These strategies will help HR leaders get ahead of employee disengagement.
By Debbie Bolla
Whether you are on TikTok or not, you’ve likely heard the term quiet quitting. It’s when employees are actively disengaged at work—doing the minimum work required to get their job done. Often these employees don’t go “above and beyond” for their organizations even if they have in the past. Gallup reports that 50% of the current workforce are quiet quitters.
“The term became popular after it went viral on TikTok, but the employee behavior it describes is not a new thing,” say Ronni Zehavi, CEO and co-founder of HiBob. “Quiet quitting has actually been happening for decades but its newfound popularity says a lot about the world of work today. It suggests a movement where employees that feel overworked and underpaid, particularly in the wake of the pandemic and amid the rising cost of living have simply lost their spark, and become fed up not only with conditions but the perceived return they get from going the extra mile for employers.”
Quiet quitting can have a major impact on HR leaders beyond worrying about productivity levels; these disconnected employees may eventually end up quitting for real. “At a time when firms are struggling with a skills shortage many businesses cannot afford to lose good staff,” says Zehavi. “Quiet quitting is practiced more by higher performers than those who never went the extra mile in the first place. So for HR and businesses it presents a serious retention issue.”
It can also have a trickle-down effect on other employees who may need to pick up the slack, leading to a culture problem. What can HR leaders do?
- Understand the actual issue. It’s critical to understand why an employee who appears to be quiet quitting is doing so. Do they feel undervalued? Are they unable to manage their workload? Has the direction of their role changed? “Before thoughts turn to disciplinary action, HR professionals and managers should seek to genuinely understand what has changed for those employees with a view toward working together on solutions,” says Zehavi.
- Engage in one-on-one check-ins. Ensure managers are having frequent meetings with their direct reports to discuss upcoming initiatives, progress, and individual performance. Check-ins can provide transparency around expectations, performance, and accountability. “Communication is critical to keeping employees engaged and making sure that both they and their managers have the opportunity to learn, grow, improve and share ideas within an organization,” explains Zehavi.
- Regularly assess company culture and the employee experience. A strong company culture is a powerful tool against quiet quitting. Employers that have an engaging and empowering culture often ask for employee feedback and act on it. “Any time an employee silences their voice in an organization, they are depriving themselves of the opportunity to drive through positive change,” says Zehavi. Modern HR tech systems, that include engagement functionalities, give leadership a 360-degree view of employee performance and engagement, but also allow the employees to feel heard.
Be Aware of Quiet Firing Too
Organizations can be guilty of quiet firing too: Engaging with a team member as infrequently as possible or when only necessary. A recent LinkedIn poll reports more than 80% of workers have witnessed or experienced quiet firing during their careers. “Quiet firing is more a sign of poor people management and an overall lack of organizational strategy towards people development within a business,” says Zehavi.
There are other signs that signal an employee is experiencing quiet firing:
- being overlooked for promotions;
- not considered for raises;
- not receiving feedback, even when asking for it;
- discussion meetings being cancelled; and
- being overlooked for projects.
“The onus is on managers to hold consistent meetings with their direct reports and discuss upcoming initiatives, progress, and individual performance. These meetings will give employees an opportunity to know what’s coming down the line and to ask questions regarding how they are performing against expectations,” says Zehavi. “Varying project assignments for team members can also help reduce the potential for quiet firing.”