Quiet Quitting: Have your people silently checked out?

24 August 2022

Suited man walking

Chris Wickenden 24.08.22

  • Are they truly present, active members of the business community?
  • All of them?
  • Maybe you have a few people in mind that are. What about everyone else?
  • How do you truly know?
  • How well do you listen to what your people are saying?
  • How bothered are your people to actually speak up and share what they’re really
  • How much do you dare to find out?
  • What if they’re pulling the wool over your eyes?

Lots of questions and my aim isn’t to provoke a paranoid, panicked frenzy. Maybe you and your business are doing really well on all of these fronts.

But people have gotten really good at pretending at work – putting on a good professional mask, whilst leaving most of themselves at home. Going through the motions, fulfilling the requirements of their job specs, but not really giving what they’re doing their full attention.

If – and I mean if – no assumptions or judgements here. But IF this is your workforce, what a missed opportunity.

And what a potentially dangerous state for your culture to be in as we approach a likely recession. A time when we need our people to be more awake and actively engaged than ever.

Going through the motions won’t cut it when the motion is taking us off the edge of a cliff fast.

I’m full of hyperbole today. Apologies.

Quiet quitting  – what is it?

So, “quiet quitting” is now a thing.

Everything seems to have a click-baity name now. If you’ve rolled your eyes, I’m with you. There can be a real danger of reductionism when we give every, often nuanced, trend a sticky title.

However, I do think there’s something in this:

@zaidleppelin On quiet quitting #workreform ♬ original sound – ruby


“You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life – the reality is, it’s not”

TikTokker @zkchillin

What’s causing the Quiet Quitting Phenomenon?

It’s a reaction to poor business culture and burnout.

It’s part of a movement to reclaim more balance in life where exhaustion has been the norm.

“No, you’re not having all of me. Why should I kill myself for something and for people that I couldn’t care less about?”

Balance is absolutely crucial and 100% something that should be both strived for and supported by businesses.

So it’s quite alarming that peoples’ solution to reclaiming balance and “enduring” work is simply to check out mentally. So, they’re never fully present. The lights are on, but no-one’s home, so to speak.

Can we honestly say that we’re getting the best out of these people?

They stay busy, doing tasks, at work, but they’re not really there. Fully there. Present.

And poor quality human beings will inevitably lead to poor quality humans doing.

How can we help our workforces to experience healthy balance whilst being fully present rather than mentally absent from work? It’s a duty of care for leaders to understand and better serve, rather than judge, their teams.

Because we need high quality, awake action to face the months ahead effectively.

Again, going through the motions won’t cut it.

Your “marvellous middle.”

Kim Scott, former CEO of Google Ventures brilliantly makes a distinction between the Rockstars and Superstars of companies.

The Rockstars

According to her, the “Rockstars” are the “rocks” of your team. They are reliable, enjoy their work, perform well and aren’t interested in promotion or more responsibility. It’s wrong and judgemental to perceive them as lacking in ambition or drive. They’re crucial for stability. They’re crucial for maintaining excellence and taking care of what is rather than always looking to what next. They help to ground your business.

The Superstars

“Superstars” have a steeper career trajectory as they are driven by new challenges, growth and pushing the boundaries. Their voices and presence are probably more easily heard and felt within businesses. Superstars are needed, but it’s not practical to have a business full of them. Otherwise, who’s taking care of the now?

Pay attention to your rockstars

And it’s probably the “Rockstars” that are most in danger of being overlooked, undervalued and overworked. As a solution, they “quietly quit.” It’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.

We’re currently working with a client that has recognised this challenge and are investing heavily in better understanding the wellbeing, needs and wants of what they’ve christened the “marvellous middle.” The challenge being, to stop it becoming the “miserable middle.”

More sticky names. Sorry.

  • How much do you really know and care about the vast majority that make up the
    middle of your business?
  • How do you reward them?
  • How do you make them feel valued?
  • How do you keep them engaged?

What if they’re already sleepwalking? If they are, then it could be that you’re sleepwalking off the edge of a very steep cliff.

Our guidance to avoid Quiet Quitting in your organisation

I don’t share all of the above to scare anyone into a state of paralysis. It’s all just information that hopefully encourages us to rethink or think deeper about how we do things. It’s so easy to get stuck on the conveyor belt, sleep-walking – at all levels. Hey, what if we’ve quietly quit ourselves and we’re not even aware of it?

And we can’t get stuck sleep-walking now when there could be some nastiness on the horizon.

1. Start with you

  • How awake are you at work?
  • How connected to purpose are you?
  • Have you done any work on this?

If the answer’s no, then I really recommend you to build time in your diary for the lateral thinking that this requires. Bringing more self awareness to our daily lives and our daily work can be transformational when acted upon. Indeed, self management is one of THE key leadership competencies. Do have a look at our webinar on this here: Leading transformational Change: Self Management Using the Trust Equation

How can we ascertain how awake and committed everyone in the business is when we’re sleep-walking ourselves?

2. Ask your people – all of them

Ok, a bit of re-hashed guidance here, from our previous post, but it’s so important:

Put together a comprehensive, anonymous survey to take a temperature reading on the current business culture.

You can be quite direct in asking people their feelings on things when it can’t be traced back to them. And from our experience, you get some pretty honest answers that may stay hidden in the day-to-day BAU. It’s easier to say that you don’t feel very connected to what you’re doing and that you don’t care in an anonymous survey than it is in a direct, frank conversation. It costs less. And for people that have stopped caring and checked out why would they make the effort to have what could be quite an uncomfortable conversation.

Consider whether you can comprehensively conduct this survey internally or if you need some external expertise in executing this. We have partners in this field and would be happy to put you in touch.

3. Show appreciation for your rocks

Think about how you reward those people that turn up every day, do a great job, offer stability, ensure quality, but aren’t necessarily so visible. How can you be more vigilant in ensuring that they’re not forgotten as all of the louder, more visible presences in the businesses get rewarded with pay rises, bonuses and promotions.

It’s so important to work out the right type of reward system for these rocks of the business. Otherwise it’s too easy for them to check out. People do when they’re underappreciated. The information from the anonymous survey above could be incredibly insightful here.

Prevent quiet quitting before it happens…

The real take-away from this piece is to stay awake and stay curious, interested and invested in your people. Then you know that those who remain checked out
just aren’t in the right place and it’s not a consequence of neglect or lack of awareness. Those that buy-in and engage are the people that you need in your business now more than ever – particularly with some potentially challenging times ahead.

The Speakers’ Gym are here to help develop your organisation towards a brighter future – learn more about our Change Management Consultancy.

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