Is your team’s quiet quitting your fault? What managers can do to turn around disengaged employees

‘Quiet Quitting’ is not a new workplace issue, yet businesses are still struggling to move the needle on employees who are psychologically disengaged at work

Is your team’s quiet quitting your fault

Gallup’s new State of the Global Workforce 2023 report found that nearly 60% of the world’s employees are quietly quitting, putting in the minimum effort required and feeling no real sense of purpose in their role. This jumps up to a shocking 72% of staff quietly quitting in Europe – the lowest regional percentage of engaged employees. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the quality of management and leadership is cited as directly impacting this. It is clear that quiet quitting stems from a fundamental disconnect between employee and employer. Staff want to feel supported by their managers, have a sense of purpose in the work that they do, and be given the opportunities for professional development and career progression within an organisation. 

What can managers do to stem the rising levels of quiet quitters and cultivate more productive, driven and thriving teams? Here are 3 steps any manager can take to achieve this:

Ask more powerful questions 

When an employee comes to you with a problem they are facing, managers tend to adopt the typical command-and-control approach of fixing and solving, providing solutions by telling employees what to do based on their own experiences. This inadvertently robs the employee of a learning opportunity to develop their own, independent problem solving skills. Instead, managers must practice an enquiry-led approach by learning how to ask more powerful and stimulating questions that stimulate the employee’s own thinking. For instance, you could start by asking more ‘what?’ questions, rather than ‘why?’. Why-based questions can feel personal, like the employee is to blame somehow or that they’re being criticised. This can cause the employee to become defensive and shut off from the issue at hand. Replacing why…? with what…? removesthe (unintended) personal inference from a question and focuses on the situation itself. The employee is then more likely to be open to exploring specifics, becoming more invested in the outcome,rather than feeling that they need to justify or defendtheir actions.

Demonstrate active listening and acknowledgement 

Once you have learnt to ask staff more stimulating questions that place the problem solving in their court, managers must exercise active listening skills to the employee’s in order to foster more authentic engagement. Resist the temptation to interrupt with your own input or launch into a series of further questions to learn more about the situation, and instead demonstrate your acknowledgement of their answer. You can practice more empathetic responses like “I hear what you’re saying. That sounds really difficult. I absolutely get it. Let’s work together on this. May I ask you another question?” This will help the employee to open up to your questions and ease into a conversation that’s more natural, enhancing their confidence to find a solution themselves. 

Enable a commitment to action 

Once you have initiated an open conversation with an employee, resist the urge to give them a complete set of instructions to follow. Again, this is you doing the work, and the other person hasn’t had an opportunity to derive any personal benefit from the interaction (remember, they came to you); you’ve simply directed them. Reframe what a RESULT might look like. As you switch from an explorative conversation to a more definitive way forward, help them to imagine themselves taking the action to solve the issue. Their satisfaction isn’t dependent upon you supplying them the answer. It’s more likely to stem from their having successfully taken positive action themself. Think of it as less about holding the other person to a specific commitment and more about helping them to rehearse their next step, in order to increase the certainty of their success. In order to facilitate this, you can ask questions like “of the ideas you’ve come up with, which one would get the best result?”, “from where you are now, what would be the first step that you would feel good about taking?”, or “what’s one step or action you could commit to doing?”

Laura Ashley-Timms
Laura Ashley-Timms

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