As the latest storm rolls through workplaces already beleaguered with post-pandemic change fatigue, “quiet quitting” is the bad news of the moment for leaders. It refers to employees who are disengaged at work — people who do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job. According to the data, this describes half of the U.S. workforce. That should cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up.
Jim Harter from Gallup writes, “The idea spreading virally on social media that millions of people are not going above and beyond at work and just meeting their job description — could get worse. This is a problem because most jobs today require some level of extra effort to collaborate with coworkers and meet customer needs.”
I encourage you to listen up.
There is a lot being written from the perspective of the employee, whether this is a valid way to engage at work, a nod to rejecting “hustle culture” and how burned out, exhausted and overwhelmed people are. The perspective that is missing is about leaders and managers and their complicity in this mess we find ourselves in.
Quiet quitting is illuminating a lack of clarity of expectations and opportunities to learn and grow. It certainly points to employees not feeling cared about. And they, in turn, are missing an inspiring connection to the organization's mission or purpose. All of this adds up to a growing disconnect between employees and their employers.
At its core, quiet quitting is often a response to problems like a toxic work culture, high workload, unrealistic expectations, micromanagement, and more.
In other words, you can do something about it.
One “quiet quitter” who ultimately left that job now says she’s willing to go above and beyond in her new role. Why?
“Because I have a manager that shows me that they value me,” she explained. “I get very respectful feedback from my boss. It’s a healthy work environment.”
You can be that boss.
How to Lead Better
Find out what is and isn’t working — for them: In a recent article on quiet quitting, Kathy Caprino wrote, “If you’re a leader and manager today, it’s time to connect more deeply with those you manage. Take this opportunity—with ‘quiet quitting’ at the forefront of what we’re reading and talking about—to sit down with your employees individually and in teams, and have an open, candid dialogue about what is working, and what isn’t, for them.”
I challenge you to have one brief (15- 20 minutes) yet meaningful conversation each week with each of your team members. Do more listening than talking. Be open and non-defensive. It’s the only way you can find out what matters to them and what may need to change.
Get these scheduled now.
Show you care: Show interest in people’s lives. Ask questions and, again, really listen. Remember important information such as birthdays, anniversary dates, the names of family members, important events in the lives of your team. Write them down, if that helps. But above all, make a personal connection with every member of your team.
Stretch yourself to learn something new about someone every day. Meet all new team members as they come on board. If this puts you outside your comfort zone, guess what? That’s okay. Stretch yourself and make the point to do it anyway. The end result will be fewer people who quiet quit (or outright quit) your team.
Showing your team you care doesn’t have to add a bunch to your plate. But it does have to be a priority in your days. Start small and learn as you go.
Connect your team to the big idea: We know that it matters to have a person’s work add up to something meaningful. We are no longer in the industrial era where individual contributions were like widgets, stacked and sold. People want to be part of something bigger than them. Your job as a leader is to help make that link. To remind people of the larger ideal, the vision or mission of the organization.
For example, our vision is creating workplaces where all people thrive. This is a worthy thing to work on, whether you are scheduling appointments or having a coaching conversation with a senior leader. It takes all of us working together to have this vision realized. My job as a leader is to help my team, over and over, to remember this larger ideal. Every person on our team is a part of this and can be proud of every win we have that points us in this direction.
How often are you showing up on Zoom and reminding your team of the big idea? Are you connected to it yourself?
To assuage quiet quitting, step up. Be the leader you need to be. Consider that you are part of the problem. Then, address what needs to change.
Previously published on Forbes