A New Symptom Of A Long-Term Illness

Chief Vision Officer and Founder of Keystone Group International.

Quiet quitting is the new buzzword we hear all over the place. It’s creating another level of angst and anxiety among business and HR leaders. The fact is that this problem isn’t a new one, but it now has a term that is trending, which creates anxiety but also a dialogue that is past due.

If we get to the root of the issue, I think quiet quitting is the outcome of a work environment with low trust, not enough challenge and a culture that does not create a sense of belonging. Companies of all sizes have dealt with similar issues for many years, and many leaders continue to admit that a lack of ability to truly maximize the potential of their greatest asset—their people—is a huge risk to their business success.

The thing is, humans are wired for growth; we are wired to achieve. But we are also wired for love, connection and being seen. I’ve found that when those things aren’t happening, we start to question our value, go into self-preservation mode and shut down; ultimately, we can start to lose the motivation that drew us to the company or our dream position in the first place.

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At some point, complacency (or quiet quitting) can set in, and we begin to believe that no one really notices or cares whether we deliver on our commitments or not. No one cares if we put in the extra time or give the extra effort to solve that customer problem or hit that project deadline. I think the truth is, no employee wants to be quietly quitting, just like no leader or organization wants a team of people who aren’t engaged and performing at a high level.

So, why are we in this predicament?

Because we ignored the warning signs over the past five to seven years. We allowed the gap between our leaders and our employees, between our organizations and our employees, to continue to widen. We dug in our heels and expected the other side to do something to fix the problem, and eventually, the gap became so wide that we weren’t sure how to begin closing it.

So quiet quitting is a new symptom of a long-term illness, and I think the solution is relatively simple. Not easy, but simple in concept at least.

Here are a few tips to help you and your organization start to bridge the gap:

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1. Start asking the hard questions.

Do we create an environment where people can use their strengths every day? Do we truly understand the strengths of the people on our team and how to maximize them for the good of the company and of the people? Do people feel supported to try new things, to make mistakes and learn from them, to ask for help when they are stuck?

2. Define what you want your culture to be.

Do you really know the state of your culture today? Have you discussed where your gaps are and where you have opportunities to improve your culture? Have you articulated a vision for your culture that your employees can not only rally around but also participate in creating? Defining how you want to think, act and interact every day will help you get clear on the work you have in front of you to create a culture of high performance.

3. Create space for the right conversations.

Your employees want to talk about their struggles and why they don’t feel inspired or motivated to go above and beyond. You need to be willing to ask, listen and take action. For those conversations to happen, you must create the right environment (space) to allow vulnerability and honesty to come forward. When you do that, the trust your employees have in you as a leader and, ultimately, the organization can increase.

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Many employees want to be part of organizations where they can grow and thrive, and leaders and organizations want employees to perform at a high level, innovate and solve problems in new ways. So, if we all want the same thing, why is it so hard for us to solve this issue? I believe the answer lies in ensuring that we are open to both sharing our perspectives and listening to the perspectives of others without judgment—and instead with curiosity. When we get curious, our minds are open to new ideas and new perspectives and to hearing about the gaps that exist. We can’t fix what we don’t understand, so the first step is to seek to understand existing gaps and then take simple actions that move us forward and build trust. From there, the long-term approach to bridging the gap and solving the issue comes into focus.

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