The term “quiet quitting” might be new and trending, but workers who aren’t engaged, feel little connection to the organization, and do the bare minimum have been an issue for as long as workplaces have existed.

The only thing new is the name. Quiet quitting has always been a thing. But whether it’s called quiet quitting or slacking, here’s how to recognize and motivate employees who aren’t contributing as much as they can and should.

How Quiet Quitting Hurts Organizations

As employees quietly quit, they become less and less engaged with the organization. Left unchecked, that disengagement only gets worse, with long-term consequences.

Surveys show that quiet quitting is real and substantial: somewhere between one-third and one-half of employees say they’re either disengaged or actively disengaged from their organizations, and their work effort reflects that. Disengaged employees are 2.3x more likely to explore other jobs and almost 3x more likely to leave within 12 months.

What does that mean to the bottom line? An estimated $500 billion per year in the U.S. alone, and double that globally.

Quiet quitters are just showing up, doing the bare minimum. They don’t feel compelled to go above and beyond and are satisfied with the status quo. They want to keep their paychecks but won’t do any more or less than the minimum requirements. Their lack of motivation and enthusiasm can also negatively affect their coworkers.

That’s why quiet quitting is so dangerous. Employees may not necessarily be looking to leave, but they’re not contributing to the best of their abilities. And their attitude can affect other staff.

The benefits of engaging employees are powerful. According to research:

  • Companies with a highly engaged workforce achieve a 41% reduction in absenteeism, a 17% increase in productivity, and 59% less turnover.
  • Engaged employees are 15x more likely to recommend the company to friends and colleagues. They’re also 1.5x more willing to learn new skills and responsibilities and almost 6x more likely to plan on staying for a full career.

Warning Signs of Quiet Quitting

Regardless of their roles, quiet quitters often exhibit one or more of these warning signs.

  • Meets only minimum expectations and standards.
  • Becomes more isolated from team members, even in remote environments.
  • Often withdraws from any non-necessary activities or tasks, such as team-building activities (e.g., happy hours, lunch and learns, development opportunities).
  • Doesn’t want to be involved with special work teams to take on a problem or voluntary tasks (These activities are important for the team and the company.)
  • Attends company meetings when attendance is expected but won’t speak up or ask questions.
  • Keeps cameras off in remote meetings.
  • Becomes more negative and complains more frequently.

These signs don’t necessarily guarantee that an employee has mentally checked out. Some people are shy and reluctant to speak at meetings; some are in situations where they can’t attend an after-work happy hour. But these can be warning signs of quiet quitting, especially when an employee’s performance, engagement, or attitude changes for the worse.

Proactive Steps to Take

The saying, “People don’t leave bad jobs; they leave bad managers,” equally applies to quiet quitting. A recent Gallup poll traces employee engagement to managers. Typically, the managers of those quiet quitters are average/mediocre managers, but managers can take steps to create engagement for employees.

Therefore, it is imperative to enhance the leadership capabilities of supervisors. This starts with hiring and developing managers to better engage employees. Certain habits that managers have, such as the way they lead their team, will increase the chance of having an engaged team or reducing the quiet quitters.

These key questions can help assess a manager’s strengths and weaknesses, which can lead to a customized development plan:

  • Do they have a connection to the vision? Are they able to make that connection to the organizational goals/strategies to employees’ work and what they’re doing so they feel they’re part of the organization?
  • Does the manager create an open and trusting environment?
  • Do they keep commitments to the team?
  • Do they listen to employees?
  • Do they provide actionable feedback to employees?
  • Do they provide autonomy for employees to do their jobs and allow employees to do what they need to do without micromanaging?
  • Do they care about their employees as people and do they care about their personal lives? 
  • Are they giving employees flexibility?
  • Do managers recognize achievements and commitments publicly? 
  • Do they have regular one-on-ones with employees and discussions that focus on the employee’s development and well-being?

360-degree leadership assessments can be another powerful tool to identify skill gaps. Such assessments can also help managers grow and learn, and they can drive a development program for managers.

Proficient managers can proactively identify risk factors associated with quiet quitting and address them before it’s too late. Ultimately, quiet quitting and boosting performance depend on a manager’s willingness to develop a trusting relationship with their staff. Interactions shouldn’t be all task-focused but also include developing an understanding of one another as individuals, not just as workers. Job satisfaction and engagement tie directly to the environment that a manager creates.

Some of that job satisfaction also comes from how well a manager connects the employee to the organization. When the organization makes a decision, that decision should be explained. Employees need to feel that their suggestions are heard, even if not enacted.

One way to combat quiet quitting at the individual level is to conduct stay interviews. This will help deepen the supervisor-employee relationship and uncover personal motivators.  

On an organizational level, regularly scheduled, anonymous employee surveys can be an excellent way to establish metrics. These surveys can uncover potential issues early, as well as pinpoint areas where the organization can improve.

The Lindenberger Group can help organizations train their managers, engage their employees, boost morale and performance, and help measure progress. For more information or to discuss your HR needs, please contact us at 609-730-1049 or send us an email.