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Quiet Quitting is Real – Here’s How to Make Your Team More Engaged

Set clear expectations, create new ways to measure success, and other tips to prevent this alarming trend from hurting your team's productivity.

quiet quitting is real
Quiet quitting can hurt overall productivity, but there are tools to help your team get more engaged and excited about work. [Malte Müeller / Getty Images]

Demanding schedules, inadequate pay, disconnected bosses: these are things that lead to burnout. And in this era of an “always on” work culture, more and more Americans say they’re feeling it.

A growing number of employees have become more disengaged from work, which has led to a movement called quiet quitting, according to new Gallup research. Here, people do the minimum work required to stay on the payroll, but otherwise coast, consciously choosing not to go above and beyond. And it’s not just a few people. At least 50% of the U.S. workforce is quiet quitting, according to Gallup, reflecting a broader rift between companies and workers.

What about your team? Are you having difficulty connecting with some employees? While you may not be able to satisfy everyone, there are steps every manager can take to build happier, more engaged, and ultimately more productive teams. Here are a few you can begin to implement today.

Start a conversation with your team about engagement

Instead of wondering what your employees are thinking, have you thought about just asking them? By starting a conversation with your team, you can directly know what they need to be successful at work. This takes out the guesswork and starts an open dialogue, said Carson Tate, managing partner at Working Simply, a consulting and executive coaching firm. 

“A piece of quiet quitting that intrigues me is it tells me there’s not a relationship or collaboration happening between that manager and team member,” Tate said. “It tells me that relationship is unhealthy.”

Tate said you can have simple, straightforward conversations that start with engaging questions, including:

  • How do you want to be recognized for your work?
  • What parts of your work do you find interesting?
  • What are you interested in learning? 
  • What do you need in terms of a work community? 
  • Do you understand your company’s mission and values? How do you connect your work each day to that?

This gives employees a voice in how their work lives are structured, instead of just deciding that for them. It brings them into the conversation and decision-making process. 

“The manager and team members are then in a place where they can co-create a work environment that’s going to engage the team member and drive the results the organization wants and needs,” Tate said. “It’s not one size fits all. I’m inviting you into the conversation to co-create a solution.”

Set clear working norms and expectations to avoid quiet quitting

How many times have you had a question and quickly fired off an email — only to realize it was 10 p.m. on a Tuesday, or midday on a Saturday? By contacting your team during off hours, you might be creating expectations you want them to reply, no matter the time or day. 

“This is about setting really clear boundaries around when and how we work,” Tate said. 

By sending messages at all hours, you might be unknowingly contributing to an always-on work culture, Tate said. Instead, work with your team — maybe even create a flex-team agreement, which is a contract that outlines how your team works together — to establish parameters around working days and hours. 

This is where messaging platforms, like Slack, can help to schedule a message to send at a specific time. This reduces that shock of seeing a message from your manager when you’re out with friends or at a child’s birthday party and eliminates that pressure to be extra attentive to work.  

Also, giving people more freedom to work when and how they work best — assuming they remain productive and responsive during work hours — can help reduce quiet quitting. Studies have shown when people have more flexibility during their workday, they can become more engaged and productive. 

“Let people have some flexibility around the hours they work,” Tate said. “Burned out, overworked team members don’t produce the best results.”

Create new ways to measure success so people can excel

Performance reviews might only happen once a year, so setting up new ways to define clear expectations and measure performance is essential, especially with people wanting to work more from home. Here, doing a 360-degree employee review — assessing sales targets, output growth, clients feedback, team development — is even more important, according to Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom. 

A broader management style based around a full picture of an employee’s output has always been a better way to motivate employees, Bloom said.

“But when you are working from home it goes from being best practice to being a critical practice,” he added. 

Weekly one-on-one meetings can also help, allowing people to reflect on their role, what they want out of their job, and ultimately gain greater satisfaction. That personal work can help you go deeper in those bigger conversations instead of just asking how someone is doing.

“You’ve got to get past the surface and talk about what’s working and not working in performance, how you’re contributing culturally and behaviorally, and then working together,” said Steve Morrow, senior director of talent management for Salesforce’s Asia-Pacific region. “Those simple check-ins are more important than they have been before.” 

Morrow suggested using Salesforce’s four core check-in questions to help create more open lines of communication and better relationships. Held quarterly, the check-ins focus on wellbeing, performance, development, and feedback. Those four questions are:

  1. Wellbeing: “How are you doing?” This sets a tone to check overall physical, emotional, and mental health. 
  2. Performance: “How are you performing?” You can implement a system like Salesforce’s V2MOM (Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures) to help employees set clear goals that align with your company’s overall values and mission. Then measure each employee’s performance against their goals. 
  3. Development: “How are you growing?” This lets them set up and reflect on short- and long-term career development goals. Do they want to take a class? Get a new certification? Explore a different role? Show your employees you’re invested in their future.
  4. Feedback: “How are you being supported by your manager?” Employees can give clear feedback to their managers so they can safely be heard and hopefully help their manager to grow in their role. 

On that last point, Morrow also said companies can invest in managers with training and career development to ultimately help their teams thrive. Also, when discussing someone’s development, you can ask if they’re fulfilled by their work and feel they’re contributing to something bigger. If not, it can lead to burnout and, yes, quiet quitting.

“If you don’t actually enjoy the work you’re doing, it’s going to be even more of a grind,” Morrow said.

Ari Bendersky is a Chicago-based lifestyle journalist who has contributed to a number of leading publications including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal magazine, Men's Journal, and many more. He has written for brands as wide-ranging as Ace Hardware to Grassroots Cannabis and is a lead contributor to the Salesforce 360 Blog. He is also the co-host of the Overserved podcast, featuring long-form conversations with food and beverage personalities.

More by Ari

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