October 19, 2022 | Barb Carr

How Can You Energize and Retain “Quiet Quitters”?

quiet quitting

There’s a strong post-pandemic trend going on in the workplace: “quiet quitting.” Quiet quitters remain in their positions but don’t go above and beyond anymore. I’ve been watching people arguing about it on LinkedIn. Some are bashing quiet quitters, others can empathize.

Employers are having a hard time finding people to fill positions post-pandemic so this is a growing concern. Some supervisors have responded by passing out warnings to poor performers on the team like Halloween candy.

Wouldn’t a better strategy be figuring out how to energize and retain your workforce?

Why are employees “quiet quitting”?

The general consensus (from the empathetic crowd) is that employees are quiet quitting because they feel:

  • a lack of direction which is making it impossible to prioritize their work goals.
  • there is no opportunity for growth.
  • the company has changed since they were onboarded, and they no longer support (or feel left out of) the mission.

I think all of these reasons can be contributing factors, but I’d like to add my unscientific theory. I think the pandemic gave workers:

  • more motivation to spend time with people they care about so they looked for employers that supported that or went into business for themselves. (Your family won’t be talking about how hard you worked, they will be grieving that you did not prioritize time for them when you had the chance.)
  • an opportunity to step back and evaluate if they are really living their core values. They feel the tension in the discrepancy between the life they are living and the life they want to live, and that is interfering with work performance.
  • an opportunity to hone in on some skills they don’t get to use at work so they are biding their time and quietly planning to change careers.

How do you keep your workers from quiet quitting?

The answer isn’t:

  • ignoring the worker and hoping they come around.
  • discipline. (Terrible idea. Disciplining an uninspired worker will never inspire them.)
  • firing a quiet quitter to set an example. (Then you’ll be one less worker in an environment where it’s hard to replace workers. Also, instilling fear does not equal improving performance.)

So, what is the answer? There is one and it works. Here is an example of fixing system problems to re-engage and re-energize workers:

I recently worked with a friend who managed a quiet quitter. We talked about some of the mistakes and errors the worker made. We considered root causes of those and found:

  • the worker had not been trained on new projects assigned to him.
  • the worker was neurodivergent (ADHD) and his workstation was located in a noisy high-traffic area that was too distracting.
  • there were no procedures for tasks that had severe consequences for business operations if they were not performed properly.
  • there was a dominant personality on the team who dismissed the worker’s contributions to the point he no longer wanted to make any contributions.

So, over the last couple of months, my friend implemented some changes.

  • the worker was trained on all projects.
  • the worker was moved to a new, quieter workstation.
  • procedures for critical tasks were created (with the worker’s input) and implemented.
  • the dominant team member was transferred to another department where her skills were utilized more effectively (she’s happier now too).

These work system changes resulted in a higher level of happiness for the worker and the manager. Is it perfect? No, managers always need to be thinking of ways to improve the work system. Also, managers need to continuously enforce the right behaviors in a positive way, and ensure that workers know what they are responsible for accomplishing in a workday. But, it’s better, and the team member has engaged again. That’s a good start.

How can you figure out what changes need to be made in your work system to retain and energize “quiet quitters”?

Root cause analysis is a very effective method of strengthening work systems and retaining your workers. A lot of people think it’s for minimizing incidents and equipment downtime and it’s all that too, but the byproduct is happier, engaged workers.

If you manage people, knowing how to identify the problems and analyze them for root causes you can fix will make your job easier, get you noticed as a problem-solver, and make the company a better place to work.

Why don’t you join us for a 2-day in-person course and find out for yourself? It’s a small investment of time with a big return on investment.

I’m curious, do you have any quiet quitters in your workplace? Leave a comment and let me know.

Operational Excellence, Root Cause Analysis
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