Engaging employees to avoid a 'quiet quitting' epidemic

‘Quiet quitting’ and the threat to the health of organisations

The concept, coined by TikTokers, of ‘quitting’ without actually leaving sees employees checking out mentally and delivering the bare minimum in their role. This isn’t a surprising trend, given that Gallup’s global workplace report for 2022 showed that only 9% of workers in the UK were engaged or enthusiastic about their work, which will be a huge contributing factor in the rise of ‘quiet quitting’

However, is quiet quitting just one of the many indications of the seismic shift in how employees are prioritising their mental wellness and personal lives over work, post-pandemic, or is it a more worrying trend of disengagement? Whichever it is, the key to addressing it is for better  awareness and training to recognise the early signs of disengagement and implement the right employee experience strategies to avoid it becoming a widescale problem.

For many employees, quiet quitting is simply a way of creating boundaries between their work life and home life, which have been blurred by home working. For others, it is driven by a disconnection that has been perpetuated by hybrid working environments and the explosion of digital communication channels that remove many of the opportunities to emotionally engage with one another.

Whilst recognising a need for boundaries between work and life – and there shouldn’t be a need to be ‘quiet’ about that – it’s the more toxic element of #antiwork that will have a far-reaching impact on an organisation. From the lost productivity cost of an underperformer to poor morale of managers and other team members picking up the slack, toxic quiet quitting is a huge risk to businesses – and not forgetting the potential impact on the mental health of the disengaged employee. So, employers need to recognise and address the issue – and fast, before quiet quitting becomes the next pandemic!

Hybrid working environments have created more opportunity for the disengaged quiet quitters to hide, making it harder for managers to quickly identify when the issue begins to arise. So, as we settle into new ways of working quiet quitting is likely to become much more prevalent as many workplaces remain physically disconnected.

HR departments need to focus on how to empower managers with the data and tools to spot disengagement early, overcome barriers to creating emotional engagement for employees, and deal with underperformance effectively, for the benefit of the employee and the business. Effective employee experience strategies are key to reducing the likelihood of an employee becoming disengaged and quiet quitting.

Here are some signs that employers and managers need to watch out for:

  • Unexplained periods of unplanned absence during their working day
  • Less enthusiasm for work than normal
  • Increased sickness and absenteeism
  • Negative language and low morale
  • Poor or declining performance

Good people metrics are key to identifying trends across the business and spotting signs of declining performance or rising absenteeism.

How line managers can effectively turn the tide on toxic quiet quitting:

  • Be open and honest about the issue and engage with your teams to understand whether they feel less engaged than they have before
  • Discuss what would help them to feel more emotionally connected to the business
  • Listen and implement strategies that make them feel valued, such as regular engagement sessions, rewards for high performance and more ‘personal’ connections
  • Ensure targets are clearly communicated and performance well monitored and managed
  • Communicate honestly and authentically, sharing news and updates on the business direction in channels that engage employees no matter where they work
  • Follow up on feedback and show you’re making changes to reengage them

Employee engagement is more than routine one-to-ones and work focused check-ins; it’s about making employees feel valued and recognised for who they are, so that they have a more emotional connection to the organisation. Enabling managers to focus on building more personal relationships and empathy with their teams should help to avoid widespread issues of employee disengagement. Then, if an employee continues to cruise along in spite of the engagement strategies, managers need clear processes to performance manage them, with feedback, consequences and follow-through.

Ensuring managers have the support and tools necessary to tackle disengaged employees will help to reengage and create a healthier, more sustainable working environment.  If this issue is not addressed with the urgency it requires, there is a risk that it will spread quickly throughout organisations and performance and profitability will suffer.

Check out our HR Leader Success Kit for a 10-step guide to people-empowered business transformation that will transform employee engagement. Download it now.

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