Just as technology is evolving at an exponential rate, so are social issues and workplace trends. One such trend comes in the form of disengagement among the workforce.
From the Great Resignation of 2020, a trend known as Quiet Quitting emerged and began trending on social media, peaking in 2022.
Now, in mid-2023, disengagement in the workplace has reached its tipping point – that moment when a trend crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.
From that tipping point, we now have what’s known as Loud Quitting. As healthy as some believed quiet quitting to be, loud quitting is anything but healthy.
But first, what is quiet quitting, anyway?
At least 50% of the U.S. workforce aged 18 and older reported participating in what has come to be known as "quiet quitting," according to a June of 2022 Gallup poll.
Quiet quitting doesn’t mean an employee actually quits their job, but rather it refers to the behaviors of an employee who does the minimum requirements and puts in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm than absolutely necessary, while staying on the payroll.
A September 2022 Harvard Business Review article describes it like this, “Quiet quitters continue to fulfill their primary responsibilities, but they’re less willing to engage in activities known as citizenship behaviors: no more staying late, showing up early, or attending non-mandatory meetings.”
Quiet quitters don’t just work the minimum number of hours mandated by their employer, but in a sense, they withhold additional skills, talents, or abilities from their employer, from their team members, and from their customers.
A quiet quitter may decline invitations for events scheduled outside of the typical 9-to-5, such as holiday parties and special events, they may refuse to help with issues outside of their purview, or they may remain silent during meetings, not speaking up or contributing to the brainstorming of solutions.
Imagine a teacher who chooses to quiet quit. This may look like someone who previously took on volunteer roles - organizing the Social Studies fair, helping with Back-to-School night, or holding parent-teacher conferences after school hours - no longer doing so.
A salesperson may suddenly stop making prospect calls or customer visits and become only reactive to issues as they arise. A retail worker may choose to discontinue creatively solving customer issues and a cashier may never greet or acknowledge customers when checking them out. An administrative assistant may no longer help her manager or other employees wrap up last-minute tasks, which could require working overtime.
As one who facilitates corporate training for leaders and business development professionals, I have seen this trend, firsthand, begin to emerge in my workshops. Quiet quitters are often the ones who remain quiet or don’t participate during group activities, come up with an excuse to leave early, or chose not to join in group dinners after-hours.
Though some of the boundaries people set for themselves when they decide to quiet quit are good for the overall health of the individual, the momentum it has gained has reached its tipping point of disengagement.
As a result, another, even more concerning trend, has emerged.
Loud quitting is the latest phenomenon garnering widespread attention, and it has become a topic of concern for both employers and employees.
According to a NewsBytes article, “Loud quitting is when employees leave their jobs dramatically and noticeably instead of quietly moving on. They choose to announce their departure on social media with a post declaring that they are leaving, which can potentially raise red flags among their co-workers about the company.”
But loud quitting is more than just publicizing one’s decision to leave their job, it may actually come in the form of sabotaging the health or reputation of the organization. And because, according to that same Gallup poll mentioned earlier, 18% of employees are guilty of this behavior, loud quitting has the potential to result in devastating consequences for multiple organizations across multiple industries.
Loud quitters report feeling unappreciated, and as a result, they want to make a statement. They may be attempting to get back at what they perceive as a micromanaging boss or they may be frustrated about being overlooked for a promotion. But whatever their reason may be, they disrupt the normal flow of business for a company's employees and its customer base.
Because today’s culture encourages, and arguably even champions, the victim-mentality, loud quitters who feel unappreciated or overlooked may be leveraging their circumstances in search of their 10 minutes of fame.
Sounds harsh, but it’s true.
The person who films themselves picking up the intercom at Walmart and publicly announcing their boss can “take this job and shove it,” and then posting that video to social media, is doing so for attention. Yes, it’s to make a statement, but the actions are attention-seeking, unprofessional, and potentially even self-sabotaging.
Loud quitting often results in burning bridges, which has the potential to create an issue for the employe, when a reference for a new job is needed in the future. Not to mention the fact that potential employers may become leery of hiring that person in the future. Ask me how I know.
What can leaders do?
Many factors are at play when it comes to disengagement; however, the leader is a key influencer on any employees’ level of happiness at work.
Leaders must intentionally implement ways to promote engagement, communication and respect within their organizations and teams.
Build trusting, respectful relationships with team members.
While trust is a belief in your employees, respect is that trust in action.
Although leaders have a laundry list of priorities, trust should be at the very top of that list. Trust helps employees feel secure in their jobs, which in turn reduces turnover and increases engagement.
A relationship based on trust and respect requires every team member to take responsibility for their actions – including you, as the leader.
Get to know the whole person. As you get to know your people, you’re better equipped to show sincere respect and appreciation. And since we know that those who report being disengaged do so because they feel unappreciated, taking the time to create authentic connections with your team members should ensure they do not feel taken for granted.
Discover the currency of individual employees. Everyone has their own form of currency or those things they want and desire the most. These currencies are what drive people to keep going, even in the face of adversity – their value drivers, if you will.
Forms of currency include, but are not limited to:
Growth and development
Take time to find out the currency of each individual on your team, and do whatever you can to ensure it is available for them.
Create a flexible work environment. The 8-5 Monday-Friday work schedule is a product of the industrial revolution. But times have changed, and organizations must evolve to remain successful.
A flexible work environment optimizes employee performance by allowing them to work when, where, or how he or she will be most productive, and not the way in which you deem appropriate.
In a nutshell, the best leaders find ways to meet employees’ unique needs, while also meeting the needs of the business.
What can employees do?
Leaders don’t bear all the burden when it comes to engagement. Employees also play a role in creating a more positive, productive work culture.
Take personal responsibility for your career. As is the case in much of the world, the US is a place where everyone, regardless of their background or social status, still has the freedom to choose their career path.
As for getting ahead and landing the exact role of your dreams, that will always require hard work, drive, and dedication – the opposite of what quiet quitters do and a stark contrast to the loud quitter.
By taking personal responsibility for where you are today, you are able to better make decisions that will get you where you’d like to be in the future.
Hold your team members accountable.
As much as the term "peer-pressure" has a negative connotation, it actually serves a purpose and can be used for good.
It’s long been recognized that including special needs students, such as those with learning disabilities, into a classroom with regular students can lead to better educational and social outcomes. Some of this is due to the covert peer pressure students feel to be included as part of the group.
The student who is motivated to get good grades, because his friends are getting good grades experiences the positive impact of peer pressure.
Similarly, positive, productive peer pressure in the workplace can help advance all members of a team.
Holding team members accountable to their commitments and to using their unique skills, talents, and abilities for the good of the team may result in self-reflection by those who haven’t yet fully disengaged and still have the potential to be saved.
Be the change you desire.
Mohandas Gandhi is credited with saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and although we now know those were not his exact words, the message is still relevant.
If you are unhappy with the culture at your workplace, rather than waiting for someone else to come along and fix it, take steps towards influencing the culture in a positive way.
Ask yourself these questions: If not me, then who? If not now, then when?
Continue refining your skillset.
We all have our own innate gifts that make us unique. But most people, even those with special gifts, must work to refine them so they may be usable in society. However, what’s even more noteworthy, is that even those with rare talents and abilities must learn a number of other skills that are not innate or natural in order to truly be successful.
Invest in yourself by intentionally growing in areas that will help make you an even greater asset to yourself, your family, your team, and your organization.
Leaders can do many things to help reduce or repair the damage of both quiet and loud quitting at their organization.
Consider implementing an effective leadership development program, such as those offered through Alpstra, to help leaders at your organization understand how to increase engagement and build productive teams.