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We sat down with the highly experienced Rob Payne to discuss a workplace phenomena that has a lot of people talking – and concerned.

Q: How would you define “quiet quitting?”

A:  The term “quiet quitting” has been going viral on social media since the pandemic. Basically, it’s all about employees that do the minimum to keep their job. They don’t tend to take initiatives. They don’t really take pride in their work. They’re certainly not motivated to go the extra mile.

Q: Is it a new term?

A:  No, there have been other phrases used in the past, like “retired on the job,”  “resignation on the job,” “the great escape,” and “quiet exodus.” It’s not a new concept, but it’s gained a lot of impetus since all the work-at-home models brought on by COVID-19.

Q:  What are the signs of “quiet quitting?”

A:   Employee’s lack of responsiveness and involvement, not volunteering, absenteeism, etc.  A good manager should notice these signs. At a time when retaining and recruiting top talent is at a very competitive all-time high, managers should be very aware of this.

Q:  What research are you seeing on this behavior?

A:  It’s quite interesting.  Gallup surveys reveal 20% of the global workforce is considered to be engaged and 19% are disengaged. That leaves some 60% who are just quiet, and that’s “quiet quitting.” And that is a lot of the workforce.

Q: So, what should managers be doing?

A:  There are a number of things managers can do to combat quietness and increase employee involvement.

  • Conduct engagement surveys and regular pulse-checking to target and test how engaged employees are and how likely they are to stay with the organization.
  • Watch for red flags. Is productivity off? Are sales down? If any of your metrics are off, it’s time to look for factors affecting performance.
  • Look at your promotion cycles and your bench strength of talent. If it’s light or unmotivated, it could affect your future leadership. If you’re not promoting from within, it’s an indicator you’re not developing talent correctly.
  • Be proactive. If you suspect there’s a concern, address the situation and ask questions. Good managers make all employees feel part of a larger purpose because they instill pride and make objectives clear around a mission or vision.

If employees are working remotely, find ways to energize them through team meetings, activities, emails, motivational quotes, or just through caring. Developing personal relationships with your team members shows that you care.

  • Be a leader. If you are a manager, keep honing your skills. The more you learn, the better the manager you can be. Learn how to have meaningful conversations with your people. Recognize and appreciate what they are doing, reward and encourage where appropriate.
  • Take an honest look at your management style. Managers who overwork their people, don’t respect their boundaries and won’t reward good performance create an environment for the “quiet quitter” to thrive.

Q:  It’s all about creating an engaged workforce, correct?

A:   One hundred per cent. An engaged workforce is the result of a positive culture at work – and it’s up to managers to keep their teams happy, involved and productive.

Q: How does this current situation differ from the past?

A:   Many workers today look at the employment arrangement differently than we used to in the past. If they don’t feel motivated or passionate that their work matters, they tend to go into this “quiet quitting” mode. Ultimately, they become unproductive and have a negative impact on your team, or they quit and you’ve lost your resource. Either way, it’s not a good outcome in the end. This is why both managers and team members must continually light a fire under themselves to get engaged and stay engaged. High turnover is never a good sign for business success.  Even worse is an employee who “quits” but does not leave – which is the very core of “quiet quitting.” This is why it’s crucial for managers to engage, demonstrate you care, and hold employees accountable before you have the need to manage performance. 

Q:  What phrase would you like to see more often for the opposite of “quiet quitting?”

A:   That’s interesting. “Quiet quitting” should not be an acceptable norm. How about something like “loud leadership?” Or “vocal engagement?” We should all work together to stay more motivated and ideally have a more positive workforce in our companies and across the country.

Q: Are you optimistic “quiet quitting” will not prevail?

A:   There is definitely a large population of workers that do not want to be in the office.

Of course, that does not mean they are quietly quitting. It just creates a different environment for managers.  Successful managers will take the initiative by engaging those workers with whatever tactic they choose. I think “quiet quitting” as a concept is still relevant because working remotely can foster it. But I also believe that employees, now more than ever, expect leaders to create an environment where they can passionately thrive, stay engaged and receive recognition.

The bottom line is that managers who are not tuned in to the metrics; who are afraid of having difficult conversations; or who are not properly skilled at building relationships with their people, will be responsible for allowing “quiet quitting” to continue.

We can and must do better to break out of the mold. I believe we can. The leadership expectations and initiatives we are currently instilling at Brightree prove it can be done.

Robert Payne

Robert Payne, HR Leader/Business Partner, Brightree

Robert Payne is our Sr. People Business Partner and has vast experience as a human resources leader and business partner with experience in public, private and professional services organizations. He has a proven ability to effectively develop talent and manage relationships with customers, leaders, peers and direct reports. Robert is also experienced in supporting Corporate, Field, Service and Sales client groups. Additionally, he has a demonstrated ability to align HR objectives with business strategy to drive and accelerate results.


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