How can Managers Solve the Problem of Quiet Quitting?

The trend of quiet quitting has taken social media by storm over the past few months. What began as a seemingly unserious TikTok trend, has become a real point of contention between employees and managers. Quiet quitting is best described as workers choosing to reject “hustle culture”.

The notion of going above and beyond at work was once celebrated and even encouraged. Now, millions of people are flocking to social media to share that they’ve chosen to solely do what their job description requires of them – nothing more. Quiet quitters rally around the shared objective of prioritising their well-being, rather than dedicating time to additional work. This idea is arguably an offshoot of the great resignation, where employees left their jobs en masse amidst the pandemic.

We’ve faced unprecedented challenges

The trend picked up steam on TikTok but has since spread across social media, and into boardrooms. At its core, quiet quitting is more than just a rebellion by lazy employees who shudder at the thought of productive output. It tells a tale that many of those we work with have become disengaged following consecutive, unforeseen events over the last few years. Gallup’s global workplace report, released in June 2022, revealed that only 9% of UK workers felt engaged or enthusiastic about their work. Just think about that for a minute – that means over 90% are disengaged. Out of the 38 European countries in the report, the UK ranked 33rd for engagement.

While these results are far from positive, they’re also entirely unsurprising. We’ve worked through an unprecedented pandemic, the anxiety of the war in Ukraine, and now, a cost-of-living crisis. The backdrop of compounding societal challenges has made it difficult for many of us to prioritise our work and career development.

It’s difficult to disagree with the impact of these circumstances, but opinions on quiet quitting still vary significantly. Kevin O’Leary, the famed investor and star of “Shark Tank” told CNBC that quiet quitting isn’t a good idea. O’Leary added that “people that go beyond to try to solve problems for the organization” are the ones who succeed. On the other hand, Ranjay Gulati of the Harvard Business School told the Guardian that quiet quitting is in fact the “great rethink”, where people re-evaluate their lives and prospects.

Managers and employees need to work together

Conflict aside, the main objective is to try to identify a solution. What can companies do to engage their employees?

A challenge very few, if any, are speaking about is the general listlessness within organisations and employees. You can put all the benefits, all the rewards, and all the hygiene factors in, but if we, as managers, don’t talk to our teams and engage with them differently then nothing will change. As managers, we need the skills to help build a picture for our direct reports of how they can contribute and advance. We need to find more opportunities to offer appreciative and constructive feedback, so our teams really believe they are being managed and supported and opportunities are being opened up to them. If we don’t do this, then they’ll go elsewhere or quietly resign from their role, and that’s the crisis.

To solve this problem, we need to develop new skills. One critical skill is the ability to be able to ask powerful questions and listen intuitively, these two specific skills are covered in detail in the book ‘The Answer is a Question‘, and can immediately help us and the wider organisation to improve outcomes.

Taking it one step further, The London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) conducted a detailed academic study on the multi-award-winning STAR® Manager programme which proved that an Enquiry-Led Approach (ELA®) equips managers with the tools to make better decisions, improve their capability, build better relationships and change the nature of how they spend their time to work smarter rather than harder. The study also showed that organisations that had managers employing these skills were able to dramatically improve retention by a factor of six times and have much more engaged colleagues. The answer to quiet quitting is really about asking respectful and engaging questions, that’s all it is. Learning how to master this skill should be the priority of all good managers and leaders.

Beyond that, individuals at all levels in the workplace should also accept responsibility for creating a collaborative culture. As managers, we should look at the bigger picture of creating opportunities to develop and advance our direct reports. To support this, our team members also have a responsibility to understand and be mindful that their employment isn’t a right.

Final thoughts

Now is the time for management to come out from behind its screen, get out from behind the task list and start to engage with people. The solution lies in both managers and employees intentionally asking questions in order to reach a resolution that works for everyone.

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