Repeat after me: “The cure for quiet quitting is personalized L&D.” If you come up with a better idea, please share. Because people have spoken – they want to work in a place that they feel valued and encouraged to grow.
When we say L&D, we’re not talking about textbook-style, technical learning, but rather customized coaching and mentoring that speaks to the individual’s skills and goals. There are many reasons why quitting while working is gaining speed right now, but there are ways to stop that train in its tracks. First, you need to understand what’s behind the soft quitting trend; then, explore how to mitigate those factors with the right learning and development efforts. With a little luck, you may start a “growing loudly” trend instead.
What Exactly is Quiet Quitting?
It’s hard to remember the last time that the same social phenomenon was known by so many names – “quiet quitting”, “quiet resignation,” and “silently quitting,” to name a few. They all mean the same thing – when an employee only does the specific work that is assigned to them, and nothing more. No overtime. No after-hours emails. No creative pitches. No gung-ho effort to tackle a big project or looming deadline.
The important thing for HR/L&D to realize is that the “Act Your Wage” (there’s another one) movement is not about quitting. It’s a lack of engagement caused by a sense of frustration – and even betrayal. It leads employees to believe that anything more than minimum effort is for suckers who will probably never be rewarded for extra work.
So the burden is on HR, and the entire organization, to restore the faith of workers in the idea that hard work pays off.
Burnout is the New Black
Burnout is a huge issue for quiet quitters. According to Asana, 84% of younger workers experienced burnout in the past year. Even though it is not officially a medical problem, burnout is significant enough in the modern workplace that the Mayo Clinic recognizes it as “a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion.” Signs of burnout include a lack of energy or concentration; altered sleep habits; the use of drugs or alcohol to feel better; and becoming irritable with managers, coworkers, or clients.
There are various reasons why employees experience burnout. Perhaps the most obvious one is “overload” – too much work, too little time. But this hurdle has been part of employee life for as long as there have been employees, and there are many ways to reduce its effects, in the form of time management skills:
- Planning: creating a list of all the tasks that need to be performed. It’s up to both managers and employees to make sure that the employee is notified about all tasks as early as possible.
- Prioritizing: arranging each task according to which is most important. Again, managers and workers must cooperate here to figure out deadlines, which tasks will take the longest, and which ones are most urgent.
- Scheduling: ordering priorities according to a timeline. Even after prioritizing, employees and managers still need to think about the work that others need to do before the task gets handed-off to the employee. A classic example here is supply chain issues that might cause delays.
Employees don’t need to tackle all of these challenges by themselves. Time management coaching is a great method for reducing burnout. In addition, there are many types of time management tools such as workflow management software packages that will automate parts of the process.
The step before burnout is work stress. Everyone experiences a certain level of stress at work, and for some of us, it can be motivating. But when stress is constant, and the employee sees no end to it – or reward for it – they feel helpless and unappreciated.
There is even an American Institute of Stress, which reports that 25% of US workers believe that their job causes the most stress in their lives, and that one million Americans per day stay at home because of stress at work.
Dealing with stress in the workplace depends on good skills and smart self-management. One important skill for reducing stress is record keeping. You’d be amazed at how much time is spent looking for missing files, papers, supplies, and so on. Finding a way to keep track of essential stuff saves both time and sanity.
But stress happens outside the workplace as well. Taking care of personal issues can cause problems at work, such as lateness, distractions, and worries. Organizing the important things in life can be accomplished through models like the Important-Urgent Matrix. It’s also a good idea to reduce the physical effects of stress through exercise, with yoga being a classic – you can even do some of the moves at your desk.
With everyone working so hard, it could be that the employees who are stressed out aren’t being noticed, or aren’t making themselves known. HR and direct managers are vital here. HR should let employees know that courses are available for dealing with stress. Similarly, managers need to encourage workers to approach them if changes need to be made.
Much of this boils down to better communication from all stakeholders. Supervisors should ask about stress during 1:1 meetings. HR might consider opening a “stress hotline” so that employees can feel that there’s nothing weird about feeling burnt out. Engagement managers should initiate surveys that ask about burnout and stress.
A particular skill that employees can use here is “mindfulness”, or “how to say ‘no’”. Again, managers might be more involved with what’s on their own plates and forget about the stress caused by more assignments. Employees should learn how to say no, but with an emphasis on being constructive and polite, which will make this move different from the “Act Your Wage” attitude.
The Act Your Wage concept states, if you want better performance, then pay more. This is not always true. Actually, total rewards aren’t even in the top three reasons for quitting a job. Instead employees want to be recognized for their efforts in all sorts of ways, including:
- Certificates for passing courses
- Mentions in front of their peers
- Requests to discuss their employee experience in workshops and forums
But the greatest reward of all is upward movement. Employees quietly quit because they don’t believe that hard work will get them anywhere – and they are often right. Internal promotions account for only about 20% of hires. Reforming the organization to develop and recruit existing talent is vital.
Disliking the Work Environment and Wanting a Change
It’s rare for a person to start a job with a full understanding of what it will be like, and where it will lead them. Sometimes, employees reach a point where they say “this is not what I was expecting.”
This might be due to the nature of their work; either what they do on a daily basis, or the career path that it implies. Such an issue can be addressed through upskilling and reskilling programs. Employees might be unaware of what else is out there. Giving them a chance to experience other roles might give them a “new lease on life”. Job shadowing, job rotation, and workshops are just a few of the ways in which employees can explore new opportunities to increase their motivation and engagement.
Or, it might be because their work environment is less than ideal. Noise and other distractions, disengaged employees, and even demanding supervisors can all be factors. Training an employee in productivity skills can help to increase focus. But it’s really on the higher-ups, such as engagement managers, to get a handle on such issues, because they are likely to be commonplace.
No Work-Life Balance
In some ways, job shadowing and similar programs happen because of inaccurate expectations. Employees don’t get a realistic picture of how demanding a certain career path will be when they start working at a company. For quiet quitters, this often means too much time at work, and not enough spent enjoying personal life.
The answer to this is career development. New employees should all sit with HR to discuss possibilities, talents, dreams, and goals as part of a career development plan. A well-conceived plan will match employees with the hiring needs of the organization. But just as importantly, it will focus an employee’s daily efforts on a goal that is suited to their talents and preferences. If the worker sees that a potential career path will interfere with their personal life, they can look at another route. This will avoid disappointment and wasted time – both for the employee, and the employer.
Grow Loudly with GrowthSpace
The number one reason for quitting a job is a lack of development opportunities, so the number one priority for many organizations is delivering L&D courses that matter. If you want your people to quit the “quiet quitting” mindset, give them the skills that will enable them. GrowthSpace is the answer that major companies have discovered for matching L&D to specific skill needs, leading to greater engagement, effort, and achievement.