Quiet quitting is not a new phenomenon but as a leader how can you prevent unnecessary departures?

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It was a cold, dark, windy, and rainy day … 

Sounds like the introduction to a winter’s tale, right? 

Actually, it was just the other day in Sydney.  

I was relaxing on the couch leisurely scrolling on my phone, seriously contemplating whether to bring my heater back out! Not exactly a typical summer’s day by any stretch of the imagination. 

In the space of a few minutes, I was drawn to two articles: one from the Sydney Morning Herald questioning whether 2022 had been a tipping point for workers; and one from CNN with a headline suggesting which words or phrases should be banished in 2023. 

What I found interesting was that both articles focused on the ‘workplace trend’ that has become known as ‘quiet quitting’. 

The Herald piece explained how the idea of ‘quiet quitting’ had gone viral, becoming a global phenomenon during 2022. A concept where, rather than resigning, employees simply did the bare minimum – never going above and beyond, and always taking their hour for lunch. 

Meanwhile the CNN article placed ‘quiet quitting’ at number three in a list of the top ten words or phrases that a panel of judges from a US university deemed ‘empty as balderdash or diluted through oversaturation’. 

I couldn’t have agreed more.

‘Quiet quitting’ isn’t a new concept. It has simply been packaged differently. 

Back in the mid-90’s, my colleague and I (two very committed employees) would often talk about ‘who’s in the departure lounge’ – in other words who we thought was clearly doing the bare minimum, waiting for the next flight out. Then when I became a people leader, rather than being obsessed by levels of absenteeism in my workplace, I was actually more concerned if I perceived an increase in presenteeism. 

‘Presenteeism’, was originally the term given when employees would come to work unwell rather than eating up their sick leave but would then function at sub-optimal or non-productive levels. Notwithstanding the pandemic, presenteeism can also refer to completely healthy employees coming to work (or working remotely) but being totally disengaged.  

Sounds like ‘quiet quitting’ to me. 

Whilst it has always been assumed that absenteeism is a major problem for organisations, ‘the departure lounge’, ‘presenteeism’ or what has more recently been badged up as ‘quiet quitting’ can, in fact, be a much deeper issue. 

The Sydney Morning Herald article went on to say that, “job switching is at an all-time high, and employees are voting with their feet.” 

This is also something that shouldn’t come as a huge shock. 

Resignations are certainly not a new phenomenon.

People having been leaving jobs, teams, and organisations for centuries – from sports captains, to CEOs, prime ministers, presidents, popes, and even monarchs! 

People will leave your business. Yes, employees will leave you

Too harsh? Too personal? Perhaps. But nevertheless, every leader needs to be prepared for the inevitable. 

Having said that, while resignations aren’t unstoppable, it’s still important to understand what might trigger somebody to hand in their notice, and perhaps more importantly why somebody would consider leaving your organisation. 

How focused are you on employee retention right now? What are you planning to do in 2023 to prevent your employees from dusting off their passports and waiting patiently in the departure lounge? How are you going to keep your team members engaged? 

Two thirds of employees state that they would quit their job if they didn’t feel appreciated.  

This has absolutely nothing to do with being remunerated sufficiently. It has to do with not being respected or recognised for their contribution. Aside from salary, bonuses, or incentives, how are you showing appreciation towards your people?  

Respect and recognition don’t always need to be a public fanfare. You can certainly show your respect personally or even recognise spontaneously since even a simple gesture can show an employee that you have noticed the good work they are doing. 

Another very common reason for going in search of something better is due to feeling unsupported, overworked, or burnt out.

When did you last ask your people how they are feeling?

The beginning of a new year is a great time to properly check in with your people. Simply asking your employees how they are, or whether you can help them in any way is another way to show you care about them as individuals and not just as a name or staff ID number on the payroll. 

There’s a lot of chatter out there advocating for a four-day work week. Whether it’s something that is likely to come into play any time soon is perhaps a question for a later date. In the meantime, are you providing your employees with sufficiently flexible work options? Employees will definitely consider looking elsewhere if their employer is insisting on everyone being in the office full-time or working set hours. That’s so old school now. 

Your team members will also think about other options if there’s no opportunity for career advancement. However, like a decent salary, career growth is also black and white. Either you can offer it, or you can’t. And if you can’t, don’t make any promises you won’t be able to keep. 

Perhaps the most common reason for triggering anyone to think about resigning is a toxic work culture.

Research shows this is 10 times more likely to lead to staff turnover than poor remuneration. If an employee doesn’t feel included, feels undermined, disrespected, or bullied, they will walk. And why shouldn’t they? 

A toxic work environment is dangerous. Unhappiness and negativity can be contagious and will never only effect one person. This is why several organisations have started offering “cash to quit” to people seeding negativity or poisoning the culture with the understanding that it’s cheaper (not to mention probably better) to incentivise people to leave if they are disgruntled rather than letting them effect the morale of the whole team which could ultimately result in the wrong people leaving. 

When all is said and done, people don’t leave their job – they leave their leader.

Or if not their direct boss, then they leave because of poor leadership at the top of the org chart.  

How focused is your organisation when it comes to employee engagement? How bought in are your employees to your company values, vision, and mission? How are you recognising your employees in order to inspire loyalty in return?

What professional development opportunities are you offering your most important commodity?

Are you truly committed to a culture promoting work-life balance, even if your team is working remotely? As a leader, think about whether you are: 

  • Creating a values-based workplace culture 
  • Ensuring a first-class employee experience 
  • Giving employees an opportunity to develop 
  • Rewarding and recognising your most important resource 
  • Promoting transparent communication and collaboration 
  • Encouraging continuous feedback 

What reasons have people given for choosing to leave your business in the past?

Perhaps more importantly, have you thought about why someone might feel the need to look for something new? While turnover is certainly inevitable, what measures can you put in place to reduce employee attrition? 

Remember hellomonday provides coaching and support to every leader, prioritising development initiatives that result in long-term sustained change, reinforcing habits through curated learning and impactful coaching, and ideally helping leaders retain their most precious commodity. 

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