Quiet Quitting. It seems to be the most popular buzzword on social media in the business world right now. Quiet Quitting is essentially employees who are meeting their job descriptions, clocking in, doing the work…. but nothing more. No overtime, no extra projects, less collaboration in meetings. They are saying no to going “above and beyond.”
Some people claim that this is an existential reaction and rebellion against hustle culture (a good thing!), others are saying it’s just laziness. No matter what your opinion is, it’s an opportunity for leaders to read between the lines and respond (not just react) by assessing their people strategy and making any necessary adaptations.
Awareness is key, action is essential, and a recognition of the big picture is undeniably needed. We aren’t just dealing with a difficult workforce or under-equipped managers — these are symptoms of a bigger problem.
Here are 5 reasons your company or organization may currently or soon have quiet quitters.
1. You have managers with little to no leadership training.
Most managers are given leadership positions because of superior performance. Yet statistics show that the average age of a first management position comes at around 27, but your first leadership training doesn’t come until age 40! Most new managers are asked to “duplicate” their success through leading others to copy their methods and approaches. What they are NOT shown is “how” to engage a person and to pull out the unique gifts, capabilities, and traits that would allow that person to flourish. It is very much a “wear my shoes and follow in my footsteps” approach.
They are not trained in how to develop trust between two people. It’s not really anyone’s fault. The intentions are good, but the execution leaves out some key principles surrounding connection. People are not formulaic so simply replicating an approach doesn’t necessarily lead to people’s growth. It could be said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Although it might be extremely tempting to duplicate your top performer, it’s vital that your company has solid leadership development. Statistics show that overall, people would rather work under an amazing boss rather than in a role they love under a bad boss. (Side note: an amazing boss will likely look to move you into a seat where you can love the work you do too; they recognize an opportunity for greatness and the cost of not pursuing that.)
If I can get a little personal for a moment, I had a situation that really brought this home:
My daughter recently had a sleepover and asked her friends the same question. Who is your favorite teacher and what is your favorite class? The thought was that those questions would have 2 different answers. They didn’t. Each one of them named their favorite teachers and then each one of them said these were their favorite classes. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
When it comes to management, people leadership, and growth, having a committed champion in a seat where they are committed to the individual growth of their people and how that reflects in the overall growth of the team is essential. Passion can inspire but passion, vision, and ability can create dynamic growth.
2. You have unclear performance objectives.
People need to know exactly how to win at their jobs. And this is how they should be promoted and rewarded. Having clearly defined performance objectives helps the employee and the manager stay…. well, objective! Add on a regular “two way” conversation about performance objectives and you have the ingredients for a clear way for everyone to win.
Equipping managers to see objective metrics enables them to chart growth, see areas of improvement, and chart a course forward. Add in to that the ability to have critical conversations that allow for the subjective to breath (things like enjoyment, personal/professional issues). We developed a platform called Etho to support these actions – learn more about it here.
3. You have the right people in the wrong role – Right People, Wrong Seat.
You may have pride in your culture. Your team members enjoy who they work with, they feel like their manager understands them, and they like the way the CEO runs the company (thanks Glassdoor for some of the important metrics). The company is great and at one point your candidate was inspired enough by the job description and interview process to give you the yes and join the company. There’s just one small thing. Their vision, values, and communication style didn’t add up and the interview process was focused on skills, experience, and what they’d done.
It’s not uncommon but there are a few questions and insights that are key to predicting the success and future engagement of a candidate. It’s called exploring the Whole Person. If you don’t have a strategy to make sure you are hiring based on the whole person and not just the person’s experience, no amount of Starbucks gift cards and pizza parties will make up for the rising tension and feeling of misplacement that could build up.
Part of what is fueling the Quiet Quitter conundrum could be remedied by a re-envisioning or readjustment. If you’ve ever gained/lost weight, we’ve all known what it is to experience growth in some capacity. The clothes you once had, even though you still love the style, just don’t fit. Maybe it’s that shirt from college you still love but it’s just not appropriate to wear to that black tie event. It can be the same with job roles. Staying on top of those changes and gauging what is driving/motivating your people is helpful for actioning changes and changing a Quiet Quitter into a Committed Champion.
4. There are little to no growth opportunities.
Remember, growth and promotion are not the same thing. Just promoting someone into a new role may not be the answer to reflecting the hard work they are doing. Perhaps what they are looking for is an increased ability to dive into the strategic aspects of what their company is doing. It could be moving into a different seat altogether. It might look like taking on more direct reports, or on the opposite side, trading a people leadership position for a creative focused role.
Understanding what growth looks like and acting accordingly can really help an employee feel seen, supported, and increase their engagement. Growth is often synonymous with impact, and it doesn’t always mean a different title. It is not uncommon for someone to be placed into a role that follows a linear career path only to miss what they were doing and the success they were enjoying in their previous position to the extent they end up leaving the company.
Getting a pulse on what is important to your people and defining what growth looks like is essential to counteracting the Quiet Quitter phenomenon. Your people might be feeling a little stuck and uninspired and if immediate change might not be possible there is likely the ability to create a customized career path that would support both the individual and the needs of the organization; we all love a win-win.
5. Trust has been lost.
Trust is essential to growth, engagement, and warding off the dissatisfaction monster. Being on a team where people don’t trust each other is toxic. Team members are looking over their shoulder, second guessing their actions, and fearing potential reprisal. Left long enough they will become disengaged, but they might be apprehensive about leaving the company for a myriad of reasons.
Likewise, managers and people leaders may not trust their staff. They are feeling destabilization and they know things aren’t where they could be. Those team members are showing up and they might be doing the bare minimum but there’s no growth, no excitement, and no initiative; your workforce is reactive and slow, but there is nothing from a protocol standpoint to initiate performance improvement plans and the cost to hire and train new people is prohibitive. It is a far from ideal situation and everyone feels trapped. This is one of those situations that gives cause to serious self-reflection on both sides and asking some challenging questions that might mean things get a little worse before they get better, but it can get better. We have an app for that.
Refreshing perspectives and practical expertise from the Titus team.
Our dedication to radical generosity keeps us focused on what matters most, and it allows us to make a trusted and lasting impact on the world around us. It’s the foundation of our culture and our partnerships.