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Quiet quitting and re-engaging

Stop talking about “Quiet quitting” and start talking about disengaging

“Quiet quitting” – it seems to be the latest within HR fashion. What is it and why are we talking about it?

First off all, I think the term “quiet quitting” is wrong and bad. People are not silently leaving office buildings to stop working or quitting their jobs in complete silence – that is not at all what this is about. Quiet quitting is the idea that people are not going “above and beyond” their paygrade anymore and just do the work they are paid for.

Let’s be real. Why should an employee do more than they are paid for? An employee agreement is just that: you pay somebody to do their job. Nothing more, nothing less. That means: not answering emails on a holiday, not working outside office hours, and not staying late to finish that project.

So, if there is anything I want you to take away from this post, then this is it: let’s stop talking about “quiet quitting” and start talking about “disengaging”, because that is what it is. People are still doing their jobs, but they are slowly become disengaged and unmotivated to “go above and beyond”.

Why more and more people start to quit quietly?

Now you might ask: Why? Why is this happening? The internet seems to be split up between two reasons: 1) Employees are drastically re-evaluating their work-life balance, or 2) bad leadership has undervalued and demotivated employees. Whatever the reasoning behind it, its implications are truly important. Disengaged employees will perform less than engaged employees, impacting the performance of your company overall.

Before we jump into solutions for a “problem” we do need to consider whether somebody became disengaged because of re-evaluating the balance in their worklife, or because of bad leadership and demotivation. If somebody wants to revaluate the balance in their worklife, there is maybe nothing you could (or should) do. Your employee will do their job, but according to the parameters that you have set in the contract – and that is it.

If somebody became disengaged because of bad leadership or demotivation, then there are opportunities to re-engage your employees. So, let’s move on to the interesting stuff: how to re-engage employees!

What can we do?

At this point, if you still expect your employees to go above and beyond without them getting anything in return you should not be surprised that your employees get disengaged or unmotivated. And why should they? You are offering nothing in return. The good news is there are solutions. The bad news is that those solutions will require effort.

If you are a boss, manager, or leader whose employees are slowly disengaging, there are ways to turn this process around. How? By re-engaging with your disengaged employees. Here are 5 ways to do that:

1. Asking the tough questions

On a daily basis, walk around the office and stop by or call one colleague and blatantly ask them: “What are we not talking about here at work? What can we improve?” This is a powerful way of directly asking somebody to vent some frustrations and let them be a key part of an improvement process that they see as problematic.

You might discover some unique opportunities while engaging one employee at a time. There are ways to make this into a scalable process as well for larger companies.

2. Inspiration and daily work

Remind people of your vision, your mission, your morning-star. Connect meetings to the abstract level of your purpose. We are here to make money, yes, but there is more to it. “Today we are doing A, B, C, which will allow our clients to do D, E, and F – which will improve the lives of/the world/the environment” – you get the drill. People need inspiration to stay engaged. Continuously.

3. Allowing engagement

A lot of managers expect a top-down management structure where employees simply accept the strategy, take on their tasks as instructed, and are fully engaged into everything they do. Now this is a prime example of having you cake and eating it. You can’t have it both. You’ll have to choose. Either you choose a management structure where you want to impose your will, strategy, structure, and tasks – but also accept disengaged employees, OR you involve your employees with decision making processes around structure, strategy, and their tasks to get them engaged.

4. Development, perspective, and incentive

One way of engaging disengaged employees is by giving them a clear-cut “carrot” to re-engage. You can do this by giving them the perspective of development. That either may be a promotion, an education or training (paid for by the company), or a wider set of responsibilities.

Now I know that this is a bit of a sensitive topic, but you can do that through a bit of good-old performance management. Does that mean measuring every datapoint you have from when somebody clocks in to how fast they type emails? No of course not, this is not the 20th century anymore. But you can set up a couple of KPI’s that reflect a concrete goal and subsequent reward.

5. Improve leadership

Sometimes it is hard to admit, but if you can’t point out the problem in the room – then maybe you are the problem in the room. During your times you meet 1-to-1 with your employees, try to ask what you can improve about your leadership style. Ask your employees what you can improve or what they miss in your leadership today. Sometimes your employees require different ways of leadership than what you are offering today – maybe more directive, maybe more guidance, or maybe more freedom and individual responsibility.

In conclusion

“Quite quitting” is a bogus term that is simply incorrect. People are reconsidering what they want in life and can become disengaged at work because of a multitude of reasons. If they are simply reconsidering their work life balance, then there is little you could (or should) do. If they are becoming disengaged because of bad leadership or demotivation, then there are things you can do. If you need help:

  1. asking the tough questions

  2. connecting your vision and mission to your daily work

  3. identifying where you can involve your employees more

  4. developing incentive programs

  5. improving your leadership capacity

Then get in touch with us and see what we can do for you!

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