Tag: workplace engagement

Simple Steps to Reduce Quiet Quitting in 2024

To reduce quiet quitting at workplace, provide clear performance expectations, encourage autonomy, have fewer meetings, communicate, connect, and engage your workforce.

Quiet quitting is not new. It’s just gotten more press in the past few years. More than a decade ago, I recommended that a leader invest in the development of his team to improve engagement and collaboration to achieve better results. 

“But what if I develop them and they leave?” he asked.

“What if you don’t develop them and they stay?” I replied. Which of course I said in my most supportive coaching voice. (I used my “inside-the-head” voice for the eye roll.)

Below, you’re going to read a number of statistics, causes, and ideas to reduce quiet quitting. All of it is good information, and all of it is stuff you already know. So, if we already know all this, why does quiet quitting continue to stay on our Top 10 list of people concerns? Really, I’m asking. Why?

If I had to guess, I’d say that we often look for tactical solutions but forget how to engage the “people” at the center of those concerns. We talk about employees, managers, and leaders, but all of them are people. What would it mean for each of us, every day, to engage with every individual we encounter as a person? This may sound fluffy, but it’s not. What does each person need to be their best and to do their best work? 

Let’s flip the question on its head for a moment. Instead of a person, let’s talk about a car. (Humor me.) What does a car need to operate at its best and to do its best work? The car needs gas, oil, and regular maintenance. Unless it’s an electric car, then it has other needs (just like different people do). Let’s assume our car is gas-powered. It’s a great car with a great engine and great potential. Which is all great. But what if I decide I don’t have time to fill the car with gas or change the brake pads, and I don’t understand why I need to change the oil, so I don’t? I’ve also ignored the “Check Engine” light burning brightly on my dashboard for months. Who cares? It’s just light, right? But eventually, my lack of attention and investment in my car are going to cause problems. However, my car is not going to quit quietly. Instead, I run out of gas, my battery dies, my brakes fail, and my engine seizes. All of which leave me stranded on the side of the road in the middle of the desert with only vultures for company.

It’s much easier to pay attention when quitting is loud and obvious, rather than quiet. What does a person need to be their best and to do their best work? There’s no manual for how people operate, but we have some good ideas, many of which you’ll find below. So, let’s review what we already know.

The Stats

Did you know that only one in three workers is fully engaged at work today?  Quiet quitters still make up half of the workforce, as they have for several years.  

A pair of Gallup reports, released in 2022 and 2024, summarize the situation:  

In its 2022 report, Gallup found that 32% of employees were “actively engaged” at work, while 18% were “actively disengaged,” (so-called “loud quitters”), and 50% were simply “not engaged” (the “quiet quitters”).

In the most recent report, released in January 2024, the results were very similar, with 33% of employees “actively engaged,” 16% “actively disengaged,” and at least 50% “not engaged.”

What is Quiet Quitting?

“Quiet quitting” refers to making the minimum effort to stay employed.  Broadly speaking, “quiet quitters” are employees who aren’t engaged at work, but aren’t actively looking for a new job. 

As a post-pandemic phenomenon rooted in lack of engagement, quiet quitting arose in tandem with the Great Resignation.  It increased sharply in the second half of 2021, according to Gallup. It remains a challenge today, but organizations can take simple, practical steps to reduce it.

Causes of quiet quitting

Workplace disruptions

Quiet quitting can be broadly traced to the effects of the pandemic.  Here are some contributing factors:

The Great Resignation was a major contributor to quiet quitting, according to a study reported in Forbes. The Great Resignation placed extra burdens on most of the employees who stayed. It caused organizations to restructure, breaking up teams and putting people in unfamiliar environments.  Not surprisingly, engagement suffered and quiet quitting rose.

Another pandemic-related disruption has been the rise of remote and hybrid work. Many organizations have yet to adapt.  According to Gallup, most managers reported having no formal training to lead a hybrid team. 

Without adequate management, the “new normal” of hybrid work has led to lower levels of engagement and more quiet quitting.

Unclear workplace expectations 

Many employees simply don’t know what they should be working on.  They report a lack of guidance on priorities, deadlines, and organizational goals.  Remote and hybrid workers are twice as likely as in-house workers to say they don’t receive enough guidance. Unclear expectations have been another cause of quiet quitting, according to both Gallup and Forbes.  

Lack of personal connection

 According to Gallup, employees are less likely than before the pandemic to say that “someone cares about them as a person” at work.  This lack of personal connection to the workplace leads to quiet quitting. 

Taking steps to reduce quiet quitting

The good news is that, although “quiet quitters” are not engaged, they are not beyond reach.  

Here are a few simple steps organizations can take to motivate quiet quitters to be more engaged at work.  

Have one conversation per week

This surprisingly simple suggestion comes from the 2024 Gallup report.  It is cited as the single most important step leaders can take to combat quiet quitting.  Spending 15 to 30 minutes per week speaking with each team member has several benefits: 

  • Making sure employees know what is expected of them, including clear priorities, deadlines, and organizational goals.  
  • Checking in with employees who may be struggling or showing signs of becoming disengaged. 
  • Making personal connections to reduce the feeling that “no one cares.”  

Avoid unnecessary meetings

This should be a no-brainer, but reporting in Forbes shows otherwise.  Too many organizations are scheduling ever more meetings to cope with post-pandemic changes. The results have been predictably negative.  

Employees feel micromanaged.  They report lower productivity, with some losing one-quarter to one-half of the workday to meetings.  And despite the time spent, employees feel no more informed about workplace expectations. 

The simple solution is to schedule fewer meetings, with fewer participants.  Avoid “all hands” meetings unless absolutely necessary.  Have conversations instead!

Encourage Autonomy

Encouraging autonomy and showing flexibility is another way to reduce quiet quitting, according to Psychology Today. Increased autonomy promotes feelings of being trusted and valued, rather than being micromanaged. 

Once the organization has made its expectations clear, let individuals decide how they will achieve their goals, as much as possible.  Be flexible in accommodating different working styles so each individual can realize his or her full potential.

The above steps are simple on paper, but harder to implement, especially if we approach fixing our culture and engagement like we would a car, rather than interacting with people. We need to invest time and attention in our people to understand what will help them to be at their best to do their best work. Quiet quitting is our Check Engine light. It’s a good indication that something’s not working, and the light has been flashing on our dashboard for decades. So, what are we going to do about it?

If you would like more information about employee engagement and quiet quitting, please contact us. 

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Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

Boosting Employee Morale is Good Business

Ways to boost employee morale include giving employees autonomy, recognition, appreciation, avoiding burnout, respecting work-life boundaries, etc., per Catamentum leadership coach Rachel Burr.

Happiness and fulfillment is what we all want, in life and at work.   Work forms a big part of our individual identities – our sense of who we are and what we contribute to the world. Work is also an important source of social contact. 

Being happy at work is good for business too. 

Research consistently shows that high employee morale is associated with higher revenue and profitability. High employee morale is also associated with higher productivity and lower use of sick time.

This article will consider three simple strategies to boost employee morale to create a happier, more productive workforce and  increase your organization’s bottom line.

Increase Employee Morale by Fostering Autonomy and Agency

People generally like to feel a sense of being in control of their lives and destinies, not a powerless bystander.  A simple way to boost employee morale, then, is to provide opportunities for employees to exercise autonomy and agency in the workplace.

Autonomy and agency can take many forms.  The American Psychological Association suggests several simple steps, such as

·         Giving employees some control over their schedules and working hours;

·         Allowing employees to manage how assigned tasks are accomplished; and,

·         Giving employees a voice in decisions that affect them.

Another important way is to allow employees to use their natural strengths and talents at work.  An easy way to find out what captures an employee’s passion and interest is by having a conversation.  The next step is to support that passion and interest with career development and training, as needed. 

Recognition, Appreciation, and Pitfalls Thereof

As the Harvard Business Review points out, recognition and appreciation are very different animals.  Both can be beneficial.  Each offers a different way to connect with employees to boost morale.

Employee recognition is essentially transactional.  It rewards a job well done, a goal achieved, or a milestone met.  The reward may be financial but not necessarily so. 

Employee appreciation is the acknowledgement of a person’s inherent value, regardless of goals or milestones achieved.  It can be formal or informal, public or private, according to the circumstances.  It can be as simple as remembering a person’s birthday or giving a note of thanks. 

Celebrating both outstanding performance and inherent value provides the organization with more ways to reach out and interact with employees – to show them you care.  As Maya Angelou says, that’s what they’ll remember.

Paradoxically, some studies have shown that financial incentives can backfire as a reward for performance.  For example, an analysis by the London School of Economics found that financial incentives can reduce an employee’s natural desire to complete tasks, and the pleasure they feel in doing so.  

An article by the American Psychological Association also found that competition to achieve unrealistic performance goals can lead to cynicism and disengagement. 

While we like to receive financial rewards, organizations should handle them with care.

Addressing Employee Morale by Dealing with Structural Issues Leading to Burnout

Organizations have been hit with a number of challenges over the past several years.  We’ve been through the COVID lockdown, the “work-from-home” and “return-to-the-office” disruptions, and now a tight labor market. 

These stressors and disruptions can lead to exhaustion and burnout among employees – which requires a look at deeper, structural issues, with people strategies. The Harvard Business Review emphasizes the effect on middle managers, but any employee can feel the burden of being stretched too thin. 

When demand on employees outstrips their resources, here are some steps to take:

·         Re-assessing the work assigned – ask whether each employee has the resources to keep up;

·         Re-prioritizing the work – make a list of the top three priorities and consider removing outdated issues, or putting them on the back burner;

·         Re-distributing the work – ensure that the burden is equally shared and that no individual is bearing more than their share.  If budgets allow, consider bringing in outside help, whether temporarily or permanently.

Respecting work-life boundaries

Another issue is to look at working culture and working boundaries.  If the work intrudes on employees’ personal lives, it can add to stress and contribute to burnout.  Consider reinforcing the boundaries between working life and personal life. 

For example, implement a “no email on the weekends” rule to make sure employees get some real downtime to recharge.  Another possibility is to make vacation time mandatory.  If vacation is required, employees may feel less inclined to skip taking time off because they’re “too busy.” 

These are just some of the ways organizations can build employee morale for the good of both their employees and their bottom lines.  The key is communication.  If you would like more ideas to keep your employees motivated and engaged, please reach out.

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Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

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