6 Signs Your Employees Are Quietly Quitting and How to Help Them

In this article, we share a few tips on recognising the signs your employees are quietly quitting and how to help them.

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Running a successful business hugely depends on employee performance. And even though statistical data from 2023 shows that employee engagement rates were at an all-time high, one additional trend emerged over the past twelve months — nearly six in ten workers exhibited signs of quietly quitting.

As a phenomenon, quiet quitting is relatively easy to describe. It's an approach to work where employees aren't just doing the bare minimum. More than that, they are actively disengaged from their work, performing tasks without a goal or motivation to drive them, and are isolated from their coworkers, superiors, and organisation.

But the truth is, this type of disengagement is a symptom, not a diagnosis. As a leader, you can look for indications of low employee engagement. And more importantly, you can employ a variety of strategies to mitigate the consequences of poor performance.

So, without further ado, here are a few tips on recognising the signs your employees are quietly quitting and how to help them.

The Signs of Quiet Quitting

Generally, quiet quitting tends to manifest itself in different ways across organisations. Its signs can vary based on company culture, underlying reasons, and every "afflicted" individual's state of mind. Furthermore, it's essential to remember that many of the people quietly quitting aren't aware of doing so, meaning that the signs of active disengagement can differ from one company to another and from one individual to the next.

Still, when studying the nature of the phenomenon, it's safe to say that there are six indicators that your employees are not engaging with their work. These include:

• Diminishing work quality.
• A consistent failure to meet deadlines.
• Withdrawal from colleagues.
• Increasing negative attitude towards work.
• Lack of motivation to push the envelope.
• Dissatisfied customers.

Before you can take action to help your employees overcome quiet quitting and empower them to thrive, you need to understand why the phenomenon happens in the first place, so let's delve into that.

The Most Common Causes of Quiet Quitting

On the whole, there are a few possible reasons for people becoming actively disengaged at work:

1. Burnout

According to data from Statista, 22% of U.S. workers rated their level of burnout as "high" or "very high" in June 2023, while an additional 35% said they experienced "moderate" levels of burnout. In other words, more than half of American employees reported feeling overwhelmed at their jobs. While this may seem like a recipe for low productivity and diminished organisational success, it's essential to remember that one of the main symptoms of burnout also includes increased attrition rates.

For this reason, it's not just essential for employers to understand employee burnout. It's equally important that they have specific strategies in place to prevent employees from adopting a hustle culture, as this will be crucial in preventing burnout as well.

2. Unclear company-wide expectations combined with poor communication practices

Essentially, if you, as a leader, are unable to effectively communicate what you expect from your employees (and clarify should the need to do so arise), it's almost 100% certain that they won't have the necessary information to perform their jobs in a way that doesn't come off as doing the bare minimum.

3. Lack of proper motivation

As you explore the signs and causes of quietly quitting, don't forget that most people's motivation to go above and beyond comes from a sense of purpose and autonomy. In fact, control over how they work is so crucial to professionals that nearly half of them would give up a 20% raise in exchange for greater autonomy. And considering the research on work performance and job satisfaction, this comes as no surprise. Scientific studies have confirmed that what makes employees happy at their jobs is a sense of purpose, which, unsurprisingly, involves the freedom for workers to do what they do best (as well as pursue passion projects).

4. Inadequate compensation

Lastly, as you work to understand why your employees might be quietly quitting, don't underestimate the negative effect of poor compensation. In a post-pandemic world where most people are starting to feel financial strain, fair compensation is making it onto the top of people's priority lists when choosing a job. And it's not just pay that matters, but benefits, growth opportunities, and the feeling of being valued as well.

So, now that you recognise the signs your employees are quietly quitting (along with their conscious or unconscious reasons for doing so), it's time to start exploring strategies to help your team members find purpose and passion in their work once again.

How You Can Help Employees Come Back from Quietly Quitting

Although employee disengagement may be a big challenge, it's not impossible to bounce back from. In fact, even small but intentional changes to your company culture or leadership style can be more than enough to re-invigorate and re-engage employees.

The most important step toward helping quietly quitting employees is recognising the reasons behind their disengagement. Ultimately, a worker whose diminished performance is due to burnout will require an entirely different solution than a team member doing the bare minimum due to feeling ill-compensated.

So, in addition to looking out for the signs of quiet quitting, ensure you do your best to actively communicate with your employees. Research from HBR suggests that the most successful managers hold one-on-one meetings with employees once a week for 30 minutes, where the main focus is to learn about the challenges employees face, discuss their career trajectories, and provide help where needed.

If you can't muster 30-minute weekly meetings due to the size of your team, you can decrease cadence or length. However, what's essential is that these conversations act as an opportunity to ask for (and give) employee feedback and show your support in helping them overcome any issues.

Additionally, if you realise that the symptoms of employee disengagement have already started to affect your team, you must take quick action regarding necessary changes. Re-evaluate your compensation strategy by keeping in mind that money matters only as much as benefits, autonomy, and work-life balance. Finally, do your best to ensure that support and resources are abundantly available so that team members are empowered to do next-level work and not limited by a lacking organisational structure.

Recognise the Importance of Prevention

Regardless of whether you've recognised the signs of quiet quitting amongst your employees or simply want to ensure it never comes to that, remember that prevention is much more effective than trying to apply a remedy. Here are some key steps you can take to prevent employee disengagement.

1. Encourage self-care

As quiet quitting is most often connected to a poor work-life balance, take every opportunity you can to remind employees that self-care is a top priority within your organisation.

Scientific research shows that there's a connection between cognitive health and nutrition. So, it's only natural that you should make it your mission to encourage employees to eat better. For example, you can ensure you provide electrolyte-packed supplements and vitamin-rich snacks in the office. Or, you can empower your team members with resources that will help them plan their meals to maximise nutritional value and convenience.

New data also indicates a link between people's productivity and the frequency at which they take time off. So try your best to enforce (at least) a mandatory time off time policy as well as to adhere to strict boundaries regarding work-related off-hours communication.

2. Address mental health in the workplace

According to research, 67% of employees want their employers to provide mental health support. So, do your best to add this type of benefit to your strategy for preventing quiet quitting.

Naturally, there are many different ways to equip your workforce with the required mental health resources.

If you can afford it, providing access to professional services is the best possible option. But if that's out of the question, there are other valuable ways you can support your team. In addition to just being there for them, you can try to actively encourage your team to do something beneficial for their psyche, whether that's taking the occasional cold plunge to reduce anxiety, doing more exercise, or simply being more intentional about setting self-care goals at the beginning of each day.

3. Keep an eye on your organisational values and how they're being upheld

For example, research from 2022 conducted by IBM found that employees want to work for companies whose values align with their own. According to the data, 68% of applicants would be more willing to accept positions from organisations that are environmentally sustainable. Furthermore, 35% of those who changed jobs did so to work for more sustainably-oriented employers.

Of course, making impressive ESG claims is one thing. However, for them to actually have a positive impact on how your team members feel about working for your organisation, understand that actions speak louder than words. So, instead of setting vague sustainability goals, why not take actionable steps to ensure your organisation's values are being upheld and that your employees feel proud to work for a company that stands up for the things they deem important?

4. Embrace your role as a mentor

Last but not least, recognise your position as a leader as that of a mentor. Managing employees entails guidance and coaching as the only way to help them and your organisation thrive. So don't hesitate to work on your leadership and mentoring skills, as they could be the key to learning how to motivate your team to do what it does best.

Final Thoughts

Learning to recognise the signs your employees are quietly quitting and knowing how to help them is crucial in a world where job satisfaction rates are on the decline. But the harsh truth is that you can't possibly expect yourself to re-ignite the spark in all of your team members who feel lost on their professional paths. That's why it's essential that you accept quiet quitting as an unwelcome yet inevitable aspect of running a business.

Yes, investing in company culture (along with better hiring practices) will bring the occurrence down to a minimum. But remember, people evolve. It's only natural that their wants and needs progress as well. And if that means their role within your company has to change (or that they need to move on altogether), then so be it.

Ultimately, every ending is an opportunity for a new beginning, and the mark of stellar leadership isn't the ability to resist change. On the contrary, it's the capacity to accept it and find a way to turn it into a strength.

This article was guest written by Natasha Lane.

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