All this talk of quiet quitting recently, or the quiet resignation, has got us thinking. Is it really about people being fed up with traditional working patterns, or is it something more?
Have your people quietly quit, or are you leading a truly disengaged workforce?
Quiet quitting isn’t really quitting at all. It’s a term coined on social media to describe people choosing to no longer go above and beyond the contractual requirements of their jobs. Over the years, organisational culture has evolved to a point where there seems to be an expectation people will put their jobs above all else in their lives. If you don’t work late, you’re not committed. You’ll be available for phone calls and emails 24/7. Quiet quitting is the response to that. It’s people saying a hard “no” to work ruling their lives and setting clear boundaries around it.
After more than two years spent working from home and enjoying some of the perks and freedoms that entails, many people are now being asked to come back into the office. This means no more zipping out to take the kids and dogs for a quick run around the park, and definitely no working in pajamas.
What it also means is going back to more traditional working practices.
“I trust you to do your job”
When the world went into lockdown back in March 2020, for many businesses to survive, there was no choice but to trust people to get their job done from home. For some it was business as usual, but for many others, it was an eye-opening experience into what true work/life balance could mean.
So, is the solution to the quiet resignation as simple as leaders taking their pandemic learnings – when there was no choice but to allow people more freedom – and applying them in the workplace now?
Should you be managing this current situation by not over-managing?
Instead, let your team know ‘I trust you to do your job’, and focus on managing by outcomes instead of presence. Let’s face it, just because you can see someone at their desk, it doesn’t actually mean they’re doing anything productive (there’s a lot of cat videos out there…).
Mutually agree there’ll be no policing of hours, or the how, when and where they’re working. Rather, you’ll be concentrating on whether their work gets done and not what time they log in each morning and leave each afternoon. This does mean you need clear KPIs, so you know what good performance looks like, and you also need to require good communication – it’s ok for people to control the how, when and where, but you still need to be aware if they’re going to be offline for a period of time.
The pandemic forced working from home to become more than an optimistic policy for most organisations – it was the only way they could continue to function. Suddenly this meant people had much more control over how and when they worked – work/life balance finally appeared to be in their grasp. And now life is returning to the pre-pandemic normal, they’re not prepared to give that up.
Covid also gave people the chance to recalibrate. In the same way skies cleared from the lack of pollution, minds cleared from the lack of constant stimulation. People had time to think about what was important to them, how they wanted to live their lives and what truly mattered. For many, it turned out their job didn’t make the top five and family, health, connection and wellbeing were what they really wanted to focus on.
Whatever the reasons, for many of us, being back in the workplace has been a shock to the system. People have changed. Their priorities have changed. Their needs have changed. But organisational expectations haven’t.
So what, it’s probably just a fad.
It may well be, but what if it’s not? We know from years of employee engagement research that one of the three key indicators of an engaged employee is their willingness to go above and beyond for their organisation. Quiet quitting is the antithesis of this, and the quiet resignation is going to show in your engagement figures.
So yes, it does matter because if you don’t do something to address this issue, it’ll impact those key metrics that really matter to your business – like profitability and growth.
The answer is actually quite simple
Use your pandemic learnings and give your people back control. The secret to work/life balance is a combination of freedom and trust and Covid forced leaders to embrace these things, and (mostly) it worked. Here’s some things you could try.
- Manage by outcomes, not presence – set clear, measurable goals and KPIs so you can easily and objectively tell if someone is performing. Support these with clearly defined behavioural expectations everyone understands.
- Stop worrying about the hours people work – focus on what they’re achieving. If you’ve got number one right, then number two is easy. It’s fine to negotiate some core hours when you expect people to be available, but beyond that, treat them like grownups and trust them to get their work done.
- Unless the role is directly customer facing, does it really matter where people work? Some people like to be in the office, some get more done at home while others find sitting with their laptop on the beach makes them more productive… it doesn’t matter. As long as their achieving their goals and KPIs, that’s all you need to know.
- Be very clear on what poor performance looks like – and nip it in the bud. Poor performance is not going to the gym at 3pm or clocking off at lunchtime on a Friday if that person is delivering on all their goals and KPIs while meeting the defined behavioural expectations. It’s the goals, KPIs and behavioural expectations that matter – poor performance is when those are not being met.
- In return for this freedom and trust – you’re allowed to expect the same flexibility from your people. If you allow people to work when, where and how they want, in exchange, they need to understand that sometimes you’ll need them to go the extra mile. But they’ll do it willingly if they feel their flexibility is reciprocated.
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