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Quiet Quitting

Quiet Quitting

September 01, 20233 min read


There’s a tendency to think that just because something has popped up in a new place with a name it’s actually new. 

With quiet quitting, it’s not. 

Though there is disagreement on the exact definition of what quiet quitting is, at its core, this new phrase born of Tik-Tok is nothing more than tried-and-true employee disengagement. 

The reasons for it are as varied today as they have been throughout the generations. Among the biggest right now: 

  • The pandemic has frayed our nerves, stretched our parental duties and altered career-long habits. It also provided a massive reality check for many about the fragility of life and what ultimately matters to them. 

  • A shift in the balance of power in the labor market left companies in desperate need of employees – any employees. This put workers in a better position to ask for – and receive – concessions to promote better work/life balance. 

  • Many managers haven’t adapted their old styles to a new generation of employees and this new present reality. 

What’s a Manager to Do? 

Step One for any manager is to look in the mirror and conduct a good, honest self-appraisal. 

A Harvard Business Review study looked at data gathered since 2020 from 360-degree leadership assessments. It showed that managers rated least effective by their employees have three to four times as many people who classify themselves as quiet quitters. 

Because of that, the study’s authors suggest, the first question any manager surrounded by quiet quitters should ask is: “Is the problem with my team or with me and my leadership abilities? Whatever that honest self-assessment reveals, some good follow-up question to ask are: 

  1. When I’m asking my direct reports for more productivity, am I going out of my way to make sure they feel valued and, most importantly, am I doing so in a way that I know speaks to them as individuals? Remember, different people feel valued differently. If you don’t know what makes the members of your team feel valued, ask.

  2. Am I purposefully connecting with my team and talking with them about common interests that bind us together while respectfully working through differences? 

  3. Am I being consistent in my leadership and delivering on what I have promised? The Harvard study revealed most managers believe they are being more consistent than others perceive them to be. 

  4. How well do I really know my own job? Am I up-to-date on all my skills and a true expert at what I do, such that others would trust my opinions and advice? Being seen as an expert evokes trust, the study showed, and trust breeds engagement. 

OK. Now what? 

If you’ve asked yourself those questions and feel like you’re doing a great job, what do you do if you still find yourself surrounded by quiet quitters? 

Your company likely has a process for addressing the issue. Start with a conversation. Spend more time listening than talking. Don’t rush to fill pauses. Then, come up with clear next steps and follow up to ensure progress is being made. 

If you’re unsure of what to do and don’t have the expertise on staff, an expert human resources consultant will be able to come in, assess the situation and help you discover ways to create the top-notch employee culture you need to succeed. 

And know this: These shifts are cyclical. As economic hurricanes hit and lead to more and more layoffs, some currently comfortable quiet quitters will re-engage because they will see it’s better to have a paycheck than to be replaced by someone from the growing pool of the unemployed.Times are changing. They always do. 

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