Updated: Feb 5
The term “quiet quitting” basically didn’t exist until this past August. But now it’s everywhere and the definitions of the term and opinions on the topic vary widely.
Is it really anything new?
Isn’t it just a regular work shift?
Are the quiet quitters the disengaged and slackers?
Is it connected to burnout?
Do they love their work but get their sense of purpose outside of work?
Let's look at some data
A 2019 Gallup Organization study found, before the pandemic, that:
Only 18% of respondents were fully engaged at work
Only 17% of respondents felt highly resilient at work
Only 14% of respondents trusted their senior leaders and team leader
In 2018, the Center for Disease Control reported that:
71% or adults had at least on symptom of workplace stress, such as headaches, or feeling overwhelmed or anxious
In 2021, a quarter of the US workers quit their jobs – an historic high
Deloitte survey of aged 18-38 found work-life balance to be the top priority and when choosing an employer, 75% preferred remote or hybrid environments
Quiet Quitting - Our Definition
It is NOT
Doing the minimum
Pretending to work
Mentally checked out
Taking advantage of the company
Finding fulfillment without climbing the corporate ladder
Loving your work
Firm boundaries between work and personal life
Limiting 24/7 connectivity
Leaving work on-time
Less emotionally invested
It’s Not New, But a Continuation of a Trend
Discussion about work versus personal life have been around since the 1800’s.
1800’s – 16 hour days – Work/Sleep/Work
1900’s – 8 hour work day – Work/Recreation/Rest
1970’s – Work/Life Balance movement takes shape with more women entering the workforce
2000’s – Work/Life Integration with technology driving 20/7 connectivity
2020’s - Quiet Quitting - Life focus, fulfillment, and personal sense of worth outside of work
It’s Good For Your Company
Lower burnout, anxiety and stress
Improved focus and better decision making
Increased team engagement
Improved thinking outside the box and innovation
Improved well-being, happiness, and organizational trust
Increased resilience to do the work and less likely to quit
What Does This Mean For Leaders?
Our workplace and workforce has changed. C-Suite boomers are retiring, and Gen X and Millennials are the next executive leaders. So let’s embrace the future!
Foster A New Leader Mindset
Today’s organizations need our help in fostering a different Mindset about work and employees
We believe that employees are your greatest asset to deliver for your stakeholders. Talent is the engine that drives an organization
When your team has affinity for their work – when they love what they do - they deliver amazing results, and this cultivates resilience; and resilience is so important in our work and life today
Flexibility is – and will continue to be key – related to work schedules, locations. Let’s work to foster “balance”.
Understand What Your People Value
Each employee is a unique person with distinct loves, interests and skills. People in the SAME job do their work differently, so find their strengths. Marcus Buckingham calls this Love + Work and through his current research, has found that if employees are doing work they love, even if only 20% of the time – they are are more engaged and their level of resilience increases. Research by neurobiologists suggests that when “love chemicals” are released, you widen your perspective on yourself and liberate your mind to accept new thoughts and feelings. You remember details more vividly. You perform cognitive tasks faster and better.. You are more optimistic, more loyal, more forgiving, and more open to new information and experiences. One could say that doing what you love makes you more effective, but it’s so much more than that: You’re on fire without the burnout.
Use the Gallup Q12 statements to talk with your people about what they value. For example:
Was I excited to work every day last week
Did I have a chance to use my strengths every day?
My leader cares about my opinions
Is Your Culture Aligned?
Culture defined is shared values, attitudes, standards, beliefs and behaviors that guide our perceptions, judgments and actions. Align your leaders and managers to the organization’s new mindset – whatever it is for you and your organization – but be aligned and onboard.
Set boundaries. For example:
emphasize that answering after-hours calls or emails is optional
introduce an on-call system, where necessary
develop a way to mark messages as urgent and define the guidelines of what constitutes an appropriate after-hours emergency
reward employees for staying late by allowing them to leave early another day
intervene when coworkers pressure each other to overwork and create a way for staff to safely report this occurrence
give employees random paid personal days
Promote well –being as a value and part of setting boundaries
What is trust, why is it so important and how do we define trust? Here is one definition - A firm belief in the honesty, integrity, reliability, truth, ability, character, or strength of someone or something - to rely upon or place confidence in someone or something. A 2016 Global CEO Survey by PWC reveled that 50% of CEOs worldwide considered lack of trust to be a major threat to their organizational growth. From the ADP Research Institute study, they found that those who trusted their teammates, their team leader, and their senior leaders were 12 x as likely to be fully engaged and 42 x likely to be highly resilient. How to build trust?
Give employees a voice in their own job design
Intentionally build relationships
Facilitate whole-person growth
Action For Leaders Now
The ADP Research Institute and Marcus Buckingham's 2019 study provide some practical next steps. Here are four ideas for action:
Organize Around Teams
Their study found, that when people are organized around teams, they are 2 x more likely to be fully engaged. We’re not talking about team work, but organizing work through select teams. Today most organizations are not built around teams. Although plenty of teamwork is happening, leaders can’t see it or take advantage of it. Just look at most existing human-capital management software systems – they display individuals and who they report to, but not which teams they’re on. So what’s the difference between team work and organizing work around teams?
An organization with a focus on teams institutes formal team joining discussions in which people learn why they were picked for their assignments. This introduction includes detailed descriptions of the skills and talents they bring to their teams and what they can rely on or turn to each teammate for
Help them understand the WHY – the impact team’s work has on the organization – when this is understood, – motivation increases
But the most important part of being on a team is developing trust with the individuals who constitute it.
Make Weekly Check-ins Your Culture
We all have done 1-1’s right? Did you know that organizations that build trust view a once-a-week check-in between employees and team leaders as the core human ritual at work. During this chat the team leader will not be checking up on or appraising the person or giving feedback. Instead, the leader will be talking about the short-term past and future, asking,
“What did you love about last week?”
“What did you loathe?”
“What are your priorities this coming week?”
“How can I best help?”
According to Buckingham, Asking those four questions every week for an entire year will ensure that employees build trust with their team leaders.
Invest In Your People
Be creative! Think about what each employee values and offer both personal as well as career-oriented investment options.
One way to get started is to use the Q12 for an investment framework.
Other examples are Amazon which offers college tuition; Starbucks and UPS offer student loan reimbursement; and Google provides discretionary time off to pursue personal projects.
There is a ton of current research on the value of recognition and employee fulfillment which contribute to engagement and well-being. It is fitting that we include some ideas about recognition as part of the quiet quitter discussion. Recognition refers to praising, acknowledging or expressing gratitude to employees for who they are and what they do. We’re not talking about recognition programs. Workplace recognition often focuses on work output and work-related achievements, but let’s add human-centric milestones too – celebrating birthdays, weddings, birth of a child, and other personal accomplishments. Recognize individuals as well as teams. Public or private? Each employee is unique and values recognition differently.
Here are some ideas:
Give recognition a few times a week. This sounds like alot but it can be as simple as saying thank you in a team meeting or sending an email of thanks.
Recognition becomes more meaningful when it is clear why it is being given. Telling employees how their work made an impact takes the words “good job” to a new level.
Embedded in the Culture
Simply having a recognition program is not enough. A culture of recognition is one in which gratitude, praise and appreciation are freely given, regularly received, and reach all corners of the organization. Where everyone feels empowered to take part in showing appreciation and commending achievements.
ASK! What does your team appreciate? Some favor low key acknowledgment while others feel fulfilled through public recognition. Monetary? Time off? Special lunch?