See Quiet Quitting in Your Office? Do This

Quiet quitting is costing businesses trillions of dollars each year in lost productivity - STEERus has a productivity repair kit.

by Loralyn & Amrit


So, you’ve got those sneaky quiet quitters on your team, eh? You know, the people who do the bare minimum to avoid getting the boot. Well, brace yourself, because we’ve got some tips on how to manage these productivity party poopers.

Quiet Quitting. Lazy Girl Jobs. Bare Minimum Mondays. Workplace productivity teeter totters on the absurd with the average workday consisting of less than 2.5 hours of work but a paycheck that starts at around $80K for entry-level talent that doesn’t have a college degree. Yup. That’s a disconnect. In some of our previous STEERus blog posts [1, 2, 3, 4], we discussed how quiet quitters can cause irreparable damage to your business. We even shared interview questions to ask to help identify employees who may turn out to be quiet quitters once they start working at your place.

But what do you do if you have already hired quiet quitters? We have some suggestions on how to manage quiet quitting at your workplace. Read on for a few ideas that may work for you.

Overall productivity in 2022 fell compared to 2020 and 2021. This fall is being attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic. Work ethics are going through a transformation that have drastically reduced overall productivity among businesses. Quiet quitters are a big part of the problem. A lack of leadership and overall “DGAF” attitude that is now pervasive in most work cultures are other problems that need to be managed.

The goal of quiet quitters is to do the bare minimum so that it looks like they are working and hence, won’t get fired. A Gallup study says that 50% of the US workforce may consist of quiet quitters. No wonder American companies are losing $1.9 Trillion per year from lost productivity by disgruntled employees.


The Signs of Quiet Quitting

It starts with no emotional investment in your job. Layer that with tectonic shifts in employee loyalty: some argue that it’s already dead whereas others insist that it’s just changing. Just imagine spending 6-8 hours at a place you don’t feel connected to. Then your boss asks you to come into the office so that they can watch you being disengaged, unmotivated, and scrolling TikTok watching endless videos about whatever. Day after day, week after week, month after month, and tragically, sometimes, year after year. You’re just biding your time until something better comes along. Or you die…

Not to sound morose but mental health is so poor in the workplace today that the average Gen Z and Millennial employee is out ONE DAY PER WEEK. That’s not sustainable. You can do the math. If two-thirds of your workforce is not working at all one day per week and, when they are working during those four days of the work week, they’re only working one-quarter of the day … add it up. Basically, you’re paying a full-time salary for one day of work. Not sustainable on any business ledger. If you factor in more work productivity by older employees, you’re probably getting 30 cents for every $1 you spend. Yuck!

More negative traits of quiet quitting include lack of motivation, lack of emotional flexibility, lack of integrity, underdevelopment of skills, no aptitude for career advancement, and even long-term depression (which obviously has negative repercussions for the employee as well as your business). Not to mention how that degradation in morale affects everyone. Employees who decide to quiet quit discourage other employees from performing their job with greater enthusiasm and passion. It can be infectious. You know, the “one bad apple spoils the lot” proverb.


The Causes of Quiet Quitting

Believe it or not, sometimes it’s not them – it’s YOU. Maybe your communication is poor. Perhaps your employees have given up trying to figure out what the what you want from them. Quiet quitting isn’t always about having a bad attitude towards one’s work. In fact, many experts believe that the current spate of quiet quitting is a retaliation against real and perceived exploitation.

So, what’s the root cause of this workplace rebellion? Communication breakdown! Employees feel used and undervalued, blamed for failures but never praised for success. It’s a silent scream for acknowledgment. They don’t feel appreciated. They are reminded that they are replaceable. One day you’re here and then, with a keystroke by IT, you’re locked out of your computer. Quiet quitters think that they are not being rewarded (in terms of salaries and bonuses) for what they do. They see fewer growth opportunities. Intellectual and emotional stimulation is lacking. They are blamed for failures but are never credited and praised for success.

In 2022, the level of engagement with the workforce remained at 32% without any upward movement, but the percentage of disengagement increased, alarmingly, by 18%. Most of the quiet quitters are psychologically detached from their jobs. They are “not engaged” regularly by their employees and managers. This is a 10x problem when you consider remote work. A big chunk of these quiet quitters are already in the process of looking for another job.

Younger employees, especially below the age of 35, are particularly bearing the brunt of the post-pandemic work environment. Gen Z employees don’t feel cared for by their managers; they’ve become the stereotyped lazy, snowflake generation that can’t take the heat. Even if the employers are aware of the needs of their employees and subordinates, somehow, they are not able to communicate their side of the story, and this leads to increased instances of quiet quitting.


How to Manage It

Recognize that quiet quitting may be a call for help and an attempt towards achieving work-life balance. Stress on employees has been unprecedented in the recent years. The pandemic wreaked havoc in all industries. There is inflation and market volatility. There is war. Uncertainty about the future. A global climate crisis. Artificial Intelligence. Job insecurity keeps them awake at night. Many organizations such as GE and Facebook create a false sense of job insecurity to make their employees work harder which sounds a tad Draconian. Ew!

There is heightened sensitivity towards being burdened with too much work. For many, mental wellness is becoming a priority. They have nothing against their jobs; it’s just that they would rather focus on their personal life over their work life. Note that we didn’t say that they had nothing against their supervisors because that’s not true.

A whopping 27% of employees don’t like their boss because their boss is not grateful for the work done by their staff. TIP: show some gratitude. ASAP!


What Can You Do if You Already Hired Them?

Firing employees because they are not giving their best should be the last resort. When you fire employees, your organization pays a huge cost in terms of creating low morale. Then you need to allocate resources to recruit new employees. But you’re already in a downward spiral because the outgoing employees left you bad reviews on Glass Door. So, you have to pay more, do more, and take longer to hire a replacement. In the meantime, your other employees must absorb the burden of the person displaced which starts their downward spiral of lower morale, lower productivity, and eventually – burnout – quiet quitting and maybe even not-so-quiet quitting.

You need to go to the root cause of the problem and if you take care of that problem, quiet quitting can go away. Does it mean that you must pay everyone more? No. There are other things that you can do.

GRATITUDE: We covered this one above. Easy-peasy and soooooooo effective! Recognize effort, folks! If your team’s initiatives go unnoticed, you can bet that they will join the quiet quitting club. Show them the love they deserve. Make the gratitude public in a display of recognition. Consider taking it one step further by offering some kind of reward which may be monetary, an hour or afternoon or PTO full day off, or the opportunity to be part of an event or higher profile project within the organization.

COMMUNICATION: Talking is not the same as communicating. Teach your team to read distress signals and create a safe space for feedback. Boost the communication skills of your employees and managers through training. Most of the quiet quitting problems occur due to communication gap. You can’t just assume that since your employees and managers can talk to each other, they can also communicate. Talking and communicating are different.

PURPOSE: Sit down with your employees, one by one. If you’re virtual, have an online coffee. Put your phone away and silence all the alerts and annoying pop-ups on your devices. Genuinely ask the employee what they think their purpose is. Then ask them what they wish it was. Help them find a path forward that better aligns with who they are, why they do what they do, and what they actually do.

GRIEVANCES: George of Seinfeld popularized the infamous “Airing of the Grievances” with the Festivus Pole. A made-up celebration of sorts but it garnered a cult-like following. Why? Because, deep down, most of us secretly wish that we could say what we really want to say versus smiling at our co-workers and pretending that we like them. However, there is a LINE. This isn’t a free-for-all where people can cut loose and dump on others. You could set up some rules so that your airing of the grievances doesn’t get out of hand or use a digital, anonymous (or third-party) option so that you can spare people from disrespect and hate. The goal is to figure out the problems, not point fingers at people.

SENSITIVITY: Offer training to teach people how to pick up on the subtle cues of distress and discontent. Create an environment that is psychologically safe where people feel they can say what they need to say without being fired for it. Show people how they can not only listen to understand but how to become attuned to what people aren’t saying. We can show them the QBQ method (Question Behind-the Question).

ACCOUNTABILITY: Let it be known that people who don’t do as they say will be held accountable and asked why they did not do it. Create a shared Trello Board of deliverables or a Team Contract that lists what each person will do or deliver by which day. As due dates for each item approach, have an honest and frank discussion as a group about why that deliverable will be missed. Don’t attack! Instead, rally together to understand why the due date wasn’t achieved and what they could have done differently. Learn from it and move forward as a team.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Of course, what kind of workforce development training company would we be if we didn’t pitch this? Training makes a difference. People don’t know how to manage other people let alone lead them. Your middle management is costing you HUUUUUUGE losses because they can’t get it done. Talk to us – or any other trainer – and reverse the tide of productivity, retention, and revenue losses.

You got this. You really do. And if you need a hand on the wheel, STEERus is here to help you drive. We steer. You rise.

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