Quiet Quitting: 3 Signs & 3 Solutions

Scott C. Whiteford, Ph.D. Scott C. Whiteford, Ph.D.

October 05, 2022 Engagement Development

“Quiet quitting” has become a hashtag event and has gone viral as a real problem in the current job market. So, what is it? According to coach Marty Nimko, “Quiet quitting is, simply, working fewer than the hours you’re paid for. A recent survey of 1,989 UK workers who claim to be working full-time actually do productive work for just two hours and 23 minutes a day.” 

As the job market continues to remain hot, individuals know that plenty of alternative jobs exist. The last recession was 13 years ago, and people are used to finding jobs quickly and easily. No longer does the fear of remaining unemployed for an extended period of time exist for employees. Therefore, they are less likely to accommodate poor leadership or an unrewarding job, and they are more likely to look for a job that they believe will be better for them.

So, what are the signs of quiet quitting? And, how do leaders fend off this trend? 

Signs of Quiet Quitting

Three basic signs of quiet quitting are withdrawal, apathy and negativity.

Withdrawal

The first sign, withdrawal, is when an employee shows an undesired change in behavior in the way they interact with others. They may go from participating in team meetings, or with their leader and peers, to being withdrawn and not offering their opinions or actively seeking advice.

Apathy

The second sign is apathy. Employees who are quitting quietly are likely to seem indifferent or passive when it comes to their work. They may do the bare minimum with their projects or show a lack of interest in the outcome. They may also turn in work that is late and/or contains errors.

Negativity

The third sign is negativity. Although this may be the most obvious sign, those quietly quitting are likely presenting a negative attitude toward their work, leaders or peers. This is especially concerning if it is a change in behavior over time. Basically, they are setting up justification for their impending departure.

These signs of quiet quitting should alarm leaders and must be taken seriously. Far too often, leaders ignore these behaviors or don’t take the time to understand their direct reports. If left to fester too long, quiet quitting can negatively impact company culture, lower productivity and damage relationships on all sides.

What Leaders Can Do

Leaders can rely on three basic tenets to help mitigate quiet quitting: relationships, development and awareness.

1. Monitor Relationships With Team Members

First, and most importantly, is the leader’s ability to monitor their own relationships with their team members.

Far too often, leaders do not accurately communicate with their team members. Relationships are very important in the current job environment, and it is the responsibility of the leader to remain in strong contact with team members.

Leaders must also focus on building relationships with their teams. Disgruntled employees are likely to leave. Through strong communication and collaboration, leaders can foster a positive team culture that encourages talented team members to stick around.

2. Take the Time To Develop Employees

Above and beyond relationships, leaders must take the time to map out a successful career vision for their employees. How often do leaders have serious Career Investment Discussions (CIDs) with each of their employees? This is an under-utilized tactic, but an effective one to increase employee engagement.

Importantly, these discussions should be focused on the individual’s desires and needs. This is not about what the leader wants the employee’s vision to be, but instead, what the employee desires it to be. Leaders ought to have regular career investment discussions with their employees and understand how they can align the company vision with the vision of the employee. 

3. Build Awareness of Your Employees’ Work

If leaders are successfully completing steps one and two, they will be acutely aware of this third step: awareness of the employee’s work and interaction with others. One effective tool for building awareness is “rounding.” Successful rounding is conversing with team members with no particular objective in mind.

Most leaders say they round, but they are actually just checking on projects and timelines. Leaders who round with their employees are more likely to understand what is going on with them. If signs of being withdrawn, apathetic or negative emerge, leaders should try to increase communication and development of that employee.

Stop Quiet Quitting & Keep Your Best Employees

By understanding these three signs of quiet quitting (withdrawal, apathy and negativity) and following these three action steps (building relationships, development and awareness), leaders are likely going to see increased engagement and satisfaction with their individual employees and see a decrease in what the press is referring to today as quiet quitting.

Scott C. Whiteford, Ph.D.

Scott C. Whiteford, Ph.D.

Scott C. Whiteford, Ph.D. is the Director of Leadership Analytics at Talent Plus where his role is to partner with, listen to and find solutions for our clients, their teams and organization. With an emphasis on strengths, through selection and development, he helps our clients find success on their Talent-Based Journey.

“I focus on the strength management approach to help grow leaders and improve team and organization cultures.” – Scott Whiteford

Talents: Relationship, Ego Drive, Focus, Conceptualization and Intelligence

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