‘Quiet quitting’ or poor employee engagement? 3 steps to preventing it among your people

We hear from YuLife’s People Partner, Claire Cathcart, about why this trend is nothing new and how to prevent it from being a problem in your workplace.

Yugi the Giraffe - 15 September 2022

‘Quiet quitting’ is the new workplace movement taking over TikTok, that doesn’t actually involve quitting.

Rather than leaving their jobs when they’re disenchanted with the ‘above and beyond’ hustle culture their roles require, people are choosing to rebel by doing the bare minimum.

And while some believe that setting clear boundaries and refusing to work longer hours is empowering and a smart approach, others view this way of working as a sign that the employee has mentally checked out from their job – a symptom of bigger failings within the company. 

We spoke to Claire Cathcart, YuLife’s People partner, to get her views on this viral trend – as well as insights on how to prevent it from becoming a problem for your business. 

What is quiet quitting?

“Quiet quitting isn’t anything new,” says Claire, “it’s a new phrase for an old concept – poor employee engagement.” 

Employee engagement has been part of the HR agenda for years, and it’s all about the emotional commitment and connection that an employee has to their organisation. This means that they actually care about their work and their company, and are working on behalf of the organisation’s goals.

When a business has engaged employees, it sees increased productivity and discretionary effort – where people are not just working 9-5 but going above and beyond because they want to – which ultimately delivers more output and money for the business. Overall, companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable.

“Quiet quitting isn't anything new. It's a new phrase for an old concept – poor employee engagement.”

“Employee engagement has been around since time began. But what quiet quitting is saying, is that people are not engaged anymore – they are removing that level of discretionary effort,” explains Claire.

“It’s obviously great to see the workplace evolving and people actively taking ownership of their lives and prioritising a work-life balance, but I genuinely believe that people would not ‘quit quietly’ if they were fully engaged.” 

While there are definitely some positives to the trend in terms of employees having more time to enjoy their lives outside of work, the desire to do as little as possible is clearly a response to larger cultural problems within the company – and in the long run, this can only be harmful to both the organisation and the individual. 

So what can businesses do to eliminate this problem? If the opposite to quiet quitting is engaging loudly, then clearly the answer lies in creating a culture where employees feel fulfilled in their roles and connected to the company they work for. 

How can companies overcome quiet quitting?

1) Create fulfilling roles

“Employees that are really engaged understand the part they play in the wider business and are being fulfilled. This means feeling like they are adding value on a day-to-day basis and doing meaningful work,” says Claire.

Employees need to understand exactly what is expected of them to bring the most value, and how their role directly impacts the business. The last thing you want is for them to feel like just another cog in the machine. 

Beyond understanding what they are meant to do now, it’s important for businesses to work with their employees to set up career goals so they can see their opportunities to grow. 

Additionally, people need to feel seen and appreciated. “It’s essential that people are coming into work feeling valued, and getting that recognition”, explains Claire. Although the physical distance of working remotely can sometimes work against this.

Research shows that 65% of employees feel like they don’t get enough praise. A job satisfaction statistic that reveals a huge opportunity for leaders to step up and help make their employees feel proud of their work.

Managers must remember to take time to celebrate even small wins and offer positive feedback. There are loads of cheap or even free ways to recognise success. For instance, giving shoutouts, e-cards or, if you are in an office, surprise ‘desk drops’ with notes or small gifts.

2) Hire great people managers

Research shows that 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across businesses is accounted for by the quality of managers. And this makes sense. No one has a greater influence on an employee’s day-to-day interactions and processes than the managers on the ground with them.

"Employees that are really enaged understand the part they play in the wider business and are being fulfilled."

Communication is often the basis of any healthy relationship, especially the relationship between an employee and their manager. And this doesn’t need to be complicated

“Make sure one-to-ones happen,” says Claire. “Don’t worry about complex forms or templates. The most important thing is having a quality conversation, it’s not about writing it all down.”

So what makes a valuable one-to-one? Claire suggests structuring the conversation to cover 5 key things:

  • Wellbeing – This can be as simple as asking “How are you?” and is about getting to know the employee on a personal level.
  • Successes – Encourage them to share what has gone well recently.
  • Challenges – What does the employee need help with?
  • Goals – Discuss the progress that has been made.
  • Next steps – What are the focus areas for the employee over the coming weeks for them to achieve their goals?

“Talk about these five things on a regular basis and you’ll have a really good quality conversation and build a good rapport with the person. They'll feel listened to and performance will improve.” 

“Regular can be whatever works for you, maybe weekly, or even once a month, as long as it's happening consistently.”

3) Ensure people feel connected to the businesses

“Strong connection with a company will come from understanding and buying into its mission and values and working for an organisation that visibly cares,” says Claire. There are many ways a company can facilitate this.

In a hybrid workplace, moments of bringing people together are increasingly rare but very valuable in building engagement. These events don’t have to require big budgets. For example, you could turn it into a friendly competition by giving teams a budget to organise a company-wide event – encouraging them to work together, get creative and plan something they are really excited about! 

"It's all about showing employees that you are a company that genionely cares."

Additionally, creating opportunities for employees to spend time with senior leadership, for instance, regular company strategy sessions or weekly kick-off meetings with the CEO or MD, is a great way to help people understand their contribution to company-wide objectives and see how their work aligns with the overall goals of the business.

Perhaps most important, is investing in employee wellbeing. Introducing initiatives that substantially improve your employees’ lives shows that you genuinely value them. And as a result, they will feel appreciated on a deeper level. 

Employment is a two-way street – if workers feel valued, they are much more likely to contribute meaningfully at work. “It’s all about showing employees that you are a company that genuinely cares, without just trying to tick a box.”

Yugi the Giraffe

Yugi is our YuLife mascot. Like all giraffes they've got a big heart – in fact the biggest heart of all land animals.