Remember the “Raspberry Beret” song by Prince? Besides a catchy chorus, it includes these lyrics: “Seems that I was busy doing something close to nothing, but different than the day before.”
It seems Prince may have been singing about the silent quit, soft quitting, or the more alliterative synonym, quiet quitting, long before they became household terms in the past-pandemic world of today.
Quiet quitting is performing just the minimum necessary requirements of a job. The employee doesn’t literally quit, is still at work and is paid, but basically is the motivational equivalent of a burst balloon.
A Gallup survey said more than 50 percent of the United States workforce is composed of quiet quitters doing the bare minimum and avoiding arriving early, staying late, volunteering to assist others, or participating in any extracurricular work activities — even the fun ones — beyond the scope of their general role.
Some sources believe quiet quitting is just a new term for an unhappy workforce or a longstanding problem. Think of all the terms you’ve heard over the years for programs thought to be novel ways to improve manufacturing processes or teach children and that may be true. Others have even expanded the quiet quitting term to environments outside the workplace, such as personal social relationships or professional athletes not producing the stellar statistics promised.
However you define it, lack of workforce motivation can be a problem. For a time, managers attributed tolerance of quiet quitting to the difficulty of finding associates to replace their present ones. Since then, some have no tolerance at all for quiet quitters and figure an empty seat is better than continuing to have someone around who doesn’t want to be there. Others have chosen to nudge out the quiet quitters who stay by altering their jobs to the point that the employees feel compelled to resign.
Though younger generations may not stay at the same jobs for 30 years as their forerunners did, they may actually change jobs often enough to remain energized and avoid quiet quitting.
Rather than focusing on negativity, try talking with, mentoring and surveying your employees before they get to the point of quiet quitting. Is there a way to pair someone aspiring to be in an elevated role with someone already in it as an occasional mentor or contact? Are there passions or credentials that an associate has beyond the workplace that can be integrated from time to time in the workplace, such as teaching an introductory yoga class to co-workers or providing CPR instruction as the in-house instructor? Co-workers may respond to seeing one of their own in a leadership role in a new light even more than to a hired consultant.
Establish regular top-to-bottom evaluations of employee wellbeing sentiments and look at whether they are consistent or change from quarter to quarter. Intercede when there are visible opportunities for improvement.
In addition to reviewing the sentiments of associates, go further and see where they are coming from and why. Is an associate you’ve known to be typically enthused with her role now unhappy because of a change in reporting structure to a manager in need of additional leadership training to better connect with others in order to become more effective?
Involve both your internal team and external experts in looking at the underlying currents of sentiments in your company. Identify the real reasons for associate apathy. Doing so can help you turn your workforce around to one that is more cohesive, more caring and more committed than a quorum of quiet quitters.