Best Way to Respond to Quiet Quitter

Quiet quitting is a hot topic, especially for leadership, managers, and human resources. In essence, quiet quitting is psychological detachment from work and, typically, when people intentionally choosing to invest more of their time and energy into their lives outside of work.

responding to quitter

For organizations, quiet quitting means reduced employee engagement. Gallup estimates that quiet quitters make up at least half of the U.S. workforce. In other words, one out of every two employees is doing the bare minimum to get by, unwilling to go the extra mile for the organization.

Recent research by Energage supports a similar narrative: 

  • 42 percent of Top Workplaces Research Lab participants have seen evidence of quiet quitting at their organizations.
  • Large organizations (+1,000 employees) are feeling it the most, with 65 percent reporting evidence of quiet quitting vs. 39 percent at small organizations. 
  • 68 percent of responders who rank employee turnover as a primary concern also indicated higher levels of quiet quitting. 

While the term “quiet quitting” is new, the concept is not. Energage research of 240,000 U.S. workers indicates that, on average, approximately one in three employees is struggling: 

  • 22 percent feel that work interferes with their personal lives.
  • 28 percent are anxious or upset because of work.
  • 29 percent feel work stress negatively impacts the rest of their lives.
  • 38 percent are overwhelmed at work. 

Workers believe quiet quitting is one way to protect mental health and avoid burnout while prioritizing friends, family, and personal interests. Workplace experts and organizational leaders argue that quiet quitting harms long-term professional development and career growth. The potential effects of quiet quitting include weakened productivity, poor work quality and low morale.

In an uncertain economy, companies cannot afford these types of labor issues. Quiet quitters also create conflict with coworkers who are forced to pick up the slack and are frustrated by a lack of collaboration. This fuels dissatisfaction among employees and impacts workplace culture. 

For employers, what’s the best response to quiet quitters? Here are three general approaches: 

  • Communicate: Build trust-based relationships with employees. Through open and honest communication, managers invite employees to raise concerns, express needs, and discuss career paths. 
  • Quiet firing: Like quiet quieting, “quiet firing” has been a response by managers who take a passive-aggressive approach by denying raises, promotions and professional development opportunities. In other words, employees are managed out rather than managed up. 
  • Termination: While the great resignation led to more open jobs and employees in the driver’s seat, the looming recession poses a risk for quiet quitters who could be the first to go when the economy shifts. 

To reduce quiet quitting, the best first step is to find out what’s on the minds of employees. Here are four tips to help reduce the signs of a bad work culture and inspire employees to join in rather than check out.  

  • Listen: Employee-manager conversations are the most effective way to prevent or respond to quiet quitting. Listening to employees instead of retaliating against them allows companies to gather valuable insights. The more managers learn about their employees, the more companies can respond appropriately. 
  • Create a people-first culture: Great leaders — such as those at Top Workplaces — understand the benefits of building a people-first culture, from engagement and retention to productivity, innovation, efficiency, and more.
  • Recalibrate: Address understaffing or high work volumes at the source and experiment with ways to improve efficiency, interdepartmental cooperation, and open-mindedness.
  • Boost engagement: At its core, improving employee engagement is an effective employee retention plan that also minimizes quiet quitting. Successful employee engagement strategies also boost productivity and encourage referrals.

Capturing data-driven employee survey insights is an effective way to measure where your culture stands and learn what’s on the minds of employees.

Bob Helbig is media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s survey partner for Top Workplaces.

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