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Is “Quiet Quitting” A Problem Your Leaders Need To Solve?

Fingers to lips representing quiet

How worried are your leaders about ‘quiet quitting’?

The phrase has spread like wildfire this year, fuelled by a popular TikTok video.

Now the internet is full of advice on solutions and how to combat it.

But is it something leaders and their organisations need to solve?

If you’ve missed out on this year’s workplace trend, you may be relieved to learn the term doesn’t refer to quitting your job.

Instead, it is about workers not going above and beyond their role – quitting anything extra.

“The terminology ‘quiet quitting’ is new, but it has been happening for years,” Dan Boniface, one of our expert leadership and management coaches, said.

“It is the process of employees checking out of what they are doing. But it is crucial to recognise they are still doing the basics of the job and are performing to a certain extent.

“What they are not doing is going that extra mile. Quiet quitting is doing the 9-5.

“Those extra bits we do on top of our job are called ‘citizenship’. It is the extra hours we put into a project, the additional calls we make and the customer service work out of hours.

“And what we find is people are not doing this so often.

“The other aspect of quiet quitting is the people who are mentally checking out. They are the ones thinking about their next move and who feel they would benefit from leaving, but who don’t have the motivation to do it – they are comfortable in their role and are not ready to jump.”

So, what does this mean for businesses?

Well, if you search Google, you would be forgiven for thinking the issue is causing widespread corporate panic.

But is that really the case?

“The impact of quiet quitting on an organisation can be a lack of productivity and buy-in and a team that's harder to motivate,” Dan said.

“But there is a perception everyone is ambitious and wants promotions and bigger salaries, and that is not the case for everyone. At times, just doing your job is ok because people want a work/life balance.

“I don’t think leaders should be concerned on an individual basis.

“If people are doing what they need to do, and it meets the requirements and standards of the role, that is ok.

“Some people just want to be good at their job and have a good work/life balance.

“There has to be an understanding from employers and employees that we all have different needs and wants in life. Some are all about work. And others want to earn a salary so they can pay their rent or mortgage and do a few nice things on top.

“But if someone is checking out more than doing what is required, that is a problem.

“And if they are checking out because of stress, anxiety, burnout and mental health issues, leaders should be concerned and need to be proactive in helping.

Perhaps the real issue is not quiet quitting. Maybe it is about whether it is ok for organisations to expect people to constantly go above and beyond. And whether some companies have built their business models on this approach.

Dan said: “In my view, it is ok to expect a little bit more if there is recognition and reward for what the person needs out of that.

“Some people will be motivated by an increase in salary, a bonus or an employee of the month award. Others are motivated by a sense of achievement or self-satisfaction and the feeling they have contributed to the organisation.

“It can’t be all one way. Yes, the employer can ask for a little more. But it has to be recognised and rewarded, and the employees have to be motivated towards that.

“If you ask for more all the time, people will suffer stress and burnout. And that leads to other issues. Ultimately, it will impact productivity.”

Dan says it is crucial leaders explain the purpose when they want their team members to go above and beyond.

“We know people are more likely to perform to a high standard if they are motivated and have the time to work towards tasks and targets,” he said.

“Something we talk about in business coaching is that there are three parts to motivation.

“You have to create the purpose. You have to allow for mastery of the skills and you have to create autonomy in decision-making.

“And this comes into quiet quitting - If we know the purpose of being asked to give more, we are more likely to be motivated.”

To explore that further, Dan uses an example of a salesperson asked to go beyond their target.

“Let’s say I normally sell 100 units per month,” he said.

“The business is struggling, so I need to sell 115 units this month. I will put everything into it because I have a purpose, time to master those skills, and autonomy in how I make those sales.

“What the business can’t do is demand that month after month. You have to release the pressure a bit.

“But by using those three aspects of motivation, you are helping people to work towards their objectives. And they are buying in and committing to it. So, you are much more likely to get success.

“If that means the pressure is eased a bit next month, there is a little quiet quitting, and you just do your job, that’s ok.”

I wondered if there is a particular challenge for leaders if some team members are quiet quitters while others constantly want to go beyond their role. How do you avoid one group resenting the other?

Dan said: “You have to set clear expectations and have individual conversations. It may come down to career aspirations, whether there are promotion opportunities, the chance to gain bonuses or increase your personal brand.

“You have to understand your team and manage their expectations.

“But there also has to be a clear team culture on what is expected of each role – ‘these are our minimum expectations and this is what we are aiming for’.”

Ultimately, quiet quitting is about how leaders and the organisation look after people.

If you look after them, the results will look after themselves,” Dan said.

“Some businesses are great at this. If they see someone struggling, they might give them an afternoon off to play golf or go to the spa.

“People are much more productive when refreshed, engaged and switched on with the task they are doing.

“But some companies are not so good at this. And that’s when people go from quiet quitting to quitting.”

The BCF group has been helping organisations develop their talent, inspire their people and overcome obstacles and challenges for the past 25 years.

We deliver training that makes a difference. Find out more about our business coaching, management training and interpersonal skills options.

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