Quiet quitting is a significant cause of employee turnover and low productivity. Learn how to combat employee disengagement once and for all.
TikTok is at it again. But instead of a viral dance to a song mashup, the trend of quiet quitting is taking a serious toll on employee engagement and productivity worldwide.
Employees increasingly feel disconnected from their employers, particularly regarding clarity of expectations, opportunities to learn and grow, feeling cared about, and a sense of connection to the organisation’s mission or purpose.
The spike in employee disengagement took a strong foothold during the second half of 2021, coinciding with the Great Resignation. And many managers were left to take on the brunt force of this perfect storm, further adding fuel to the fire. Quiet quitting is an epidemic in the workplace, but you can take steps to stop it.
In this article, we’ll discuss the common signs of quiet quitting and how leaders can address this issue head-on to boost employee engagement and restore your team to full strength. Let’s dive in.
What is quiet quitting?
Let’s back it up to better understand “quiet quitting.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, in a March 4, 2022, video posted to TikTok and YouTube, Bryan Creely, a Nashville-based corporate recruiter turned career coach, used the term “quiet quitting” for the first time.
And boy, did it spread like wildfire.
Research from Gallup shows that at least 50% of the US workforce are quiet quitters. Alarmingly, they think that’s on the conservative side.
Quiet quitting is a trend where unmotivated, disinterested, checked-out employees do just enough work to get by. Basically, they meet the bare minimum job description to avoid getting fired and call it a day.
Although the term is new, the act of “quiet quitting” is anything but trailblazing. Disengaged employees have been a long-time, expensive problem for leaders across industries.
In fact, actively disengaged employees cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, or 11% of global GDP.
That’s not a drop in the bucket. It’s time to re-engage employees and restore productivity in the workplace.
Signs your employees might be quietly quitting
Before you can put this issue to rest, you need to understand the warning signs of when your employees begin to pull back and identify the root cause of the disengagement.
With this insight, you can put the wildfire out before it wreaks havoc on your team’s productivity and the company’s bottom line.
Here are a few warning signs that your employees are quietly quitting:
- They don’t ask questions or offer suggestions;
- They don’t volunteer for new tasks or projects;
- They don’t make suggestions to improve workflows;
- They don’t seem to care about what goes on around them;
- They don’t actively participate in meetings;
- They seem uninterested or distracted;
- They always turn off their camera during Zoom calls;
- They don’t promptly respond to emails or other forms of communication, and;
- They miss product deadlines or with uncharacteristically low quality.
Of course, take these warning signs with a grain of salt.
For example, an employee can be slow to respond to an email due to a hectic workday leading up to a project deadline. Or a team member chooses to leave off their Zoom camera after returning from a sick or personal leave.
The key is keeping track of abnormalities in your employees’ typical behaviours. If your top-performing employee suddenly drops to the middle or bottom of the pack, it’s a likely cause for concern.
Reasons employees disengage at work
US employee engagement took a step backwards during the second quarter of 2022.
The proportion of engaged workers remains at 32%, while the proportion of actively disengaged employees has increased to 18%. But why?
They’re overworked. Employees can (and will) feel overworked due to a lack of headcount, inefficient processes, long work hours, and picking up the slack from disengaged workers. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you are drinking water from a fire hose, thanks to a long list of never-ending tasks.
They feel undervalued. Lack of recognition and proper compensation can significantly reduce employees’ willingness to stay engaged and produce high-quality outputs. What’s the point of putting in 110% effort every time only to receive no recognition or credit for your hard work?
They feel micromanaged. As the saying goes, a watched pot never boils. Nobody wants to feel hovered over all day while doing a job they were hired to do. Research shows that micromanagement decreases employee morale, hurts productivity, and increases turnover.
They lack growth opportunities. Similar to a personal relationship, employees who don’t see a long-term plan or fit within your organisation are more likely to disengage or jump ship.
How to prevent quiet quitting and increase employee engagement
In top-down management, employees have a to-do list instead of the freedom to make decisions. This management style can quickly deteriorate innovation and hinder employee morale.
To get your team to start performing at a higher level, you’ll need to provide them with the support and resources they need, as well as allow them the autonomy to make their own decisions.
Let’s take a closer look at how to prevent quiet quitting by keeping your team happy and motivated.
Identify the root cause of the problem
If you don’t understand the reason for the issue, how can you provide the proper solution to fix it?
The first step in combating the plague of quiet quitting is to understand what’s causing your employees to lose the ambition they once had.
Unfortunately, there’s no superpower to read people’s minds, and there are thousands of reasons your employees might feel overwhelmed. That’s where employee pulse surveys come into play.
For example, courier drivers can face various frustrating setbacks during a typical day of deliveries, from a lack of visibility to lengthy delays, booking management bottlenecks, and unfamiliar destinations.
To avoid losing your best employees and impacting the bottom line of your courier service business, send out quarterly employee pulse surveys. Use them to gain valuable insight into why your employees miss their delivery deadlines (when they’re typically on top of their game).
Ask the right questions in your surveys to better understand the current mood of the organisation and what’s motivating (or demotivating) employees. Once this information is at your disposal, address bottlenecks and restore employee engagement.
And the best part about employee pulse surveys? They’re completely anonymous and encourage employees to share feedback they might not otherwise share in person.
Plus, it shows that you care about your employees and value what they say.
Set realistic expectations
When setting expectations, it’s important to remember what’s realistic for the employee, what’s realistic for the business, and how these two factors intersect.
It’s nearly impossible for one customer service representative to answer 500 customer queries in one day. That task will certainly increase employee stress levels and reduce the quality of customer service.
So how do you find the right balance?
A simple one-on-one conversation with your employees can help shed light on a happy medium. Don’t be afraid to ask them outright about their workload capacity to find the sweet spot for quality, productivity, and happiness.
Keeping communication lines open and creating realistic guidelines for employees helps reduce any friction in the workplace.
But it’s not enough to set expectations on day one and call it a day. At work, the only constant is change — with new projects on the horizon, employee promotions, and increasing client demands.
Make sure that you revisit your expectations often and adjust them accordingly.
One bad apple spoils the bunch. In this case, a micromanager.
When you are constantly checking up on your team, it can lead to an unhappy workplace. Your employees might feel like they aren’t trusted or their creativity isn’t appreciated, which can affect their morale and productivity.
Research shows that 59% of people have worked under a micromanager at some point in their careers. Of those people, 68% said it decreased their morale, and 55% agreed it hurt their productivity.
So instead of micromanaging, provide opportunities for autonomy so that your workers feel empowered to make decisions.
Your job as a leader is to provide all the tools your team needs to succeed by sharing company standards, providing valuable training sessions, and being available as a resource if needed.
By letting employees set their own goals, work on their terms, and create their own initiatives, they’ll be much more motivated to stay engaged and look forward to sharing the results of their hard work with you.
Reduce tedious workflows with automation
Time is a precious resource for every human on this planet. It’s a non-renewable resource, and employees want their employers to value their time as they would.
So enough is enough with the tedious tasks that make employees want to pull their hair out. There are plenty of automation tools available to streamline mundane workflows regardless of the industry.
For example, owners of transportation and logistics companies can use fleet management software to optimise pickup and delivery routes for their drivers. This software helps improve driver performance and satisfaction during routine deliveries, which boosts morale and lowers the possibility of disengaging or outright quitting.
Additionally, automation tools can improve efficiency, reduce errors, and help lower employee stress while increasing customer satisfaction by reducing wait times.
It’s a win-win situation.
Invest in an employee recognition program
Employees invest time in growing your business, so why not reciprocate the effort?
Your employees are your biggest assets, so treat them like it. And it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.
Boost employee morale by investing in an employee recognition program to keep your employees happy and engaged at work by thanking them for keeping your organisation running smoothly.
We’ve all been there: you’re working hard but unsure if anyone notices. If your boss doesn’t know how much time you spend on that spreadsheet or the presentation you just put together, how can they know what a great employee you are?
You’ll be surprised how many employees want a simple “nicely done” Slack message or the “Thanks for the long hours to wrap up this project” email. These small gestures add up.
Employee recognition programs come in all shapes and sizes, from words of praise to monetary compensation and everything in between.
Remember, there’s no one right answer for every organisation, so choose the best tactic for your employees and budget.
Keep these things in mind when building an employee recognition program:
- Be specific. Tell the employee exactly what you appreciate about them and why it’s important to you;
- Be sincere. If you’re not feeling it, don’t say it. It’s not a participation ribbon, and;
- Be timely. Don’t wait six weeks to tell your employees about a job well done. If they give a stellar client presentation in the morning, provide positive feedback by the afternoon.
Provide training and career growth opportunities
Training and career growth opportunities are critical components of employee satisfaction at work.
Think about it. Why would any employee put their best foot forward if there’s no room for continued personal and professional growth?
Studies show that 74% of workers believe a lack of opportunities for employee development is holding them back from reaching their full potential.
If you still aren’t convinced, here are a few more astonishing statistics that drive the point home:
- When employees feel the company invests in their careers, 94% say they’ll stay there longer;
- Employees with direct access to professional development opportunities are 15% more engaged, and;
- 58% of all employees agree that professional development improves their job satisfaction.
Providing your employees opportunities to learn new skills (through internal education programs or new projects), gain more responsibilities, or advance their careers will help them stay engaged at work.
You’re not alone if your organisation deals with waves of quiet quitting. But it’s time to take action.
Quiet quitting can be a sign of employee unhappiness, which means you need to take steps to address these issues before they turn into bigger problems.
Start by conducting employee pulse surveys and having open, honest conversations with your employees about their current working conditions.
Then, take the necessary actions to help resolve some of these issues, like providing more autonomy, streamlining tedious workflows, and providing recognition and career growth opportunities.
Employees spend more time at work than at home with their families during the week. So make it worth their while by giving them all the resources they need to succeed.
You won’t regret it. And neither will your bottom line.
About the Author
Kelly Moser is the co-founder and editor at Home & Jet, a digital magazine for the modern era. She’s also an expert in freelance writing and content marketing for SaaS, Fintech, and ecommerce startups.