Communication essentials - Quiet quitting is anything but quiet.

Today’s Communication Essential: quiet quitting is anything but quiet.

The quiet quitting topic has made the rounds. It’s popped up everywhere. Not so ‘quiet’ I’d say…

Well, I guess it’s my turn to have a say on this. I should warn you that my take may not be what you’re expecting though.

I first read about it in The Wallstreet Journal where it was essentially defined as ‘quitting the idea of going above and beyond’ and I thought to myself…so people are basically living ‘The Office’ life. As in, the show ‘The Office’. That whole show was about doing the minimum while being forced to engage.

But this is real life. And as I saw the story take off and so many people talking about it, I wanted to dive into a little more. Here a few thoughts:

So…what’s the problem? Organizations hire people to do a job. If people feel they are doing that job and choosing not to put in extra effort so they can do other things, where is the issue?

Want something? Say something. If you want more than the minimum, what are you doing to clearly articulate you expect more? Are you prepared to answer the question ‘why didn’t you just make that part of the job then’?

Do extra. Get extra. The WSJ article cites a source that defines ‘not engaged’ at work is showing up and doing the minimum. Is it fair to expect people to do more simply for the joy of ‘working’? Is it fair to expect them to do more without giving more? I gave more. Give more. But it’s not just because. When I was working my way up it was in the hope that it would be recognized, seen as motivation and that this work would be rewarded with promotions and more opportunity. I also did it/do it so clients know how much I care as a partner and they’ll remember that when they have an issue or a problem. But that’s my choice. My motivation. No one told me or asked me to do it. akhia just made sure I was recognized for it.

But what about all the perks we give?? A lot of companies pile on the perks to engage people. My question is…are those perks for you to check a box? Are you assuming this will get people engaged? Do you know what gets people engaged? Have you asked? And…

…are you ok if they don’t want to be engaged? There are varying levels of engagement within an organization. And despite your best efforts, sometimes people just want to work. I came across this example when reading Kim Scott’s great book ‘Radical Candor’:

Christopher Wren, the architect responsible for rebuilding St. Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire of London told a story about when he was walking the length of the partially rebuilt cathedral. He asked three bricklayers what they were doing.

The first said “I’m working.”
The second said “I’m building a wall.”
The third said “I’m building a cathedral to the Almighty”

All three bricklayers would say they were doing ‘their job’. But sometimes employees have different perspectives of what their job is. You need to be ok managing all types.

See for yourself. Instead of all the energy going into forced engagement, perks or worrying about where people work…put it into finding out what employees want to be engaged on. Or if *GASP* they want to be engaged at all. Because, as we have now heard about quite a bit – not everyone wants to be.

Communication cure all. As is usually the case, communication can go a long way in tackling any challenge.

Finally, is this new? No. People didn’t all of a sudden decide to just do the minimum. In fact, that kind of used to be the definition of work. Show up. Work. Go home. Get paid. When I was 15 my dad told me “when it’s time to go to work, go to work; when it’s time to go home, go home.” He stressed the ‘when at work, you better be working’ part. But you get the idea. For a lot of people – that’s their work life balance strategy. The 9 – 5 isn’t a bad thing to them.

At akhia we conducted extensive employee surveys throughout the pandemic. We instituted skip level chats. We took a hard look at our own culture. And we did it through the lens as a ‘work from anywhere’ employer. Five states. Three times zones. But one culture.

The result? A work from anywhere ecosystem. There is no 9 – 5, there’s just good work. You know what’s expected from you, you’re given opportunities to do more and there are plenty of ways to engage.

We launched smaller culture activities and programs throughout the year. Each one had a virtual component. Some only had a virtual component. We scrapped perfect in exchange for good. We tried more. Trusted more. And accepted that despite several (awesome) culture activities, some folks may not want to engage. Which was perfectly aligned to our value of ‘keep being different’ when it comes to belonging…not fitting in.

All we ask? You work and perform in such a way that is expected. (Notice we didn’t say ‘we expect you to go to x happy hours or lunches per month.)

We were willing to accept that engagement – as you define it and communicate it – may not be one size fits all. (More importantly, we accepted that this isn’t a bad thing.)

As you learn more about quiet quitting and think through what to do with this new information, make sure you take the time to identify the true challenge. The audience the solution should be intended for. And you’ve done taken the time to do the research. Finally, don’t forget to clearly communicate. Because as we’ve talked about in this blog many times, you can do everything right but if you drop the ball on the communication, none of it matters.

Good luck. Remember, as always, I’m here if you need me.