Blog Managing People

Managing quiet quitters and coasters – how to spot the difference

One pizza, five slices. And only one person truly loves pepperoni. Everyone else is making do until they can get what they actually want. And that's the true picture of engagement in your team. Nearly 80% of employees globally aren't invested in their role. They're just biding their time until something better comes along. And some are actively making things difficult while they wait. So you have to understand levels of employee engagement in your team and recognise what support's needed. Right now, you're managing quiet quitters, coasters and disengaged employees. And each needs a different approach.

The main problem is, at first look, these groups all seem similar. But each shows slightly different behaviours and needs, so you must understand them to provide the right support. You need to know:

  • How to recognise different types of (dis)engagement
  • Why your role is crucial to employee engagement
  • How to manage quiet quitters, coasters and disengaged employees
  • Ways to minimise quiet quitting in the future

Understanding (dis)engagement in your team

Globally, engaged employees account for one in five people (21%). That leaves four others not committed to their jobs, and you need to understand why. The trouble is, as people become less engaged, it gets harder to spot the differences.

Engaged employees enjoy their job. They deliver consistently and understand their goals. They share progress, celebrate success and identify barriers to achievement. And they actively look for personal growth and development.

Coasters do the bare minimum. They're either happy doing their current role, or skilled at looking busy yet contributing very little. They go through the motions and wait for their pay check. So they waste time cyberloafing and run errands in work time. For whatever reason, they’re life's plodders who just don't want to do more.

Quiet quitters are fed up with 24/7 hustle culture. They work hard, get no recognition, and now they're stepping back from burnout. They deliver the requirements of their role. But need flexibility, development, and work-life balance. So notifications go on mute and they log off until morning. They were engaged before, but they're tired and demotivated. So they're giving themselves space to focus on what's important.

Actively disengaged employees are unhappy and spread negativity. They want to leave but don't yet have an alternative. They don't buy into the company's vision; complain regularly to friends, on social media, and to management. And in many cases, they underperform and significantly impact team morale.

The importance of managers in employee engagement

As a manager, it's easy to think this isn't your problem. You can't control how people feel or contribute. But you're wrong. According to Gallup, managers are responsible for 70% of the variance in employee engagement, so understanding what your team needs is essential. And it all starts with communication.

When engagement drops, there are key themes. Lack of recognition. Unclear goals and expectations. Limited growth and development. But these are all things you can influence. Great managers have regular conversations with their teams. They have weekly check-ins to see how employees are progressing against goals, recognise their contributions and remove barriers to success. They also understand what motivates individuals and find opportunities for their team to learn and grow.

So you need to start by understanding your team. Then identify the support they need to improve their engagement.

Managing quiet quitters, coasters and disengaged employees

No-one ever claimed management was easy. And if they did, they probably haven't managed people. Managing a team effectively is complex and it constantly changes. So you need to be able to read your team and adapt your approach to provide the right support.

Coaching coasters: People coast for different reasons. Those who are happy but just want to switch off at the end of the day need clear goals and direction. But for others, performance slowly drops to the bare minimum. So you need to understand why. Identifying what's missing is key to driving their engagement. An employee passed over for promotion might be unclear on next steps. Or a new parent may need flexibility to provide their best at work and at home. So start the conversation and tailor your support based on what they need from you.

Managing quiet quitters: Work-life balance is key for this group. They deliver what's required and then stop. And they'll leave eventually if nothing changes. You need to build a relationship now. They don't feel valued, so recognition is key. They want change. More autonomy, more flexibility, opportunities for personal growth. So be willing to support flexible working requests and propose development steps that reconnect them with everything the business has to offer.

Minimising the impact of disengaged employees: Negative comments, challenging behaviours, a dislike of most things about their role. These people are completely disconnected, so you need to understand what got them there. And manage any poor performers. Without it, the whole team will feel the effects as their negativity causes morale and productivity to plummet.

Creating a culture to minimise quiet quitters

Of all the groups where engagement is dropping, your main focus should be quiet quitters. These are people who want to give you feedback. They want to be heard and they need you to listen. They're looking for development, just not at any cost. Set realistic expectations and make recognition part of your everyday discussions. Explore options for flexibility within their role. And create strong relationships built on mutual trust and great communication.

You won't stop everyone from wanting to leave. But even small changes can impact how people feel about their role and you as their manager. And having employees who are engaged makes your job much easier too. So make a start today and download our guide on how to become a better manager. You'll be doing some of these things already, but our handy hints will help you improve employee engagement in your team straight away.