Management lessons from quiet quitting: five practices you must review
Everyone's talking about quiet quitting. Employees doing the bare minimum and opting out of the 24/7 hustle culture. People choosing mental health and work-life balance over working harder for minimal recognition. Quiet quitting isn't new. But it has a new name and it's prevalence is rising.
Gen Z-ers are leading the charge, taking active steps to avoid burnout and work to live, not the other way around. But don't be fooled. This isn't a fad; it's a warning. Businesses need to change. It's no longer acceptable to under-resource projects and rely on the goodwill or assumed commitment of your teams. So step back, recognise the lessons from quiet quitting, and take action before it's too late.
A TikTok took the concept of quiet quitting viral. Thousands of global supporters agree they don't want the hustle culture, because life has way more to offer. And this isn't a temporary blip, so don't ignore it. Quiet quitting's real and disengaged employees are a problem. So this is both a risk and an opportunity. You must listen to what your employees are saying and take action before the quitting isn’t quiet any more. So start by reviewing these five key practices:
- Performance management
- Flexible working
- Talent management
- Management development
- Resource management and administrative systems
What quiet quitting means
Let's be clear, this is all about change. Employees demand it and you must respond. It isn't about finding excuses and keeping the status quo. Instead, quiet quitters provide a reason to take action.
They aren't working to rule. The intention isn't slowing businesses down. Rather, employees are exerting control over their work-life balance and not worrying about putting in extra. They're choosing health, welfare and family as their top priorities and aren't concerned with going above and beyond. They want to meet requirements and switch off.
So quiet quitting isn't about slacking. This isn't a performance management issue. Instead, it's delivering projects in defined hours, before stepping away and muting notifications. Employees want to take a break and enjoy social time with friends and family. And not feel compelled to check their phone, or login long after hours. Going above and beyond doesn't interest them, but unfortunately many businesses are built expecting goodwill. And that means a change in approach.
You must re-think how business work. Use insights from companies trialling a four-day week and achieving more in fewer hours. Identify ways to streamline processes and recognise contributions in a genuine way. Your future success ultimately means taking the lessons from quiet quitting so everyone gets better balance and employee engagement goes up. And you need to start with the basics.
Five practices that quiet quitting demands you review
Employees want a work environment where they can thrive. Valued contributions with home life protected. They come to work to deliver projects, but only in the hours they must. The challenge for HR leaders is to help the business continue to provide great products and services. But without relying on unpaid overtime or implicit expectations of people working longer days. So review these five key practices, demonstrate interest in your quiet quitters, and actively engage them instead.
What quiet quitting teaches you about Performance Management
Many reports on quiet quitting reference doing the bare minimum, yet there's an implicit rule - you still need to deliver. So this isn't about slacking off. It's about employees completing projects and then stopping. But many businesses still use annual performance reviews making it hard to judge how people are performing. This traditional one-off 'set and forget' approach to goal setting makes spotting the difference between quiet quitters and underperformers difficult. Instead you need a proactive response:
- Introduce OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). Short term objectives that align with business goals and adjust as priorities change. They're easier to track, so you can assess performance more accurately. And employees understand where their contribution fits, even when the focus changes. So they commit to the company goals and invest in delivering the right things.
- Champion weekly check-ins. Frequent two-way interactions where regular recognition and feedback are key. Employees update managers on progress and issues. And managers, in turn, offer comments and move blockers to keep things on track and facilitate success. Over time, weekly check-ins build engagement. Employees get recognition, leaders celebrate success at all levels and people work together to achieve great things.
You need to recognise the lessons from quiet quitting. Annual appraisals must go. And you must move to a proactive performance management approach. Managers and employees can take responsibility to set objectives and deliver against them and you can track engagement across the business as it steadily starts to rise.
How flexible working could mitigate quiet quitting
Many flexible working practices are still quite narrow. Businesses have gone through the global Covid-19 pandemic and now insist on a return to the office. Parents work part-time, but expectations don't reduce to match their new hours. And many contracts include the need to work additional hours, yet it's clear they're unpaid. So it's no wonder some employees are logging off and stepping away.
Quiet quitting is a catalyst for you to review your current flexible working practices and consider how to give employees more of what they want for the benefit of them and the business:
- Autonomy of their time so they can care for an elderly relative, run a side hustle, or just flex their hours to attend appointments. Right now, their only choice is logging off at 5.00 pm. And instead, you must give them options. Let them manage their own hours and encourage them to be open about personal appointments, the school nativity, or working out at the gym.
- Consider permanent hybrid and remote working practices. Critically assess whether it matters where someone's based. Don't force them into the office if it really isn't required. Develop trust with your employees and allow them to demonstrate that it isn't about where they work, but how they work that's important. And bolster this with systems that facilitate success.
- Demonstrate buy-in from senior management. Get flexible working right and it aids good mental health, so it's essential to the success of your business. But it needs clear expectations, great communication and availability for all. Senior managers often struggle to support flexible working options because they don't get the benefit themselves. So consider what they need too and make flexible working a priority at all levels.
Why management development is a key lesson from quiet quitting
Lack of recognition and limited feedback; these are two key complaints of quiet quitters. Especially in larger companies and teams. And they're often driven by a lack of management skills. You need managers who understand what's happening for their teams, support their development, and provide direction and clarity through relevant OKRs. You want people to proactively offer support and remove blockers. And provide an environment where concerns are raised freely.
You can start by:
- Assessing management capability. Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores, so their skills are critical to your success. Using weekly check-in reports, you can immediately see potential issues. Weekly reports show teams without goals and managers who are avoiding the conversations. So you can take action and provide support before disengagement kicks in.
- Identify bad managers who demonstrate micro-management, poor communication or take credit for other people's work. Use the clues from your quiet quitters and obtain feedback from other team members. So you can understand the concerns and work with managers to build their specific skills.
- Create relevant management development programs. Take the lessons from quiet quitting and look at your themes and trends. Focus on the key areas that are essential for success in your business. And build a strategy and program that will develop all your managers in the future.
What quiet quitting teaches you about talent management
Some articles ask whether quiet quitting's anti-ambition. But there are quiet quitters who've been passed over for promotion. And the lack of subsequent feedback or support is the reason they're now disengaged. It's true, not everyone wants a promotion. Some want to do a great job, be recognised for it and go home. And others want to excel as a specialist, not as a people manager. So consider your talent management approach.
- Review your promotion processes. Promotions must focus on impact not presenteeism. You must look critically at who's being promoted and the reasons behind those decisions. And managers must provide feedback and support where there are gaps, so unsuccessful candidates are ready next time around.
- Hold frequent development discussions. Quiet quitting is about developing your teams in ways that work for them. So move away from tacking development discussions on the end of an annual review. And demonstrate commitment to growth throughout the year. Show employees they can get continuous development, at the same level or higher, as opportunities arise that match their personal interest.
Employees need to see they're valued as individuals, not as numbers. So recognise the need for a culture of support and growth and develop stronger connections. You need a team who are committed to the business as they build skills and knowledge they care about. And they deliver all they can while they work their standard hours.
How quiet quitters influence resource management and administrative processes
Imagine that everyone just did their hours and went home. This is the reality quiet quitters make you face. Right now, you can probably manage if a few people adopt this approach. But many businesses rely on hours of goodwill from multiple employees throughout the year. And if the trend for quiet quitting continues, you need more than just a contingency plan.
- Complete a critical review of resources. People, systems, equipment, processes. Really consider what and who you need to deliver key projects. Identify those areas where you're relying on goodwill and consider the realities of what's actually required. Stop banking on people going over and above. And proactively avoid burnout by allocating budgets and resources to deliver projects properly.
- Streamline processes and systems. Understand those elements that are seriously slowing you down. Reduce the administrative burden and use quiet quitters to highlight your key issues. Time lost through multiple logins. Systems that don't talk to each other. Complicated processes with excess steps and approvals. This is the time to look for opportunities to streamline and integrate so people can drive excellent value within their contracted hours.
Making a change to resource management won't be done overnight. Budgets won't be available and systems take time to change. But learn the lessons from quiet quitting and listen to the warning. Now is the time to commit to doing things differently and hoping your employees trust you to demonstrate that shift.
Using quiet quitters to drive change in your business
Quiet quitting is a warning. It's a risk to your business and you need to take action, but it's also an opportunity. The main lessons from quiet quitting are about engagement, communication and creating genuine connections with your employees. So take them, and make proactive changes to make your business better.
You need clear business priorities and communication from the top-down. Managers who feel empowered to get the best from their people. And systems that work effectively from wherever employees are. Most of all, you need regular feedback. Strong relationships between managers and employees so you can all work together to create a thriving business.
It's important to remember quiet quitters haven't left you. They've simply told you the way they work needs to change. Inconsistent approaches, systems that don't work, time-wasting meetings; they all need to go. Employees want a better balance so introduce changes that make that possible.
Start by introducing weekly check-ins and listening to your teams. Use their input and knowledge to build a company that's effective in its contracted hours and sustainable for the future. At Weekly10, weekly check-ins are the foundation of a great business. And simple reporting links them to performance management, engagement and employee wellbeing. So take a look more closely and see how easy it is to introduce them to your business and make that first positive change.