Yes, 'quiet quitting' is real

But there are things you can do about it — and you should.

To me, "quiet quitting" — just doing the basics of your job and not going above and beyond the call of duty — is a mystery. Then again, I'm a lifelong workaholic who loves his work. Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to be able to make a living doing what they love.

That said, a recent Gallup survey found, sure enough, that at least half of the U.S. workforce is "quiet quitting."

So, what is this all about?

Well, for one thing, it's a matter of perception. In the 1980s, when I was working as a developer, many people were already quiet quitters. We just didn't call them that. 

Even in the high-stress technology business, we had many folks who, as I described them, had "retired in place." These were techies, usually in their 30s or 40s, who'd learned how to program in COBOL, Fortran 77, or C and had no desire to learn anything else. So, they didn't. And as long as you asked them to maintain code, they were fine. (Ask them for anything else, and you were in trouble.)

It's not just tech.

In all businesses, some people have always been quiet quitters.

You know, the ones who always used to hang out at the water coolers when those were a thing; the bored colleagues who sleep with their eyes open in meetings; and, of course, the endless gossips who are up to date on who's dating whom, but clueless about their jobs.

Today, though, we appear to be seeing a new wave of people who just don't like their jobs.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. This is the ebb tide of the great resignation.

The new quiet quitters are the ones who couldn't afford to actually quit or find a new job.

Yet.

Many of these are younger, under 35 workers. They feel no one cares about them, encourages their development, or gives them opportunities to learn and grow.

They feel ignored and neglected. Indeed, if they work remotely or in a hybrid work environment, fewer than four in 10 feel that they know what's expected of them at work.

The culprit? Gallup explains: "Quiet quitting is a symptom of poor management."

They're right.

After all, only one in three managers themselves is engaged at work. So the rot starts at the top. If senior management doesn't care, you can't expect anyone else to care, either. 

What can you do now?

For starters, Gallup strongly recommends managers talk to each employee for 15 to 30 minutes weekly. Get to know them as individuals and not cogs in a machine. Learn about their lives, strengths, and goals. Tell them what you expect from them. Tell them how they're doing. Be positive, be encouraging, and listen to their concerns and address them.

This isn't rocket science or even MBA-level stuff. It's management 101.

Even an assistant manager at McDonald's should know this after a couple of months on the job. If you do this, your crew will feel engaged and that they have a future rather than just a paycheck.

Improving management from top to bottom should be your No. 1 job. A recent McKinsey study found, "It cannot be overstated just how influential a bad boss can be in causing people to leave."

And while in the past, an attractive salary could keep people in a job despite a lousy boss, that is much less true now than it was before the pandemic."

Let me underline this point.

COVID-19 and the disruptions it continues to cause have led people to reevaluate what they want from a job and life.

For example, if you insist that people return to the office and no longer work from home, some of your best people will start quiet quitting or just plain old quitting. These people, like me, find that with the peace and quiet that comes from working at home, they're much more productive.

I'll add that you should also keep your work expectations reasonable.

Rah-rah talks about giving 110% to the job only works in bad sports movies, not in real life, no matter what some self-proclaimed alpha manager or closer says. Glengarry Glen Ross, for example, is a great play and movie, but who in their right mind wants to work in that kind of pressure cooker?

So, if you want your staff to be really productive, talk to them, listen to them, and act on what you learn. It's that simple.

Do that, and your business will do better.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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