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Quiet Quitting – Is this about bad bosses, not bad employees?

Every employee makes the decision every workday of whether they are only willing to do the minimum work necessary to keep their job or are they willing to put more of their energy and effort into their work?

Covid brought awareness of priorities to many people. And with that many of those who choose the former have self-identified as “quiet quitters.” These employees reject the idea that work should be a central focus of their life. These employees are resisting the expectation of giving their all and putting in extra hours. They are saying “no” to employers requesting them to go beyond what they think should be expected of a person in their position.

So quiet quitting is a new name for an old behavior. These employees are asking themselves whether their work environment is a place where people want to go the extra mile. What makes the difference for those who view work as a day prison and others who feel that it gives them meaning and purpose?

Quiet quitting is usually less about an employee’s willingness to work harder and more creatively and more about a manager’s ability to build a relationship with their employees where they are not counting the minutes until quitting time.

Many people at some point, have worked for a manager who moved them toward quiet quitting. This comes from feelings of being undervalued and unappreciated. It is possible that these managers were biased, or they engaged in behavior that was inappropriate. Employees lack of motivation is usually a reaction to the actions of their manager.

Quiet quitting does not exist when employees work for a leader for whom they have a strong desire to do everything possible to accomplish goals and objectives. Working late or starting early is not resented because this manager inspired them.

If managers are experiencing this among multiple employees, an excellent question to ask is whether this is a problem with my direct reports, or a problem with me and my leadership abilities?

Of course, if this reaction of quiet quitting is manifested in only one of your direct reports, that may not be your fault. Managers should take a hard look at their approach toward getting results with their team members. When asking direct reports for increased productivity, do you go out of your way to make sure that your team members feel valued? Open and honest dialogue with colleagues about their expectations goes a long way.

The most important factor is trust. The number one behavior that helped productivity was trust. When direct reports trusted their leader, they also assumed that the manager cared about them and was concerned about their wellbeing.

Trust is linked to three behaviors. First, having positive relationships with all of your direct reports. Looking forward to connecting and enjoying talking to them.

The second element of trust is consistency. Leaders need to deliver on what they promise.

The third element that builds trust is expertise. Are you out of date on any aspects of your work? Do others trust your opinions and advice?

Building a trusting relationship with all of your direct reports will make quiet quitting disappear significantly.

It is easy to place the blame for quiet quitting on lazy or unmotivated workers. However, recognize that individuals want to give their energy, creativity, time and enthusiasm to the organizations and leaders that deserve it.

It is important that during this time of tremendous transition we recognize the good and address the bad. Not all quiet quitting lies at the fault of the manager. Managing performance especially with remote work taking over, is critical. Supervisors were given other tasks so that they could neither monitor nor engage and manage carefully. Performance management in some cases has all been forgotten. Remote work gave employees more control over their time and cut down on micro-management. The downside of that is that it takes more effort and attention for supervisors to manage people who are physically distant. The gap creates disengagement. Supervisors and managers need to be consistent with conversation and contact and be direct with expected goals and objectives.

Going forward we must get better at managing performance which includes engaging and supporting employees but also holding them accountable for their performance.


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