Here’s How to Wake Up ‘Quiet Quitters’

Employee turnover costs can be significant for any company, but do you know what costs even more? Apathy.

When workers are demotivated, they’ll fall back on doing the absolute bare minimum. They may be mostly doing their job, but they likely aren’t doing it well and they don’t really care anymore. That kind of disengagement has an insidious long-term effect that goes beyond the individual employee. It eats away overall productivity for the entire team and company. 


So how can you prevent quiet quitters from costing you big time? Get them talking.

When it comes to disengagement, silence is not your friend. The situation seldom improves solely with time. If you’ve got a formal program for career coaching that is either stalled or delayed, it’s time to get it reactivated. Prioritize your session with those that appear to have stopped giving discretionary effort.

First, hear them out.

It starts by understanding what made them disconnect to begin with. On occasion you will uncover one big inciting event, but more frequently the root cause is a series of small frustrations that have expanded over time. It may be tempting to hit them with threats to their employment, but give them an opportunity to talk through the issues and name their ailment.

Next, probe for pain.

Look for spots in the two-way exchange where the disengaged team member expresses emotion. Slow down and explore any dialogue that conveys anger or frustration, sadness, or regret. Reflect back to them what you observe.

Remember, it’s not always about you.

Root causes for employee disengagement aren’t always work-related. Health challenges, relationship struggles, financial stressors, and even pet problems can cause an employee to succumb to quitting on the job. Allowing an employee to surface those issues with their manager can often lead to rapid change, simply by acknowledging they exist, offering empathy, and discussing temporary relaxation of work requirements. Accommodating a direct report as they traverse a difficult period over the short term can lead to long-term recovery and grateful retention.

Seek out their hot button.

Help your quiet quitter imagine something better that would be a valued win for them personally, then partner with them to make it happen. Then they’ll stick with you for the longer haul. Just remember that not everyone wants the same thing. Some hunger for the C-Suite while it would cause others to go on a hunger strike. Help quiet quitters visualize and actualize their dream destination and they will happily re-engage.

You also need to empower their future.

Don’t let this all come down to talk. Help them create a concrete plan with quality SMART goals that will structure their metamorphosis. Let them see and share progress on their personal and professional evolution to get your quiet quitters to re-engage.

The solution to quiet quitting is to reinvigorate the relationship the employee has with their manager, their team, and the company. What looks like laziness on the outside likely has much deeper reasons that will require engaging with a direct report to resolve. 

A great performance management process will help you do exactly that. Does your process help you revitalize and excite your employees?

Gary Markle is the creator of the Catalytic Coaching performance management system and Chief Catalyst at Catalytic Coaching Inc., a business partner of Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s survey partner for Top Workplaces.

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