Quiet Quitting: Let’s Show Them Why They Should Keep Up the Great Work

We love working together here at Greatness Magnified! This article was a co-creation between Mallory Dunbar, Learning Specialist and Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer.

Over the last two weeks, we talked with you about the trend of “quiet quitting,” first about Quiet Quitting: A Scary and Spooky Workplace Trend That We Can’t Ignore and then We’re in the Business of Earning Staff, Not Hiring Them: The Quiet Quitting Revolution. Has it sparked some debate, discussion and reflection in your team? We hope so.

Though definitions vary, quiet quitting essentially refers to employees doing the bare minimum required by their jobs without going above and beyond. Employees clock in on time, do their assigned tasks, leave when their work day is over, and do not take on any extra work outside their job scope or out of work hours. It isn’t about slacking off, rather, it is a rejection of hustle culture, and a refocus on work-life balance to prevent burnout.

image of a woman covering her face with her hands looking at her laptop quiet quittingWe shared that Quiet Quitters” make up 50 percent of the U.S. workforce (Gallup, 2022) and that we see a huge proportion in Canada too. Before you proceed with a misunderstanding, it’s an hourly-wage phenomenon; let me assure you, every group I’ve spoken or this fall has brought it up. As one Chief of Staff remarked after my keynote:
“Do you have any advice about how to deal with the rise of quiet quitting along physicians? How do I make them want to stay and want to take on things like committees because we need them!”

Yep, if the docs with close or over a dozen years of post-secondary education in their field are quietly quitting, it is truly everywhere. Middle managers, executives, direct care support professionals, servers, airline workers, and more; no group or industry is “quiet quitting proof.”

Focusing on What’s Possible

Leaders and employees alike have a unique opportunity to improve their work landscape to reflect the changing needs in the workforce today.

Here are five ways you can combat quiet quitting and revamp your company culture to better suit employees’ – and leaders’ – needs.

1. Adjust your Expectations

In many industries, there are unspoken expectations about how work is done. Nurses are expected to come on their days off when short-staffed, lawyers pull all-nighters to finish briefs and teachers coach teams off the clock. My husband, a business and math teacher, works a few nights a week marking and most of Sunday lesson planning, and yet my dad still says, “it must be nice to get all that time off!” People do not necessarily see the discretionary effort others put in. Going above and beyond is ingrained in many business models. Many companies rely on these sorts of behaviours to survive.

There are times when an organization needs its employees to step up. Take the pandemic, for example. Nurses worked through their days off, coming in early and staying late. Their organizations needed them to do more, and they did. Working in healthcare most of my life, I can say that wasn’t a new thing; nurses just coped. However, add that to burnout, and we see an outflux of nurses leaving the profession.

A specific job requirement or performance expectation needs to be put in the job description and discussed during the hiring process. Quiet quitting has shown us that employees are no longer willing to go above and beyond for their employers (and rightfully so) when there is a prolonged break in the “psychological contract.” In other words, I’ll work harder, do more with less, and take on the job of others for a while, but I won’t do it forever. Don’t expect me to.

If you’re struggling with vacancies, have conversations early on about the current state and thank them for their patience in advance. You can help prevent issues down the road by getting employees’ buy-in and determining if they feel equipped to handle their job duties and requirements.

2. Recognize the Small Things

image of a man in a suit holding a gold star between his thumb and forefinger to avoid his staff from quiet quittingOne of the main drivers of disengagement is a lack of recognition. If your efforts aren’t recognized or appreciated, then why try? Recognition motivates employees, it provides a sense of accomplishment. When people feel valued, they are more engaged. And a recognized employee is a more productive employee.

Work to prevent quiet quitting before it happens with recognition. It doesn’t have to be over the top. Most people just want to hear a simple thank you. When someone does something well, no matter how small, thank them and tell them they are appreciated. Send them a spontaneous thank you card in the mail. Start a kudos board and encourage peer-to-peer recognition. When someone goes above and beyond, kick up the recognition. Give them a certificate or a gift card that is relevant to them. Take them out for nice lunch. Bring in pizza. If your team has moved mountains, have a catered lunch, host a little awards ceremony and create fun awards for every team member.

If you want people to go above and beyond, you need to recognize them when they do. You don’t need a big budget or much extra time. People appreciate the little things. Authentic, regular and timely recognition keeps employees engaged and satisfied at work.

And always, always thank people for going the extra mile, including listening when they need to vent about their overwhelm.

3. Reward the Big Things

It doesn’t matter how much you enjoy your job, how much you like your boss and colleagues, or how appreciated you feel – if your pay doesn’t match job duties, responsibilities and performance, you won’t feel motivated to work. Quiet quitting illustrates this fact. “Acting your wage,” a concept tied in with quiet quitting, essentially means putting in the amount of effort that matches your salary. Employees realize they have been putting in a lot more effort than their salary shows, so they are cutting back on their work, putting in the amount they feel reflects their wages.

Oftentimes, employees are asked to take on the job responsibilities of a position that was recently vacated or a position they are working to fill. Some employees are asked to take on an informal leadership role. They are told this won’t be for long, a few days, two weeks tops. But the issue is that this is a slippery slope before that is permanent, and people know it. No more pulling the wool over people’s eyes about how more work doesn’t equal more money. When someone gives more time, and the paycheque doesn’t match that increase, we are literally asking people to do more with less.

If you want to dissuade people from quitting quietly, ensure they know that when they go above and beyond, they’ll be rewarded fairly. Simple recognition is sufficient for smaller things; rewards need to enter into the equation (pay, bonus, time off, benefits, etc) at some point. Otherwise, we’re just inviting a competitor, another industry, or their own side gig they’ve been growing to swoop in and grab their heart, mind and talents.

4. Create Opportunities for Growth

image of wooden blocks and arrows pointing upward representing stairs of growth to prevent quiet quittingThe lack of advancement opportunities was a driving force for many quiet quitters. Employees found themselves going above and beyond, pushing themselves to the brink of burnout, with no promotional opportunities in sight. They began to question what exactly they were pushing themselves so hard for.

One quiet quitter, who took to TikTok to share her experiences, is a teacher. As a teacher, it doesn’t matter how hard you work or how many hours you put in, the promotional opportunities are extremely limited, and that’s exactly what drove her to quit quietly. My hub can relate. He runs the “Trusted Adult” program designed to ensure kids don’t slip through the cracks and lower suicide risk because he’s deeply passionate about it. He hasn’t taken on any coaching this year for the first time in 20 years. He says he might, but he’s clear it won’t be out of obligation; it will be because he adores the kids, has the support of fellow coaches, and the club or team has the resources to be successful. In other words, it’s if he and his students will grow as a result. If it’s not a “heck yes,” it’s a “heck no” for him. This is quiet quitting.

If you want people to be engaged and work hard, you need to give them something to work towards.

If your industry isn’t set up in a way where promotional opportunities are abundant, like teaching, then find other advancement opportunities to offer. Provide coaching and mentoring opportunities, continuing education courses, and purpose-enriching possibilities, tuition reimbursement programs, skills training, leadership development programs, cross-training, stretch assignments, and purpose-enriching opportunities.

People don’t want to feel stuck at a dead-end job or one that puts them at risk of soul poisoning. By creating an abundance of growth and development opportunities, you fuel intrinsic (internal) motivation with something they can work toward that they care about.

5. Respect Work-Life Balance

image of blocks stacked that say work and life on a balance scale hoping to stop quiet quitting Quiet quitting emerged largely in response to burnout. Quiet quitters want a greater work-life balance. They want more firm boundaries about overtime and not getting called into work during their time off. Help prevent quiet quitting before it happens by building a culture that respects work-life balance.

Let your employees know that taking time off work and unplugging is okay. Better yet, make it a requirement. Enact a policy that limits when emails can be received. Don’t allow company laptops to be taken home. Encourage people to be out of reach when they are on vacation. Allow employees to take their personal days, no questions asked. Be vocal about your employees’ right to personal time.

And as a leader, demonstrate these behaviours yourself. I used to hand my Blackberry into HR to as a visible reminder that I’m 100% not available. If there were unaddressed crisis when I got back, I had to work on a plan with my team and bosses so that I wasn’t the bottleneck in managing important things. We used to think “what would happen if I got hit by a bus?” Now, it can be replaced with, “what happens when you go on vacation?” Fit it practively, including de-stigmatizing “work hard to prove you’re worth” by preparing for your time off with your team. Modelling this helps to create a workplace where personal time is respected and valued.

Quiet quitting has only reaffirmed all the other workplace trends since COVID has demonstrated: people want something different. Work is not the centre of everyone’s lives. People want a balance. Few “live to work” and why should they pretend they do? To retain the best, you need to create a culture that reflects these changing values.

Can we help you retain your quiet quitter?

Send us a message at info@greatnessmagnified.com. We’re all in to support you, so reach out. We’re here for you.

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