- Companies want driven employees who are motivated to take the extra step or go the extra mile. .
- “Quiet quitting” is the term given to a set of employee behaviors such as not speaking up and not going above and beyond their job description.
- Employees who aren't empowered to take command, do only the minimum amount of work, and are not embracing the workplace culture are disengaged.
- When employees exhibit behaviors associated with quiet quitting, they are really signaling to companies that they are disengaged.
A new trend has emerged in the business world—quiet quitting. But is it really new? What’s causing quiet quitting? And how can we combat this worrying development?
What Is Quiet Quitting?
“Quiet quitting” is the term given to a set of employee behaviors such as not speaking up and not going above and beyond their job description. Companies want driven employees who are intrinsically motivated to take the extra step or go the extra mile. Unfortunately, the rise of worker boundaries and the search for work-life balance means many employees are exhibiting quiet quitting behaviors.
Is Quiet Quitting Bad?
Quiet quitting at work is happening, but it’s a problem that’s blown out of proportion. Some people just aren’t ambitious. Some people, justifiably, don’t feel they should do extra without being paid extra. But very few people who would be labeled “quiet quitters” are actually looking to quit. (The people you need to be worried about quitting are the actively disengaged employees who are showing clear signs and maybe even outright saying they are looking for new employment.)
And that’s what it boils down to. The name “quiet quitting” is disconnected from the actual problem—a lack of employee engagement.
One or two data points aren’t conclusive, but three points now show a worrying trend—employee engagement is going way down. According to Gallup, in 2020, 36% of employees were engaged, and 14% were actively disengaged. In 2021, 34% of employees were engaged, and 16% were actively disengaged. Now, in 2022, 32% are engaged, and 18% are actively disengaged.
What does disengagement look like?
It looks like an employee who doesn’t speak up in meetings because they feel management doesn’t care or the organization never takes a chance on something creative. It looks like an employee who isn’t empowered to take chances or even go above and beyond, so therefore they do the minimum amount of work. It looks like an employee who doesn’t feel psychologically safe in their company’s work environment and culture.
It looks like quiet quitting.
The Problems Behind Quiet Quitting
What is causing disengagement that is leading to these behaviors we might label “quiet quitting”? There are two main reasons.
Managers Need to Engage Workers
Recent Dale Carnegie research tells us that managers play a huge role in employee engagement. They are key in creating psychologically safe spaces through empathy, key in translating the organizational purpose, and key to increasing engagement by paying attention to emotional and organizational drivers.
Yet, our research shows only 38% of employees have confidence in their immediate supervisor, and only 26% value their relationship with their manager. Managers can be doing more to connect with and engage employees.
For example, prior Dale Carnegie research shows that the drivers of worker engagement include feeling valued, confident, and empowered. Managers can:
- Show more appreciation for employee efforts, not just successes.
- Provide on-the-job training to get employees confident in their work skills.
- Empower employees to make more decisions and take some risks.
Another driving factor of employee engagement is organizational purpose. Companies with a clear purpose or mission can translate that to employees through managers. But our research shows only 33% of employees believe in their company’s mission. Managers would be responsible for connecting tasks to the company’s purpose and showing employees how they are truly contributing to it.
Organizations Need to Change Company Culture
But quiet quitting isn’t just a result of managers struggling to manage. We have to concede that the way a company functions and the training they give to managers is directly tied to their managers’ poor performance and, in turn, their employees’ behaviors.
Gallup says that only 35% of managers in the US are engaged. Strikingly, 51% are not engaged, while 14% are actively disengaged. If managers are to do their jobs well, then they need the tools, training, and empowerment to do it (just like employees need from their managers).
Therefore, the company itself must also change. This could mean finding a clearer organizational purpose and using it to motivate employees. It could mean senior leadership changing their management style. It could mean starting an official employee engagement program. It could mean providing training in empathy, leadership, or communication skills for managers.
Ideally, it’s all these things. Companies must create psychologically safe spaces and foster creativity by taking risks on new ideas. For employees to change and managers to change, companies must change themselves.
The Benefits of Re-Engaged Employees
There are big benefits to increasing empathy, training managers, and re-engaging employees. Of companies employing creativity and taking risks in their work, 67% report above-average revenue growth. Companies in the top quartile for employee engagement show 10% better customer loyalty, an 18% rise in productivity, and an 81% drop in absenteeism. Companies that focus on the employee experience can improve their business.
Conversely, Gallup tells us that non-engaged and actively disengaged managers and employees cost companies a combined $319 billion to $398 billion annually. This means your company could be paying big for your disengaged employees.
When employees exhibit behaviors associated with quiet quitting, they are really signaling to companies that they are disengaged. This puts it on managers, senior leadership, and the organizational culture to bring them back around and re-engage them.