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There’s a lot about “Quiet Quitting” that feels a lot like the “Great Resignation.” It’s a headline-friendly phrase that induces head nods from employees and beads of sweat from managers. It’s also a product of the pandemic – of course being forced to adapt to untested work structures en masse during a public health crisis is going to cause people to reconsider their relationship to work. And Quiet Quitting is happening everywhere, in every sector. 

How people define Quiet Quitting ranges from reasonable (“doing your job but not going above and beyond”) to the extreme (“doing the bare minimum at work to not get fired”), and regardless of definition, Quiet Quitters currently make up half of the US workforce. 

So, what’s behind the trend? Employees take the Quiet Quitting route for many reasons, but almost all of them come back to two high-level bullet points: poor management and lack of motivation

Management and motivation are in lockstep, which means that if you’re killing it at your managerial duties, your employees are likely at least a little motivated. But when we are spread thin, when our work boundaries are terrible because we spend so much time working from home, when we’re still continuing to deal with the effects of the pandemic, the more human, one-on-one aspects of our work are often the first to go south. This means that many of us are likely not being the best managers we can be, and we’re leaving our employees feeling unmotivated. If you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone – remember, half of the workforce is dealing with the same thing! And there are plenty of strategies to get you back on the right track with your employees.

Start a conversation with your team about engagement

We can all get a little in our head sometimes, but instead of wondering what your team is thinking all the time and trying a million different angles to reach them, have you ever considered just asking them how they’re doing and what they want? Conversation starters are an awesome way to drum up engagement and allow team members to be a little vulnerable, and can include questions like:

  • What are you liking at work? What isn’t working so well for you?
  • What are the most interesting aspects of your job?
  • Are you interested in learning more about something? Are there any projects you’d like to look into or take on?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work?

Questions like this give employees a voice in the work that they’re doing and the structure in which they’re doing it. They also make workers feel trusted and appreciated, which go a long way in terms of employee motivation.

Set working norms and abide by them

We’re all a little guilty of sending out Slack messages or emails outside of normal working hours, but remember that if you’re doing this to a direct report, it would be a fairly logical assumption on their part that they need to respond immediately. By doing this, though, we’re contributing to the always-on work culture that is likely making so many feel burnt out.

Working with your team on creating an overall schedule and expectations agreement is another great opportunity to make employees feel seen and heard, and might give you an opportunity to wind down a little more easily in off-work hours. And if you still want to peck out that Slack or email on your iPhone at 8pm on a Friday, there are scheduling tools that can be used to make sure the recipient doesn’t see the message until normal business hours. On top of all this, you might also be creating a little more productivity among your employees, because it turns out that flexible work hours also make for more of a productive work environment.

Collaborate with individuals on success plans

Everyone is going to determine success individually, but it’s important that a manager’s definition of success is similar to that of their employees, and it’s that definition that requires collaboration. There are gazillions of ways to measure success, so figure out one that works for you and your direct report. Communicate your high-level goals and help your team understand how their own goals fit into the bigger picture. Create achievable “mini goals” that lead to the final bullseye – this helps build confidence among your team and ultimately will help ensure everyone stays on track together.

Along the way, remind yourself and your employee that it’s easy and, frankly, natural to stray away from the end goal from time to time. Asking simple questions like “how are you doing?” and “how are you performing?” makes some unforeseen obstacles a little clearer, and allows you to work towards a solution that checks off all the boxes for everyone. It also makes employees feel seen and heard and fosters an open feedback channel.

That feedback piece is absolutely crucial – by investing your time and energy into your employees, you demonstrate that you really do care about their happiness and success. Personal investment is a massive driver of employee motivation!