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You’ve probably heard of silent stopping. If you haven’t, it’s simple: an employee continues to do his job – there is no question of actually stopping – but they drop out. They don’t give 110%. They don’t even give 100%. Their hearts are no longer with their work (if it ever was). And so they don’t sit up straight, they hang down. They only do what they have to.
So what do we do to tackle this? Clean house? Fire the silent quitters and sow fear in all who are left? Install spyware on their work computers that monitors everything they do? Many will give that kind of advice. They provide rock-solid guidelines to get 110% of our people – which is both unreasonable and logically impossible. That path is a dead end.
By taking a long, hard look at how we do things and acting on the mistakes we see there, we can solve the problem of silent quitters once and for all.
Related: 8 Ways To Stop Your Employees From Silently Stopping With You
Where does silent stopping come from?
Through social media, especially LinkedIn, the news of quiet quitting has spread around the world and much has been written about it since then. Many mistakenly view remote and hybrid work as catalysts. Employees don’t say “hello” in their co-workers’ glamorous cubicles; they get no real visits from direct executives and pats on the back from well-paid executives. They have a longer line than before, and now this disaster – a silent but unbridled innovation killer – has struck.
I am skeptical on that point. Time spent in the confines of the office does not equate to increased productivity, creativity or innovation. Let’s admit it: too much of the traditional office time consists of long lunches, sharing company rumors, swerving at a desk and worrying about the next visit to the corner office.
Quietly quitting did not start with remote work and the lack of supervision. Only people are talking about it now. If anything, it’s the new thing about all of this: We’re finally open about something we couldn’t talk about at work for years, or we’d be bugged.
Why are people? For real stop quietly?
Let’s try talking to any employee in our organization. Ask a few questions, such as, “Can you describe your company’s strategy?” “What are your organization’s current goals and KPIs and how are you contributing to them?” “When was the last time you got an honest update on how the company is doing in general?”
If we get clear, accurate, unhesitating responses, congratulations. We probably don’t have an opaque culture that encourages quiet quitting, and that’s probably because we’re among those who have taken the right steps to ensure that our people are fully engaged – not just in their own tasks but in the company as a whole.
Quietly stopping is the result of not do whatever is necessary to ensure that employees can answer questions such as those above. From the beginning, silent quitters were probably never really involved with the company or organization they work for. They have no voice, don’t feel essential and don’t know why what they do matters. They act in a way that seems right.
Stopping quietly is not a disease. It is a symptom of a disease, and the cure is not in shaming silent quitters or retiring them to the office so they can quietly tuck right under our noses without mentioning it again. If forced, once they’re back in the building, workers will look for the exits in favor of another job where they can be free and make their own choices, just like the adults they are.
All of us, managers and leaders, should look in the mirror, take stock of how we do things and see what wrinkles we can smooth out. Let’s figure out where we’re losing the people we’ve hired and see what we can do to correct that. Here are five things to consider.
Related: Quitting quietly takes over the workforce. Here’s how to fix it.
1. Start at the beginning
What does it look like when we bring in a new employee? What are they told about their place in the organization? How aware are they not only of what is expected of them and how best to perform their tasks, but also of the long-term or even short-term goals of the company as a whole?
Most of us have visions for our businesses, not to mention the standards we strive for. But when did we communicate that to the people who help us do that?
2. Put the big picture on the screen
What do we do weekly, monthly or quarterly to foster a real sense of psychological safety, openness and belonging in our employees? How do we keep them informed of the company’s long-term goals so that they don’t get lost in bureaucracy and day-to-day tasks?
If we have silent quitters in front of us, the answer to those questions is probably “Gee, I don’t know”, “Nothing” or something like that. Or the things we’ve done aren’t enough, and it’s time for a re-evaluation.
3. Stop talking. Start listening.
Leaders do not have a monopoly on vision. We can learn a lot from the people we’ve hired – that’s certainly part of why we hired them in the first place. Maybe it’s time for real connection, where we listen instead of talk, and see what they have to say, instead of telling them what we think.
Let’s not ask, “How happy are you with your job?” Let’s be real. No one unhappy at work will risk losing their job by telling their boss so. Instead, let’s ask where an employee thinks the company is headed. Ask for one thing they would change about the job, and see what we can do about the bureaucracy, dysfunction, and inefficiencies that your “stoppers” are sure to notice.
4. When all else fails, let go
It’s true: sometimes it’s time for quiet quitters to stop being less quiet, and the best thing to do is break up. Sometimes it’s like this not about what we’re doing wrong or not doing at all, and we need to cut ties. There’s nothing shameful about that.
We may have hired the right person, but they are not in the best place to try their best. Breaking up is better. We can also pay the non-affected to stop. It’s been done before, with good results for everyone. But as we do this, it’s important to get the rest of the workforce involved to make sure we’re doing more than just getting seasonal workers out of the ranks.
5. Look in the mirror
Too many commentators write and talk about quietly stopping without thinking about the root of the problem. Too often the attitude towards them is shameful and punitive.
But it’s not about the people who work for us. It’s about us and what we have or haven’t done to make sure our organization behaves like a well-oiled startup.
Innovation requires freedom, and to be an employer of choice we need to give our people the freedom to be themselves and do their best. We have to accept that our employees are likely to have ideas about how to grow and streamline the organization that could be much better and more informed than our own.
Related: Are You a Victim of Silent Quitting? Look in the mirror for answers.
People stop quietly because we are not realistic and take personal responsibility as leaders. We forget how to stimulate an engaged and transparent culture of innovation. And that’s what we need to understand if we want to solve this problem.