What to do about quiet quitting

By now, most of us are familiar with the concept of quiet quitting, whereby previously high-performing team members remain in their jobs, cutting back to minimum productivity and performance and, often, taking on an increasingly negative mindset.

It’s something of a concerning phenomenon for a few reasons. It impacts team and even organisational performance and affects others in the workplace. A negative attitude can be contagious and lower the entire team’s commitment, particularly if the employee is in a leadership position or has a sphere of influence. 

But most concerning of all is that it has an underlying cause that you might be overlooking. Committed and high-performing employees don’t simply become the opposite overnight. It’s typically a slow, downward slide that has many trigger points along the way. 

And it’s this underlying cause that should be the focus of solutions. Because if one high performer is clearly ‘quiet quitting’, there are probably many others at different points of the downward journey. So, here are three steps to address quiet quitting in your organisation.

#1 Know the signs

The key signs of quiet quitting typically include:

  • A previously proactive employee no longer taking the initiative.
  • A notable decrease in output or quality of work.
  • Significant change (often a reversal) in how a person interacts and engages with others in the workplace. This could go either way. For example, a passionate employee who often spoke up about their ideas might stay quiet and go along with others without input. Conversely, it could be an employee who was happy to go with the flow now pushing up against every idea or initiative. 
  • An increase in absenteeism or change in work patterns, such as constantly signing off early or starting late.

And if it’s becoming a problem across the organisation, it will have a noticeable impact on metrics. Increasing absenteeism rates, higher turnover and an increase in new hires leaving in their first year are key red flags.

#2 Understand the common underlying causes

Although quiet quitting can happen for several reasons, there are some common root causes that are best addressed before it becomes an issue. But if you’ve missed the boat on that, it’s critical to put solutions in place as soon as possible. 

These include:

  • Lack of performance recognition. From a simple thanks to formal reward systems and career opportunities, people like to feel seen and acknowledged. And research has shown that a simple thank you can go a long way, but recognition is cultural. It needs to be embedded from the top down. 
  • Mounting expectations. Often, the highest performer is given the big projects and asked to help others with theirs. But what starts as an acknowledgement of their extra value to the organisation can quickly become an expectation, which can take a toll. 
  • Limited communication channels. There can be a reluctance to open communication channels between senior leaders and team members for a number of fairly good reasons. However, if people know they can bring ideas and issues to someone senior, it can prevent them from feeling helpless in a situation, which is a significant driver of quiet quitting! So, opening communication channels can nip any issues in the bud, whether it’s via regular feedback surveys, senior management attendance at monthly team meetings, or an open door at set times.
  • Lack of career progression. It’s important for your high performers to know you have a plan for them. In a small business or team, this is a little trickier as there may not be clear steps, but it can also come in the form of mentoring and a plan to build their skills to prepare them for their next role – even knowing it might be outside your business if you don’t have the scope to progress them. But this way, you’ll keep them engaged while they’re with you.

#3 Take the temperature, even when things are good

The best way to address quiet quitting is to understand your team member’s general feelings about the organisation and their jobs, even when they seem happy.

Exit interviews are also an important part of this check-in. An outgoing employee is more likely to give you an accurate indication of what’s going on in your business, so there can be significant value in hearing them out.

Having your finger on the pulse of employee sentiment will ensure you can identify when a shift is beginning and address it early. It also means you’ll maintain two-way communication and build trust. So, when there is an issue, your valued team members will bring it to you – potentially avoiding quiet quitting altogether.

About the Author
Picture of Jenny Lloyd

Jenny Lloyd

Founder/Director of Connections
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