Navigating the “quiet quitters” on your team

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2023 Report, a significant number of employees across the globe are “quiet quitting”. This means they’re putting in the minimum effort required, they’re psychologically disconnected, and they’re more likely to feel stressed and burnt out. In this blog, we learn about navigating the “quiet quitters” on your team and guiding them into becoming productive and engaged workers.

While it’s undeniably difficult to navigate unengaged workers, these employees offer a massive opportunity to increase productivity and drive greater economic growth. Gallup estimates that low engagement costs the global economy $8.8 trillion annually, and that the quiet quitters on your team are often just waiting for a leader to connect with them, encourage them, and inspire them. That’s where you come in.

As a leader, you have the power to truly impact the way your employees feel at work. In fact, 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager, per Gallup, which means that what you do to address the needs of any quiet quitters on your team can really make a difference.

Here are some tips for navigating the quiet quitters on your team:

Be observant

Pay close attention to your employees’ behaviours, attitudes, and performances. If you notice a change in someone’s behaviour or feel they’re pulling back from their work, take note. Try to put that shift or disconnect into words that you can later reference in a conversation. Ask yourself questions like, when did I start noticing a change? What seems to be different? Has this happened before? What have I tried so far? Does anything seem to help? If relevant, chat with other people who may oversee the team members’ work to find out if they’ve noticed anything out of the ordinary as well. This way, when it comes time to have a conversation with the respective team members, you are prepared and can effectively guide the conversation toward solutions.

Have open and honest conversation

Set up one-on-one meetings with any employees you suspect may be quiet quitting to check in. Really try to create space for them to feel safe expressing what’s going on by emphasising that you’re here for them and asking open-ended questions to encourage honesty, such as:

• How are you feeling about your work and the projects you’re involved in right now?

• How would you describe your motivation and enthusiasm for your work recently?

• Have there been any changes in your work environment or team dynamics that are impacting your engagement?

• How do you feel about your workload and work-life balance?

• Do you feel like you have enough opportunities for growth and development?

• Do you feel that your skills and strengths are fully utilised in your current role?

• Is there anything specific that I can do to better support you?

These kinds of questions can open the door to genuine feedback, help you identify what may be triggering the quiet quitting, and signal to your employees that you’re committed to ensuring they have a positive work experience.

Personalise solutions

Once you understand what’s likely causing the quiet quitting, carve out time with your team members to discuss tangible solutions. Remember that each employee may have unique circumstances contributing to their quiet quitting, so a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the answer. You need to tailor your fixes to each employee’s needs and situations.

For example, if you find that the disengagement is the result of an overwhelming workload, sit down with the employee to discuss how they can set effective boundaries, review all of their responsibilities together, help them prioritise their tasks, and identify projects or duties that can be delegated to others when relevant. And if you find the quiet quitting is related to an employee’s desire to improve their work-life balance, be clear that you want your employees to set healthy boundaries and prioritise their wellbeing. Highlight the importance of taking time off and unplugging at the end of the work day and emphasise that working long hours isn’t what it takes to be successful on your team – what matters most is the quality of the work your employees deliver.

Set clear expectations

Sometimes quiet quitting is the result of a lack of perceived growth opportunities, so be proactive and do your best to set clear benchmarks for your team about what it takes to get promoted to a more senior position. What does it mean to meet expectations? What constitutes exceeding expectations? The more you can outline key milestones to reach, establish quantitative KPIs, and define the kinds of contributions that are expected in order to take that next step, the better. Remember that people talk, so it’s essential to remain consistent in the expectations you share and to create a clear standard for growth so that there’s a cross-team sense that processes are straightforward and logical. 

Additionally, make sure to give your employees real opportunities to shine. If they don’t have the chance to prove themselves and make an impact, your expectations could be perceived as unfair and unrealistic. 

Recognise and celebrate achievements

One of the greatest ways to drive more engagement is to really recognise your team members for their positive contributions and impact. Recent research by Quantum Workplace found that more than 50% of employees want more recognition from their immediate managers and that when employees believe they will be recognised, they are 2.7x more likely to be highly engaged. And it makes sense: when employees receive recognition for the work they do, it signals a level of job mastery and really helps them feel valued. So, do your best to give frequent, authentic, and specific credit to your team members when they do something great.

Follow up

Regardless of the reason for the quiet quitting, work with your team members to identify potential solutions together, and then follow up. Pay attention to whether you’ve seen any shifts in their behaviour or energy since you started making changes. Similarly, during one-on-one meetings, check in and ask them how things are going. Emphasise that you’re committed to building a positive, healthy, and meaningful experience for them at work and that you always want them to feel comfortable coming to you when something needs to be addressed.

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