How to manage a quiet quitter

Understanding the new phenomena requires a closer look at both sides of the workplace coin, says Jeremy Campbell

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Stop and consider who is to blame for the quiet quitter (QQ) – the worker or their boss? There are actually two sides to the QQ coin.

Is it reasonable that employees disengage because they feel they should only do what they are paid for? Is it understandable that bosses feel short changed that workers are not going above and beyond? Is it fair that employees cite mental health concerns as a reason to moderate their work loads? Is it outdated that bosses may see that as a sense of an entitled generation?

So, is the QQ a workshy malingerer or an idealist pushing back against the hyper productivity of an out-of-control capitalist society? Or are they just reacting to poor, outdated leadership?

As the debate goes on, the result is a new battleground through which the casualties are productivity, engagement and morale.

So, how should you manage a QQ?

  1. Trust and inspire. First, head back to the basics of leadership. Command and control was a dying art long before Covid spread its variants. In this new world of a hybrid workforce the answer must lie in the ability of leaders to trust and inspire. If you are not in this place, effectively engaging the hybrid team, maybe you’re not fit for the new world of work.

  1. Everyday actions. Next, let’s focus on how you can help the individuals in your team to connect with the big goals that you expect them to help deliver. This answer must be to break them down into the everyday actions that each individual needs to take to make progress. Help them avoid distraction. Work with them to focus. Through the use of the methodology of everyday actions the shift is to go from checking up to empowering.

  1. Coach them. QQs need a coach, not a commander in chief. They need help in shifting from a world where we so often focus on activity to a world where we focus on making progress and achieving results. They need understanding, support and empathy. They don’t need an overseer or checker. Bosses need to ask themselves how much they may have contributed to the environment that has created QQs and what can they do to reverse that.

  1. Be kind. The hybrid world is tough and very different. Many will miss the socialisation and peer support that existed in abundance in most teams and offices. They may feel isolated and alone. QQs deserve to be listened to and to be fully understood.  Coaching tells us that it is more than likely that their disengagement has been driven by a combination of factors, both personal and professional. Acts of kindness towards QQs may well be reciprocated.

  1. Get face to face. The chances are that many QQs miss the face to face. Work out how you make this happen in the hybrid world. There is a powerful need to still bring people together outside the virtual world – either one to one or in teams. Get out and about for coffees and for chats. Where in the past you walked the office floor, now you need to walk the hybrid world. When you are out there, celebrate the successes and spread the praise.

Quiet quitting is not a new phenomenon. There have always been those who have been disengaged and less committed in the workplace. However, the new world of work has significantly increased the number of people who have now adopted this role. That has moved this issue up the risk register. It is now a danger to productivity and morale.

No one has really cracked leading in the new world of work. The complexity of engagement has multiplied. A new mindset is required. Trying to recreate what we did in the world of the office isn’t it. The answers lie in the evolution of leadership centred on the basics of trusting, inspiring and communicating. Shifting QQs to engaged performers is not an easy task, but is a truly worthwhile challenge for leadership.

Jeremy Campbell is a people and business transformation expert and CEO of Black Isle Group