Quiet Quitting: Yes, even your best managers are at risk

Posted by Andrea Anderson on 11/9/22 8:58 AM

Quiet Quitting

According to Gallup, only one-third of managers are engaged at work.

You’ve heard the term by now, but the phrase “Quiet Quitting” is a pretty confusing name for an alarming trend, one that every employer of white-collar professionals needs to understand – and get ahead of quickly. To solve the problem, employers must first fully grasp what quiet quitting looks like, what causes it, and who is most vulnerable. The concept is better captured by another phrase that has emerged lately: "Act your wage."

Act Your Wage

In the Gallup study, it’s estimated that fully half of the workforce, including white-collar professionals, are abandoning age-old notions of the role of a career in a fulfilling life and “what it takes” to achieve workplace success. As these fundamental questions are tackled and redefined, many of the best and brightest in the talent pool has begun rejecting the mandate of “going above and beyond” tasks spelled out in their job descriptions.

Employers would be well served to reject the idea that this is not about generational laziness. It’s about a deeper, fundamental disconnect between what many workplaces deliver and what a growing number of professionals need most. We shouldn’t be surprised. When a person faces a life-threatening crisis, they are forced to face the stark realities that most of us push to the backs of our minds most of the time.  Questions move to the forefront: has my life been fulfilling? What do I regret? If I get another chance, what will I do differently? For many, there are wishes that work had carried more personal meaning, satisfaction, and reward.

Then a worldwide pandemic moved that individual, private, crisis-driven introspection to a shared, international conversation. Today’s professionals want to work. But they’re comparing notes and validating the idea that the work must pay better, feel better, and be more engaging.

Will a future recession or waves of lay-offs pull this back? Quite possibly. But the employers who decide to rethink the experience they deliver to their staff will attract and retain the best talent.

What you can do now to reverse this trend

Gallup suggests that managers have a great deal of power in re-engaging people, including:

Embrace hybrid models and advocate internally for management to do the same.

Gallup refers to this as “re-selling” the concept. I would argue that the managers who do this well will be the managers who invest some serious time in asking their employees what they really need from their employer. It’s not nearly enough to survey everyone on their own, ideal weekly work schedule. Work to understand why. Don’t guess about someone else’s whole-life values and how they’d like their job with you to fit in. Ask. And hear their answers.  

Communicate regularly and closely.

Gallup suggests one-on-one conversations with every team member, at least once per week, for a minimum of 15-30 minutes. I’d suggest that that will only help you re-connect – and re-shape expectations – for those managers who invest in asking open-ended questions, listening carefully, taking action, and following up.  

Elevate accountability

Gallup encourages managers to re-think performance expectations and accountability, linking them more clearly to contributions, collaboration, and support of the team mission. When employers worry that hybrid employees are less engaged with the work, those worries become a self-fulfilling prophecy, translating into mistrust and a near-guarantee that those workers will feel increasingly disengaged, start looking for something better, and, yes, in the meantime, dial back their efforts to the bare minimum. 

At SkyWater Search Partners, we’re talking with in-demand candidates every day. We know what they need, what they value, and what kinds of workplaces work best for them. We match the best talent with great opportunities. If you would like to know more about how we can help you attract and retain the leaders you need, please reach out. We would love to talk!

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