What can you do about 'quiet quitting'?
Updated: Sep 15
People are rethinking their relationship with work and leaders are being hit by a double whammy of resignations and ‘quiet quitting’. Why is it happening and how can you respond?
A recent survey by PwC shows that 20% of UK workers are “very or extremely likely” to switch their jobs in the next 12 months. Many have had time to reflect on what matters most to them and experience what a better balance looks like – so now the genie is out of the bottle. As Chairman at PwC UK, Kevin Ellis, puts it:
"Employees will vote with their feet if their expectations on company culture, reward, flexibility and learning are not being largely met".
Perhaps more pernicious for leaders is ‘quiet quitting’, a TikTok term that has now gone mainstream. Instead of outright resigning, it describes a kind of opting out where people do just enough to perform their work duties but do not go above and beyond while doing it. It is widely seen as a rejection of the ‘hustle’ mentality, mainly by Gen Zs. However, many leaders we speak to tell us they are seeing a broader shift in the work attitudes. People are withholding their discretionary effort - and it’s not only Gen Z. Leaders tell us that hybrid working has created a new dynamic in the workplace where people have lost their sense of connection with the work and each other:
“People are focusing only on what works for them, not the team or the wider company. It’s all about ‘me’ not ‘us’”
“It doesn’t feel like we’re one team anymore. People are working in siloes – and there’s more friction between teams”
“It feels more transactional – it’s ‘just a job’”
“Work is getting done, but where has the energy gone?”
So, where to go from here? How do you lead in a way that makes people not only want to stay but also feel more engaged in their work?
First, understand the problem you are trying to fix
Research by McKinseys shows that leaders misunderstand what is making people quit. Leaders cite pay, work-life balance and mental health and whilst these are factors, the top three reasons people give for quitting are that they didn’t feel valued by their organisations (54%) or their managers (52%) or because they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51%).
As you ponder this, ask yourself:
“Has my leadership style kept up with the shift in the work relationship?”
If you sense that a transactional attitude is developing at work, look first to your leadership. Are you leading in a way that values people and creates a sense of belonging?
Here are four practical steps that can help:
Link the organisation’s goals to what is important for each individual. People want to work for organisations that share their personal values e.g. environmental, personal achievement, helping others. Help them make the link to give work more meaning and purpose.
Lead by outcomes, not activity. Demonstrate trust by giving people the autonomy and flexibility they need to do their best work. Make the conversation about outcomes, not how they get there. And for those that are still developing, be available for support - it’s about checking in, not checking up.
Prioritise people's need to connect and maintain relationships. Help break down barriers by buddying up colleagues from different teams to work on projects together, or by finding informal ways to get people connecting such as scheduling regular ‘coffee breaks’ in pairs.
Be savvy about how you use your time together. When in-person, prioritise activities that are best done as a team, such as group goal setting and planning; creating shared ways of working; finding ways to improve team processes and performance; and team-building.
If you want to reinvigorate your team and create a place where people want to do their best work, get in touch. We can help.