Recent coverage of employees “quiet quitting” – a trending buzzword that means only completing tasks that are strictly in line with an employee’s job description – has many employers concerned about whether their own teams are willing to go above and beyond. But most employees engage in quiet quitting only after their relationship with their employer has already failed. By proactively taking steps to keep employees engaged, boost their morale and reward their valuable contributions to the company, you can avoid having a team full of quiet quitters.
Why do employees quiet quit?
Quiet quitting is a form of disengagement where employees adhere strictly to their job description and avoid taking on additional tasks. For employees that value work/life balance, quiet quitting is a way to avoid occupational burnout, which happens when they burn the candle at both ends for too long. It may also be a response to a lack of acknowledgment or advancement opportunities within the company, which can decimate employee morale.
“The decline in engagement at work is due to a lack of clarity about expectations, fewer opportunities to learn and grow, not feeling cared about, and a disconnect with the organization’s mission or purpose.” said Jim Harter, chief scientist for workplace management at Gallup. Based on a survey he conducted, U.S. employee engagement took another step backward during the second quarter of 2022, with the proportion of engaged workers remaining at 32% but the proportion of actively disengaged increasing to 18%. The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is now 1.8 to 1, the lowest in almost a decade. It’s very important to have the ratio of “engaged” versus “actively disengaged” favor the engaged side, as these employees will stop the “not engaged” from turning into the “actively disengaged.”
Quiet quitters currently make up to 50% of the U.S workforce, falling into the “not engaged” category. They are people who do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job and are separate from the “actively disengaged” category – employees who tend to have most of their workplace needs unmet and spread their dissatisfaction.
As many companies pull back on long-term benefits such as pension plans and trends like outsourcing and remote work become the norm, loyalty in the workplace is not automatic. Keeping a great employee can be just as difficult as finding them in the first place, but it’s not impossible with the right attitude and plan. Ultimately, the happiness of your staff will dictate your ability to retain top talent.
It’s not that employees are unhappy about where they work, but rather how stagnant their professional career has become.
Five ways to prevent quiet quitting
Here is a list of ways you can prevent employees from quiet quitting:
1. Offer quarterly or biannual performance reviews.
Increasing the frequency of performance reviews will allow and encourage ongoing and open dialogue with employees. Employees want feedback, and performance reviews are an opportunity to give it to them.
Performance reviews are also an opportunity for managers to hear from their employees about current projects they’re working on, the obstacles they face and what kinds of support and resources they need to succeed. Employees who are allowed to provide feedback to their employers feel valued.
“Business leaders need to facilitate, encourage and enrich dialogue so employees gain a greater understanding of where they stand in the organization,” said Tabetha Sheaver, owner of Plus Delta, a business consultancy. “They need to converse freely with management about not only their job, but about their hopes and aspirations. In other words, [they need to] create a safe space for two-way conversations.”
The outcome of these meetings should be a road map to help guide an employee toward the growth they want in their life and career. Employees should walk away from these reviews with a clear understanding that their abilities and potential are recognized and appreciated, and that the employer is eager to facilitate their progress toward their goals.
To make the most out of your employee performance reviews, read our guide for key advice that will improve your process and help create the sort of open communication that trusting relationships are founded on.
2. Manage expectations early on.
It is not unheard of for the needs of teams to change or for roles to widen in scope over time. The reality of the ever-changing business world is that most roles evolve beyond the description in the job posting, especially for skilled and talented employees. However, when these changes happen shortly after hiring, employees may feel ambushed and overwhelmed.
One way to prevent employees from feeling they’ve been caught by a bait-and-switch is to be upfront about how the role may evolve in the interview stage. As a manager, your employees should know what is expected of them on or before their first day and over time.
For example, you can mention that you eventually envision the position expanding to include different duties and what they would be. Discussing this possibility early on allows you to manage expectations and find a candidate comfortable with this growth. It also means your new hire won’t feel tricked down the line if you ask them to take on additional responsibilities.
Establishing workplace expectations can help align professional goals with abilities and create a more trusting professional relationship with co-workers and supervisors.
3. Promote leadership and learning opportunities.
Opportunities for learning and leadership development are crucial for improving employees’ organizational performance and helping them evolve in their careers. Employees who pursue professional development in their careers tend to have higher productivity and job satisfaction.
Companies that offer learning and leadership programs reciprocate employee loyalty by offering opportunities to improve skills and grow, said Matt Erhard, managing partner at Summit Search Group.
“Dedication and loyalty have always been two-way streets. If employees know hard work will be rewarded and feel like their employer is invested in their future, they’ll be less likely to ‘check out’ or quietly quit,” Erhard said.
When employees know that not only is there an opportunity for growth in their professional careers, but that their company has a plan to put them through a development program, it creates hope and excitement. If an employee expresses an interest in exploring tasks in departments outside their own, employers could seek to reward that with an opportunity to work with other teams – and perhaps make those roles part of the employee’s job description if they excel. Giving employees a sense of influence and ownership over the work they do can boost their engagement and morale.
“When organizations allow people to personalize their roles early on, a greater sense of impact and purpose can motivate them to contribute new ideas from the start,” said Dan Capawana, an account director at PR and communications company ICR. “Leaders need to empower their teams to embrace their entrepreneurial spirit, take more ownership over their work – and ultimately careers – by seizing new opportunities. This leads to a happier, more engaged workforce and, in turn, further business growth.”
4. Recognize and reward employee achievements.
Employees want to feel appreciated and valued for what they do. By recognizing, acknowledging and rewarding employees for outstanding work, you show your staff that what they do matters to both you and the organization. You also demonstrate that going above and beyond what is strictly in their job experience might benefit them.
In a study conducted by Deloitte, employees consistently said being recognized was an important component of their own engagement. Recognition led them to invest in themselves at work, ultimately growing their careers.
“Rewarding and recognizing employees is one way to create a positive workplace culture that prevents employees from quiet quitting,” said Marcus Clarke, founder of SEO company Searchant.co. “Incorporating a rewards and recognition program makes employees feel valued, especially for the extra effort they put in at work.
“So, find small ways to celebrate your employees as often as possible,” Clarke added. “Look for simple acts to show your workers you care about them. This will increase employee engagement, leading to many benefits for the company, like increased productivity and retention.”
Employee rewards can include a pat on the back and a genuine compliment. Sometimes, a simple thank you or a recognition during the weekly team meetings is all it takes to put a smile on an employee’s face. For employees who consistently go above and beyond, consider creating a monthly or quarterly MVP award, and offer other employees the chance to vote on which team member they think deserves it the most.
Encourage peer-to-peer recognition. Team members are in a perfect position to give one another regular and relevant praise for big and small achievements alike.
There are other ways to show employees appreciation, such as promotions, compensation increases and bonuses. These employee incentives help demonstrate that when employees go above and beyond, financial rewards and career advancement opportunities are available to them.
Rewards, if implemented correctly, have a positive effect on an organization’s goals. Well-designed employee incentive programs can boost profitability, reward the best workers, support business values, improve teamwork and morale, and attract (as well as retain) top talent.
5. Maintain boundaries and respect work/life balance.
Balancing your professional and personal lives can be challenging, but it’s essential. Occupational burnout is one of the primary reasons employees started quiet quitting in the first place. It’s important to get the most out of your employees, but driving them to a place of burnout could end up having unintended consequences that kill productivity and morale.
Many employees today are adamant about setting more distinct boundaries that support a healthier work-life balance. You can reinforce those boundaries on your employees’ behalf, for example:
- Offer a robust paid time off package and encourage employees to use it.
- Emphasize that answering after-hours calls or emails is optional.
- Define what constitutes a true after-hours emergency and then stick to it.
- Reward employees for staying late by allowing them to leave early another day.
- Step in when co-workers pressure each other to overwork, and create a way for staff to report this occurrence safely.
When employees take time to rest and recharge, their time on the clock is more productive and effective for your businesswide goals. A good manager should encourage employees to unplug and enjoy their personal time as much as possible.
Under French Law, businesses can’t email employees after work hours. The law protects employees’ “right to disconnect.” It stipulates that employers cannot require their employees to be available for workplace communication, like calls or emails, outside of regular work hours or during their time off.
Building an engaging workplace
Employees want to feel enthusiastic about, connected to and invested in their work. Understanding the needs of your employees is more crucial now than ever before. This crisis will only be resolved by having managers converse with employees to reduce disengagement and burnout.
Having a plan of action – creating accountability for individual performance, collaboration among teams and showing employees how their work contributes to the organization’s objectives – is a great guideline for employee happiness and company communication.