December 9, 2022 12:59pm
Investor Perspective | Work isn’t working – How to Address “Quiet Quitting”
Clearly Communicating is the Solution to Quiet Quitting
In school, English teachers told us that alliteration creates good poetry. It can help capture the mood of the story and make it memorable. And so has the phrase “quiet quitting” captured the mood of the current workforce and summed it up in a sticky little phrase that is grabbing the headlines. Just like good poetry, however, it can mean different things to different people.
Those championing the idea explain it as opting out of the “hustle culture” that glorifies working endless hours to get ahead. It is not as much about quitting as it is a rallying cry for more work-life balance. But it’s easy to see how the bare minimum is not a great plan for career success. In fact, if you simply decide to do less, you may find yourself being “quietly fired” and passed by for choice assignments and raises. The secret to navigating this is to understand root cause.
Work isn’t working.
Workers started telling us long before the pandemic that the world of work needed to change. Companies thought they could solve the problem with workplace amenities. But ping pong tables or fancy salad bars in the break room did not address the real issues. Employees use three key pieces of criteria when evaluating whether to stay with a company or take an offer from another organization:
- Career: “Is this a place where I can be appreciated?” When an employee feels their pay, promotions and professional development don’t meet their output (and level of burnout), they will adjust accordingly.
- Culture: “Does this company demonstrate an inclusive culture based on trust?” If an organization is built on “command and control” leadership, it will be difficult to convince people that their voice matters.
- Community: “Can I find evidence that a company sees itself as a part of a bigger ecosystem or does the world orbit around them?” Companies that get good grades establish that it is OK for family to come first. They have a strong commitment to social impact and are proud of the work they do to advance the greater good.
According to a recent Gallup study, “fewer than one in four U.S. employees feel strongly that their organization cares about their wellbeing—the lowest percentage in nearly a decade.” We will always go the extra mile for the people we trust to have our best interest at heart, yet this data provides evidence of a severe trust deficit at work. We often call the skills needed to build that trust “people skills,” but specifically they are effective communication skills.
The same Gallup study noted that “employees who feel their employer cares about their wellbeing are 69% less likely to actively search for a job.” If your workforce is quietly quitting, it may be time to invest in your managers—give them the skills and development they need to build trust and create a healthy work culture. In short, it may be time to truly lead (rather than merely manage).
Investing in leadership development can see incredible returns, not only staving off costly turnover but turning the tides against the productivity losses seen with quiet quitting.
It’s not just the manager’s problem
Good communication is not reserved for managers. If you are part of the movement of quiet quitters, there is a better path. Don’t be quiet, be clear. Instead of quietly withdrawing from work opportunities, be bold enough to ask for what you need. If you need more family time, ask for an extra week of vacation. If you need to be rewarded financially for the extra effort, ask for a raise. You may not get it, but it opens communication for your manager to understand how to meet your expectations.
Discussing what work needs to be prioritized is a great opportunity to negotiate for what is important. Working a zillion hours is not the only way to demonstrate your worth to an employer. Enthusiastically communicating demonstrates that not only are you not disengaged, but you are passionate about your contributions to the team. The surest way to abdicate your power is to never acknowledge that you had any in the first place. So take back your power and convey what you need to be successful.
We’re in it together.
In his book Trust Factor, Paul Zak shares the neuroscience of building trust. Trust stimulates oxytocin, which brings joy to our work (something all of us are seeking). His research notes that companies that actively work to create an environment of trust report 40% less burnout. Trust is tied to transparency and direct, authentic communication. Everyone in the work ecosystem has power to elevate this. So whether you were thinking about quiet quitting or quiet firing—don’t be quiet, be clear.
The Leadership Louisville Center has a long history of helping organizations retain, attract, and activate talent through better leadership. Contact us to help you build better leaders – firstname.lastname@example.org or visit leadershiplouisville.org. Click here to learn more about Leadership Training or Community Leadership Programs.
Cynthia Knapek, CEO of LeadingBetter and Leadership Louisville Center, an expert known for social impact leadership that equips + inspires us to be better and do better. Article originally appeared in Forbes Coaches Council.