The growing social media trend coined “quiet quitting” describes a portion of today’s workforce that is determined to clock in and only do the bare minimum at work. However, this sensationalized trend is simply an old story making a new splash as the workforce recoils from pandemic expectations and potentially establishes new norms for accomplishing work. 

I vividly remember my blue-collar father discussing a “bare minimum” teammate with his mentor and boss when I was a kid. In the 1985 box-office hit movie, Back to the Future, Marty McFly is called a “slacker” for his less-than-positive attitude and apparent disregard for authority. The conditions may have changed from then to now, but the leadership challenge remains the same: how do I lead more of the team to buy in, commit, and produce excellent results?

First, I recommend leaders seek to understand what quiet quitting means within their organization, whether it is occurring, and if so, why? The workforce has been through a lot in the past two years, and associates are saying something through low-engagement behaviors such as quiet quitting. It’s a leadership challenge to find the correct answers and develop unique solutions as culture changes in the workplace.

You may find out hybrid work expectations aren’t clear or one-on-ones aren’t occurring. You could also find that the workforce needs to be re-aligned on vision and goals. You may also find out that the newest generation in the workforce needs to be engaged differently, requiring some adjustments to communication.

Accountability is another way to address quiet quitting. Is your current evaluation system supported by clear roles and responsibilities, or have the roles matured based on emerging requirements over the last two years? The quiet quitting narrative started last April, reportedly as a backlash against arduous work expectations and imbalance between work and life. A healthy organizational response that will help managers and leaders with accountability is reevaluating job roles and responsibilities to ensure that alignment drives productivity. 

Covid provided an excellent opportunity for the rising star in your organization to grow their responsibilities because of their skill set and ability to perform. It also allowed the quiet quitter to skate by underutilized while someone else did the hard work. Catching these examples now will make your operation more efficient and promote organizational acceleration through accountability and the systemic efficiencies gained through aligned roles and responsibilities.

What if an associate in your organization has never had a conversation about personal values or purpose? What if they feel isolated, unappreciated, and uncared for because no one has asked them any “other than production-related” questions? A recent Gallup Poll stated that only 21% of U.S. employees are engaged. This means that only 20% of the workforce is intrinsically motivated to make a difference at their place of employment. 

The fully engaged employee knows why their effort and hard work matter, and they are aware of how their vision links to the organizational vision. This doesn’t happen by accident. This is where the engaged leader comes in to help associates connect to the corporate vision and solidify a strong culture where growth, trust, and teamwork can thrive.

Remote work, the Great Resignation, and the introduction of Gen Z to the workforce are all events that have occurred in the last 36 months. Each of these events has uncovered new cultural gaps—quiet quitting is just a symptom of a larger cultural challenge. We are interested in your perspectives and feedback. How are you leading through cultural change and challenges such as quiet quitting?