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Four Ways to Empower Your Organization to Address Quiet Quitting

All this noise about quiet quitting — and why businesses should really be focused on proactive engagement strategies and intentional culture building

“Quiet quitting” has made a tremendous amount of noise with new data from Gallup indicating quiet quitters could make up more than 50% of workers in the US. As a tenured HR practitioner turned technology leader, this topic isn’t new to me. For years, we’ve wrestled with employee disengagement as a painful symptom of bigger issues — business misalignment, unhealthy company culture, lack of managerial coaching…the list goes on. What we face today, however, which is new, is the highly remote, decentralized playing field in which disengagement, more recently coined quiet quitting, takes hold. Regardless of nomenclature, Daniel Goleman, author of the best seller Emotional Intelligence indicates: “We keep circling around the same equation: The more meaningful the work, the higher the engagement and the less likely employees are to leave their workplace.” To advance your organization’s handle on disengagement and quiet quitting, l frame my perspective by where the ownership sits across layers. 

When it comes to quiet quitting, there’s no single cause or  silver bullet to solve it. Quiet quitting is influenced by a multitude of factors and  requires us to be aware that there are many ways to address it. While solution options are a key area of exploration, in this blog, I want to address an equally important component to this conversation: Who’s responsible for addressing quiet quitting? 

We’ve somehow framed quiet quitting in a way that pins employers against employees — a senseless and unproductive approach to a topic that can only be addressed when the entire organization plays their role.

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Below, I explore how each part of the organization can play their part. And how, as a whole, the organization can address quiet quitting.

1. Employees

Empower your employees to self-advocate and share what drivers cause them to disengage from their work and business goals.  

As pandemic restrictions subside, one thing is clear: Our shared experience from the past two years has had a profound impact on how we interact with the world and derive value from our daily lives. For many, that means work is no longer 1a or even 1b. For working parents it’s even lower. In fact, 53% of respondents in Microsoft’s 2022 Annual Work Trend Index, indicate they are more likely to prioritize their health and wellbeing over work than before.

For employees, this shift in mental model presents a unique opportunity for self-advocacy — to redefine their roles around unique aspects of value and create a more symbiotic relationship with their employer. For organizations looking to guard against quiet quitting and the corresponding business impacts, proactively nurturing employee interactions is table stakes. 

Food for thought:

Positive emotions such as passion, hope and confidence increase the ability of individuals to find a way past difficulties; to work together with others and to be resilient in the face of stressors. By empowering employees to co-own the narrative surrounding their work (within the confines of their role), organizations have a powerful lever for organizational change at their disposal. Use it! Rather than frown upon the employees who silently disconnect from their work, leaders and managers must proactively and authentically partner with employees in new ways. 

2. Managers

Equip managers with the data to better inform how they solve for the drivers unique to their organization. Coach them to remove challenges.

Organizations and employees are asked to produce more with less. In this environment, addressing quiet quitting and employee burnout — particularly amongst critical workforce segments — is a core imperative for the business.

I fully own this as common knowledge, but given its potential  impact on the very fabric of your organization, it bears repeating. A strong manager bench is a critical factor to mitigate against employee disengagement. It must be a focal point for organizations to drive sustained employee satisfaction and proactively address quiet quitting. Providing people managers with actionable insight into individual and team capacity levels, burnout risks and overall productivity will empower them to effectively guide their teams to generate the best results.

Additional food for thought:

Just yesterday, when reviewing my team’s productivity data, I noticed the hours worked and productivity levels for one of my team members was substantially lower than average for the past few days. Armed with that insight, I reached out and asked if she would be interested in supporting a highly visible project I needed help with. Based on previous conversations, I knew it was an area of interest for her and this allowed us to re-allocate her time on a mutually-beneficial project. It was a win-win! We continue to witness organizations place the onus on managers to “fix” employee burnout and disengagement. So while it’s important to invest in manager coaching capabilities and having them serve as carriers of the culture, be mindful of overburdening your manager group who may also be struggling. 

3. Leadership

Ensure leaders own the drivers that are contributing to employee disengagement and quiet quitting. Identify and invest in the measures to improve them.

Trust in organizational leadership is even more pronounced in today’s virtual environment. One of the greatest impacts leaders can make in building trust is taking deliberate actions based on what they’ve seen and heard from their employees. These actions serve as demonstrated evidence that they’re committed to improvement. As leaders actively listen, they are rewarded with the insights and opportunities to take strategic actions that provide the very relief and support their teams need. Through the lens of quiet quitting, leaders must consider how they create space to listen and see the warning signs that indicate disengagement drivers. Whether it’s business misalignment, low employee morale, or unclear roles and responsibilities, these signs suggest a need for positive intervention and investment. Leaders who choose to own the drivers as a challenge that they must help others overcome not only build trust, but also unlock productivity, improve organizational culture, and elevate engagement.

Additional food for thought:

In the last few weeks, I’ve worked directly with a customer who was actively looking to improve the morale within her organization. Given her past experience and the heightened awareness around quiet quitting, she was extremely aware of the consequences if she didn’t seek to fully understand precisely what was driving her morale issues. I reminded her that owning the drivers was the first step in improving morale and that she was already on a path towards improving it. In the following days, she organized focus groups to hear more about what was leading to the morale dips and she uncovered that neglected processes and confusing technologies were leading to heightened frustrations. Furthermore, the drops in morale were contributing toward people’s desire to intentionally contribute less to avoid the headache associated with doing more. She spotted it: The conditions were ripe for quiet quitting risks. But now, she was in a position to own the drivers (process breakdowns and technology gaps) and identify a plan for addressing each. I’m excited to check back in with her and see just how she’s taken action.

4. Organization

Create the right environment for employees, before it’s demanded by employees. Improvement thrives when an organization establishes continuous insights, feedback and action. 

As W. Edwards Deming, a leader in the quality movement, writes “People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-esteem, dignity, curiosity to learn, and joy in learning.” Organizations, when designed correctly, should inspire innovation and allow for employees to engage their passions. Sure, this may sound aspirational given the current environment, but that doesn’t detract from its importance as a force to improve the satisfaction that people derive from their job. Quiet quitting, by its very name, indicates a subversive phenomenon. It doesn’t have to be. Employees are more apt to come together and openly discuss the very things hindering their engagement when they feel supported, encouraged and empowered. Embrace this moment in time and lean-into addressing matters of employee disengagement. 

Additional food for thought:

What lies before you is an opportunity to enhance your culture and pinpoint whether existing organizational policies or processes are inadvertently contributing to burnout, loneliness and feelings of isolation. Then, as you re-engineer, do so from a starting position of good intent and inherent trust in your employees. You will be amazed at the results.  

As I close my thoughts for today on this, by combining a voice for employees, tools for workforce analytics coaching for managers, and a cultural shift in the organization, you can set yourself up for employees who champion your brand and company. For those of you who don’t have this capability today, begin with recognizing what behavior typically looks like for your top performing employees and use this as a baseline.

Remember: Activtrak customers have an unbelievably powerful data set to help inform how to elevate productivity — knowing what to look for and when will be key to turning data into insights and insights into action.

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