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What Role Do Leaders Play in Quiet Quitting?

Turn on the news, look on LinkedIn, scroll on Twitter, or talk to other leaders and managers and there’s a good chance you’ll see or hear the term ‘quiet quitting’.

Defined in many ways, quiet quitting essentially includes working within your contracted hours, recognising that work isn’t the be-all and end-all, and essentially doing what you’re paid to do (what your job description states and no extra).

Depending on who you talk to, you might hear that quiet quitting is good. Likewise, you may hear that quiet quitting is negative because it shows that your people just aren’t bothered about their role anymore.

Though a recent trend on social media, quiet quitting has been around for longer than many people realise. So why is quiet quitting on the rise right now, and what role do we leaders play in this?

Why Is Quiet Quitting On The Rise?

When we think about quiet quitting, it's easy to presume that a lack of job satisfaction, boredom, and just not being bothered are the cause. But quiet quitting goes well beyond this.

Quiet quitting is about employees setting boundaries, saying “no” to tasks outside of their job description, evaluating their priorities, working within their contracted hours, and not going above and beyond for their organisation as many people once used to (which is completely okay to do if that’s what you enjoy).

But why is quiet quitting now becoming a global phenomenon? There are many reasons, some of which we’ve looked at below:

  • Employees are prioritising their mental health and well-being.

  • The pandemic has left many people evaluating what matters to them.

  • As humans, we desire joy and satisfaction. If our job no longer provides this, we may quietly quit whilst searching for other opportunities.

  • Millions of people feel stressed and experience burnout due to overworking. With the rising cost of living, many can’t afford to stop working or take a career break.

What Role Do Leaders Play In Quiet Quitting?

Although the above outlines why many people are quietly quitting, as leaders we must consider what role we play in this.

For example, if an employee quits quietly due to prioritising their mental health and well-being, we must reflect on what we could have done to support that individual in their time of need better. Could we have supported them in prioritising their work? Could we have listened to their needs more? Could we have ensured they felt comfortable sharing their concerns with us? Perhaps we should have enabled them to take some time off?

Likewise, if an employee quietly quits due to feeling stressed because of overworking, we must ask ourselves what role we play in this. Have we asked too much of an employee? Is everything an employee is doing within their job scope? Are we asking them to do other people’s work too?

How Can Leaders Reduce Quiet Quitting?

As leaders, we can't prevent or stop our people from quitting or quietly quitting. But we can support our people in various areas, such as those noted above and understand how we can reduce staff turnover and enhance employee retention. We can also do the following:

Review Workplace Happiness

How many of your employees are happy in their roles? If you can’t answer this question honestly, it may be time to consider speaking to your people and asking them whether they are happy, what you can do to support them, and how you can make the workplace a more positive place.

In addition to reviewing how happy your people are at work, consider how you can foster a more positive work environment. Although you can’t stop your people from leaving, a happier workplace often equals happier employees that look forward to turning up at work and enjoy their job.

Stop Contacting Employees Outside of Their Office Hours

You might think that sending an email after an employee has switched off for the day is harmless, but when you consider that at least half of all employees feel compelled to reply to emails regardless of when they receive them, you may be doing more harm than good.

As mentioned above, quiet quitting sees employees working solely within their contracted hours (and rightly so) and not working outside of these, as many of us have previously done.

Next time you think about sending a ‘quick’ email at 9pm on a Wednesday or 2pm on a Sunday because something popped into your head, draft the email and schedule it to send at 10am on a working day instead.

By respecting your employees' time away from work and only contacting them during working hours, you’ll not only show your people that you respect and value them, but there’s a good chance you’ll retain your top talent.

We feel it’s important to note here that in the hybrid workplace, some employees will undoubtedly work different hours than others. Considering this, you may like to pop a note on your email signature that says something along the lines of “In the modern world of hybrid and flexible working, I have sent this email in my working pattern. I appreciate this might be different to your working pattern, so please only respond in your working time and you can expect the same from me.”

Evaluate Workloads

How many tasks are your people currently doing that are relevant and not relevant to their job role? Are your people attempting to do more work than usual because they have too many responsibilities?

One of the key reasons that quiet quitting has become a global trend is that employees are prioritising their mental health and well-being more and more each day.

In the past, employees - and leaders too - would often work long hours to get everything ticked off their to-do lists. In addition, a survey revealed that 43% of employees overwork due to employer expectations. Meanwhile, 39% work longer hours to meet deadlines and keep on top of their workload.

However, many people have now realised that this isn’t sustainable, nor is it healthy. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us how precious life is. It’s also left many of us reflecting on what’s important. And guess what? Overworking when people aren’t paid to in order to get everything done isn’t on top of everyone’s lists anymore.

In the workplace, it’s inevitable that there will be periods that are quieter and much busier. By reviewing how much work is allocated to each person within your organisation, you can have open and honest conversations with them to determine:

  • Whether they’ve got too much on their plate

  • If they need any additional support from yourself or others within the organisation

  • What you can do to ensure that they aren’t working endlessly

From here, you can make critical decisions including whether you need to hire additional staff.

Encourage Open Communication

Encouraging open communication in the workplace is vital. Although many people are starting to discuss how they feel and embrace communication in the workplace, a large number of employees still feel uncomfortable when it comes to having conversations surrounding mental health, well-being, stress, burnout, and even resigning.

If you’re people feel unable to communicate openly with you and their colleagues, you can’t force them to do so. Yet by ensuring that they feel psychologically safe at work and demonstrating empathetic leadership, you may find that open communication is welcomed.

By creating a psychologically safe culture of respect, your people will begin to feel that they can speak to you about how they feel, what they need, and what they want to change. By listening to them and taking action, you have the opportunity to create a more positive environment where your people are engaged and have the ability to thrive.

Enhance Your Leadership Skills

When you hear the term quiet quitting you may not immediately think of enhancing your leadership skills. However, reviewing your own performance and capabilities as a leader may give you some insight into what could change within your organisation to ensure your people are happy and satisfied.

As a leader, it’s important to take the time to reflect on your own performance and see if there are any changes you can make to reduce quiet quitting. This may include being more attentive to your employees' needs, providing more opportunities for growth and development, or creating a more positive work environment.

Contact Us Today

At The Leadership Coaches, we are passionate about supporting leaders and their teams. Whether you are interested in finding out how one-to-one leadership coaching or team coaching could support you and your people as you navigate quiet quitting, contact us today.

Written by Rebekah at The Leadership Coaches


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