Many people have been hearing the term “quiet quitting” – apparently referring to when employees significantly reduce the effort they put into their work without notifying their boss or manager. Although they seem ok with telling other people they are doing it…
And just because the employee hasn’t informed their leader, chances are that their leader knows it’s happening (so good luck getting a good reference), but the leader is potentially worried about finding more staff and therefore tolerating this underperformance more than they would have previously.
Now let’s state what should be obvious, quiet quitting is not a new thing – it’s called “presenteeism” and it’s been happening for literally years. Just because a new fancy term has been born doesn’t make it a new phenomenon.
And given that personal responsibility is at an embarrassing all-time low for many people, it’s no wonder that leaders are getting blamed for its occurrence.
So what can leaders do?
The best thing leaders can do is to ensure there is psychological safety for people to show accountability. Then, of course, coach the standards of accountability expected in the business, using explicit frameworks about what accountability is and isn’t in terms of behaviours, activities and mindset.
People should be encouraged to speak up about the reasons that might lead to presenteeism if left unchecked.
Are they not utilising enough of their strengths and doing work that brings them joy at least 20% of the time – research suggests that’s the magic percentage you need to get to each day in order to avoid burnout.
Encourage them to speak up if there are unrealistic deadlines, or too many meetings.
Encourage people to own how they achieve their outcomes in a way that works for them and for the business.
Encourage people to speak up about the work that they would do in their perfect work environment.
Encourage them to speak up about how they like to be recognised for great work.
Encourage people to take responsibility for maximising their energy.
Leadership is hard and leaders aren’t mind-readers, so asking people about what they want to work on, and how they want to work, can go a long way to keeping people engaged.
Of course if people don’t want to work on what is essentially their job description, then the decision is whether to create a role for them that does cater to their strengths, or let them quit more explicitly (and quickly) so that you can get someone who does want to do that role.
Once the standards have been set for empowering people to speak up and to do their best work, the next most important thing is to not tolerate anything that doesn’t meet that standard.
By tolerating any behaviour that looks or smells of presenteeism, you are effectively driving away your high performers as discussed here.
What can employees do?
Firstly understand that presenteeism adversely impacts your personal brand (which is 100% your responsibility). Nor does it help your ability to get a good reference for your next job.
It often helps to start by determining what is making you happy in your current role.
Then you can isolate the parts that aren’t working as well for you. And as above, your boss is not a mind reader, so be very explicit about what support you would like from them in order to help you to love what you are doing and how you go about doing it.
Of course, if you do take responsibility to discuss the above with your leader and they make no effort to take any interest or do anything about it, or your needs are just not aligned with the business needs, then quit – not quietly – but very quickly.
If you are interested in ensuring your culture is set for success instead of presenteeism, why not book your Performance Call with us.