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Quiet Quitting - It Can't Be That Bad...Can It?

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

This year’s Gallup State of the Global Workplace report used new terminology for the first time in many years, presumably to better reflect how the world has been discussing these topics. In prior years, levels of Employee Engagement were labeled via levels of activeness- Engaged, Disengaged, and Actively Disengaged. This year, the report regrouped and rebranded these labels into the following categories:

  1. Thriving at Work (Engaged)

  2. Quiet Quitting (Disengaged)

  3. Loud Quitting (Actively Disengaged)

So let’s outline what these labels actually mean. Per their report, Gallups defines each as:

“Thriving at work: These employees find their work meaningful and feel connected to the team and their organization. They feel proud of the work they do and take ownership of their performance, going the extra mile for teammates and customers.

Quiet quitting: These employees are filling a seat and watching the clock. They put in the minimum effort required, and they are psychologically disconnected from their employer. Although they are minimally productive, they are more likely to be stressed and burnt out than engaged workers because they feel lost and disconnected from their workplace.

Loud quitting: These employees take actions that directly harm the organization, undercutting its goals and opposing its leaders. At some point along the way, the trust between employee and employer was severely broken. Or the employee has been woefully mismatched to a role, causing constant crises.”

If you’ve had more than one job in your career, it’s likely that you’ve worked with someone who fits each description (or that you’ve even been each at some point). What might be surprising to you, especially if you are a person working in a non-front-line role, is the percentage breakdown of how many employees fit into each label.

According to Gallup, only 23% of employees are thriving at work. That’s right. Less than a quarter of employees worldwide feel connected to their work and their team. That means that, statistically, it’s likely that for nearly 8 in 10 people at your company, if they don’t hate their job, they at least don’t care about it. If you are in a leadership role, that fact should be a huge concern. Why? Well, beyond the fact that your employees are human beings and should be treated as such (I hope I didn’t have to remind you of that), Gallup estimates that low engagement costs the global economy US$8.8 trillion every year, which accounts for 9% of global GDP. So, by creating an environment where disengagement is the norm, you’re not only making life for your employees worse, you’re also hurting your own bottom line.

woman staring into the distance

Don’t think this is the case at your company? Great! But…how do you know it’s not? Remember, Quiet Quitters get the job done. So, productivity is not an accurate metric for engagement, since they will put in just enough effort to not get fired. So, perhaps some better metrics to watch should be focused on employee wellness. After all, Quiet Quitters are more likely to be stressed and burnt out than engaged workers because they feel lost and disconnected from their workplace. So, how many employees are getting consistently sick or burnt out? Are peoples’ stress levels high and their energy levels low? If yes, you likely have some Quiet Quitters on your hands.

The good news? You can make a huge difference.

The fact that someone is in Quiet Quitting Mode rather than Loud Quitting may be a sign that they can swing back to Thriving at Work, which is a good thing, as they make up nearly 60% of the working population. Imagine the difference between walking into an office where only 23% of employees are engaged or thriving versus walking into a workplace where 82% are engaged or thriving. And even if getting that entire 59% converted to Thriving feels a bit unrealistic, moving the needle from 23% to even 50% can cause a major chain reaction of productivity and de-stressing throughout the office.

How to avoid quiet quitting

As we mentioned in our last post about worker stress, roughly 70% of team engagement is tied to an employee's experience with their boss or manager. So, focusing on developing leaders that actively engage with employees, make them feel valued, and imbue a sense of purpose upon the work that their teams are doing can make a massive impact.

At Octopy, we refer to these type of leaders as Human-Focused Leaders, and they embody these five principles:

  1. Honor your individuals

    1. Human-Focused Leaders recognize that employees aren’t machines. They aren’t levers to be pulled, numbers to be generalized, or means to an end. Each employee has their own set of skills, passions, interests, experiences, and needs. This requires a leader who knows how to embrace & utilize these differences in a way that strengthens & unifies the team.

  2. Prioritize well-being

    1. Human-Focused Leaders prioritize the well-being of their employees, even when the bottom line may suffer in the short term. When employees are overworked, overstressed, and under-rested they are more likely to make critical errors, more likely to miss work due to illness, have lower quality work outputs, and end up burning out faster than their well-rested & well-nourished counterparts. When leaders prioritize the well-being of their team members, it’s felt. And when employees feel like a priority and feel valued, they are more engaged and thrive more.

  3. Build for the long-term

    1. Human-Focused Leaders take in information and events in stride. They have a long-term perspective and don’t get as easily caught up in the weeds as their more short-term-focused counterparts. Leaders who continue to think & act with a short-term mindset tend to stress their employees out by overblowing the impact of minor events and undermine an employee’s sense of consistency through constantly changing priorities and metrics. All of these side effects of short-termism lead to higher levels of stress in your employees. HFLs always think and act within context.

  4. Operate with Integrity

    1. Human-Focused Leaders follow through on their word. They are open, honest, and forthright. While an over-indexing of transparency can result in overshares and run its own types of risks, HFLs recognize that more information and communication almost always create better outcomes for everyone. They default to openness rather than secrecy. They also recognize that if there is incongruence between who we say we are and who we are actually being–whether that be acting out of alignment with the team/org’s core values, not keeping their word to employees or vendors, or misleading customers, investors, or the public at large–we create internal stress because it’s hard to know when people will actually be held accountable and when they won’t, when someone is being truthful or lying, or if people are conspiring behind their backs. HFLs are open, honest, and authentic.

  5. Foster relationships

    1. Human-Focused Leaders prioritize connection and relationships over transactional interactions. When employees feel like they are being used or that they are seen by the organization merely as a means to an end, they are likely to return that same level of commitment and energy. These are defining traits of the Quiet Quitters mentioned earlier–doing the bare minimum to get their paycheck, and likely job hunting elsewhere while they do it. When employees feel like they’re in a genuine two-way relationship with their leaders and their organization, they are more likely to bring their full energy and attention to work. They are more likely to give back more than is expected from them, because messing up a project or task is no longer just an “oops….whatever,” but a much bigger deal, instead, since it is negatively impacting something & someone that they care about. HFLs go out of their way to foster connection with and amongst their team members.

What solutions do you see for Quiet & Loud Quitting where you work? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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