Quiet Quitting is a leadership issieQuiet quitting, recently popularised in the media, is defined as “not abruptly leaving a job but starting to do the minimum amount of possible work while keeping the job”. The Wall St journal ran an article “If Your Co-Workers Are ‘Quiet Quitting,’ Here’s What That Means,” on August 12th, the New York times on August 22nd “Who Is Quiet Quitting For?” and the The Guardian (UK) on “Quiet Quitting: Why Doing the Bare Minimum at Work Has Gone Global.” This feeding frenzy has spun up from a viral TikTok video on the topic. Like a lot of media coverage these days, an opinion on social media gathers momentum by attracting interest and eventually the more respected print media will make it mainstream by talking about the controversy – making the issue “real” news. Especially in the silly season.

The is no doubt that “Quiet Quitting” has been going on for years. The way its defined it is just about being disengaged or not fully engaged at work. Not giving your 100% best. This is most people btw. Gallup has been measuring this for over a decade (check out this 2013 poll)  and have been finding that most employees are not fully engaged by their work. Recent global results are still poor. The challenges relating to this for leadership and management have spawned much commentary and column inches. The bottom line is the more of your people are engaged the better will be your organisations performance, and stakeholder or shareholder value. So, leadership and management get to it!

There is a little bit of Generational bias here too. “Oh what are young people like these days!” I wrote about this in my book “LEAD FROM YOU” that the Millennials and Gen Z’s are often motivated by different things. One of them is work-life balance. One of the many reasons for this is these generations watched the behaviour of some larger organisations and lack of regulation and wonder “Why would I give my life over to those people?” They watched many of their parents ruin their health after disappearing from their families for 40 years and they think, “no not for me.” They really are not interested in getting the corner office.

I remember watching a CEO describe to a mostly millennial audience his 25 years at Honeywell and the gold watch they gave him on retirement. They were in stitches laughing at the idea that he could work for one company for 25 years. As most of them did not wear watches (they have phones) this made it even funnier.

Many of the people in the generations aged from 18-45 (ish) years want to work with teams, with the latest technology (with which they are brilliant) and they want work with PURPOSE. Purpose is what gets these people engaged. “Why are we doing this?” They want leaders to help them understand their “Why” and guide them. Leaders who work with them and give them autonomy and trust them to get their jobs done. They want to develop personally and upskill as much as possible. All of this too, aligns with hybrid-working and many of these people can see this. Can leaders?

It is often the case that organisations try to motivate their people by offering promotions and power and desire their people to be cut-throat and ambitious. But what sort of teams do you get with this culture? What sort of collaboration? The complex problems we face today require motivated teams, sometimes self-organising, to solve. We are struggling to attract and retain good people. One positive step might be dropping the idea that people who think like this are “less than,” or “getting away with it” because they see the world differently. The question we should be asking is how to we create the environment to allow these people and these teams to engage and prosper? It starts with leadership.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors. He has over 30 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunes.