn’t as much quiet quitting and quiet firing. We can describe them as symptoms or outcomes of the all-encompassing issue, a toxic culture lacking in psychological safety. Employees feel uncomfortable voicing their concerns over unreasonable workloads or hours. Likewise, employers lack strong interpersonal skills to initiate a mature dialogue about workplace issues.


Three Management Practices That Prevent a Quiet Quitting Mentality

A toxic culture doesn’t happen overnight. It builds slowly, fueled by resentment, lack of trust, and no accountability. The hustle culture doesn’t represent the employees going the extra mile; it’s the expectation, albeit unfair to many workers. Many choose to take back their lives, even if it promotes a quiet quitting mentality. The solution falls back on management.

A directly proportional relationship exists between a leader’s effectiveness and the incidence of quiet quitting. A survey by the Harvard Business Review found that the most successful managers had the highest percentage of employees willing to go above and beyond versus the least effective, with the greatest rate of quiet quitting.

Therefore, quiet quitting is clearly a situation where a manager must be a leader.


Weekly One-on-One Meeting With Your Direct Reports

The key to getting a handle on quiet quitting begins with building relationships with your team members. That involves weekly one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. They are opportunities for a two-way dialogue. Remember that people want to be heard. They need to have a say in their expectations and career path. It’s a chance to foster trust.

Management will also benefit from these meetings. It’s one thing to know how you’re performing based on your metrics. Assessing the intangible factors that affect the workplace environment is another matter. It’s a chance for leaders to put vital soft skills in practice, such as problem-solving, empathy, and emotional intelligence.

Active listening is the best way to get the most out of these conversations. Reassure your employee that they can speak freely. You can’t solve problems unless you’re willing to hear the good, bad, and the ugly. It’s an opportunity for you to put out fires before they escalate. It’s a chance to ask your people what they need from you. After all, the most successful leaders support their teams.

Ask questions of your direct reports, even the ones you may not want to confront. Is the project too hard to manage within the given timeframe? What support do you need? How can I help you?


Learning Your Team's Motivations

Motivating your team depends on knowing what drives your staff. The upheaval of the workplace during the pandemic brought a new option to the forefront, remote work. Social distancing forced many organizations to embrace this change to stay in business, with 71 percent able to do so. It disrupted families, but it also forced the reprioritization caused by the Great Resignation.

Employees liked the cost savings from commuting and daycare. They enjoyed more time with their children. Despite fears of lower performance, productivity increased. This information is critical for understanding how to motivate your team. It’s worth noting that 64 percent of surveyed employees want to make remote work a permanent part of their job, opting for it over a $30,000 pay increase.

Higher salaries remain a powerful motivator. However, it’s essential to discuss flexibility with your team members. Many organizations, such as McKinsey & Company and Manpower, have adopted a hybrid or virtual workplace. It offers what individuals want to keep employees happy and gives them a desirable alternative to quiet quitting. It’s the proverbial win-win outcome.

Other tools, such as employee opinion surveys, can give your team members a candid means for sharing their comments and help you learn what drives them. You can use this information for developing individual career paths and professional development.


Transparent Communication Practices

No matter if your organization is office-only, hybrid, or virtual, transparent communication practices are imperative. They go hand in hand with clear expectations that ensure everyone is on the same page. You’ll likely find that they are excellent ways to prevent miscommunication and failed outcomes. It applies to both synchronous and asynchronous conversations.

These practices ensure personal accountability and accountability leadership exists within your organization. That can go a long way toward preventing employee burnout and quiet quitting. However, it’s equally essential to manage workflows fairly that don't constantly drip expectations onto people. That’s where open communication comes into play.

Your team member should feel comfortable speaking up about unreasonable workloads and time pressure, other significant sources of stress, and employee turnover. It’s worth mentioning that quiet quitting usually doesn’t exist in isolation. It spreads like a disease, dragging down employee morale. Transparent communication practices can nurture a culture of accountability.

You should set expectations as part of your team’s norms and communication practices. Life happens, so include a discussion for handling the unexpected and urgent matters. If we learned anything from the pandemic, it’s the importance of flexibility. Likewise, set boundaries for your employees to respect work-life balance to prevent burnout. Remember that quiet quitting is often an act of self-care.


Quiet Quitting as an Opportunity When Confronted Carefully

Quiet quitting isn’t unfixable. It’s also an opportunity when you manage it with an emotionally intelligent response. Think of it as a way to implement a change of your workplace culture. Instead of working harder, it’s about working smarter and optimizing employee output during regular business hours. It’s an excellent way to bring empathy to an organization.

Sometimes, individuals set themselves up for a quiet quitting mentality. They take on extra work, answer emails on their days off, or regularly push themselves too hard. It isn’t long before resentment builds, especially if they don’t receive recognition for their extra efforts. 

Managers are just as susceptible to quiet quitting as employees. An excellent way to manage their stress is by learning how to delegate. Unfortunately, some individuals develop an attitude that nothing in their team’s projects can succeed without their input. They must embrace the opportunities that delegation offers and not see it as a threat to their job security.

Building trust in your team is another vital approach toward turning quiet quitting around with a more positive outlook. Kutsko Consulting offers an effective way to make it a reality for your organization. It can help improve employee morale, where team members feel someone always has their back.

The Great Resignation and the coasting culture of quiet quitting have been a wake-up to organizations. It’s just as vital for leaders to reassess their management styles as their employees have addressed their work-life balance. That’s where Kutsko Consulting can help with its course and insights into the science of human behavior. The course supports the development of empathy and understanding.


Final Thoughts

Quiet quitting is a desperate act by individuals who need a break from the hustle culture. It’s a protest against too much work, too little recognition, and a lack of empathy from employers who fail to see the warning signs. It’s about self-preservation when an employee feels they have no recourse. They can’t risk losing their jobs, but they can take care of themselves to minimize stress.

Fortunately, managers can reverse the trend and turn it into a way to improve employee engagement. As long as they’re still with your organization, there are opportunities to reach out and rebuild a stronger relationship with your team members. It all begins with a conversation. 

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