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Building engagement in response to quiet quitting

Quiet quitting is a very popular buzzword lately – it’s been talked about at length and considered the latest trend. But isn’t it simply a new name to describe employee engagement, or rather the lack of it? Perhaps today it is simply more difficult to get this commitment because values have changed, motivations have changed and the world is changing. On the other hand, after all, people have always been more and less committed. Instead of coming up with new benefits, training, and massages, why don’t we consider (and ask!) what drives engagement in our teams today? And what causes someone to not only “have to” but also “want to” do their job? And as employers, what can we do to consciously influence it?

What is quiet quitting, how does it relate to engagement, and why bother about it?

Let’s start with the basics – quiet quitting is the name of a clearly communicated work approach, mainly among young people. The approach primarily refers to renouncing the cult of work. People who enter the market now don’t want to spend more time at work than is specified in their contract and don’t want to commit more than necessary. But why should we expect them to do so? I would suggest separating commitment from dedication, and focusing on how to induce and maintain the former – in terms of their work, responsibilities, and their role in the organization. And, simultaneously, recognition that there is no need to be outraged at the lack of willingness to make sacrifices.

Then what inspires commitment in us? I did a bit of research among colleagues my age (generation X and first years of Y) and besides the work ethos that runs in our blood, what turned out to be important above all were the tasks, i.e. the content of work, the results, and the goals achieved. We’re motivated by challenges, responsibility, impact, and the people we work with. Salary, bonuses, position, and prestige are not insignificant either.

Does that alone encourage more engagement among young people? Well, yes and no. They need to have access to technology and development, but not necessarily understood as a promotion. They want change, new tasks, projects, and won’t do the same thing for many years. Mental health and work/life balance are more important to them than money and job titles. For this reason, they avoid excessive responsibility, which they associate with overwork and lack of time for themselves and their loved ones. Hierarchy is a thing of the past, and the boss is supposed to be a partner they can come to with problems, including those related to professional burnout. What is certainly common is a sense of purpose in what they do and the people they do it with. 

The employer’s role in building engagement and why is it so important to have a leader?

Harvard Business Review claims that everything depends on leaders, and I agree that this is one of the key elements. There is more and more discussion of a leadership model specific to the new reality. Thus, as employers, we can make sure that we have the right competencies in our management team, which consist of:

  1. Courage and mental strength
  • Self-confidence derived from a healthy foundation and based on conscious assertiveness
  • Giving feedback, asking for, and receiving it
  • Making courageous and difficult decisions
  • Responding to situations that violate company values
  • Self-awareness and continuous development
  • Mental resilience and skillful care of it
  1. Strategic thinking and agile approach
  • Strategy creation, ability to have a bird’s eye view
  • Awareness of your own “why?” and idea awareness
  • Flexibility in action, quickly adapting to change
  1. Empathy
  • Ability to feel other people’s mental and emotional states
  • Ability to empathize and understand the mindset and perspective of co-workers
  • Seeing the employee as a human being, being sensitive to the other person
  1. Caring about employees and their development
  • Being a mentor, sharing knowledge, leading by example
  • Discovering the potential and strengths of the team, giving wings to them
  • Caring for team cooperation
  • Delegating responsibility, encouraging initiative
  1. Noticing and benefitting from diversity
  • Treating everyone with respect and creating an environment that makes everyone feel comfortable
  • Appreciating and taking advantage of the synergy that comes from the diversity of thinking styles, perspectives, and approaches
  • Being open to the different opinions of others and being able to build partnerships with them

Is forming such attitudes and developing the mentioned competencies in managers enough? Certainly not, but it will be a very good base and foundation for everything else.

What else can we do? And how is well-being relevant?

In the context of employees’ needs, we can quite smoothly answer that it is worth creating, developing, and strengthening a culture of belonging, partnership, appreciation, and understanding. Show interest in the individual, offer opportunities for change and development and care about immediate gratification. And above all, listen and see what they need and how we can address that – not once a year or on holidays, but in an ongoing and transparent process where everyone can speak up and everyone is heard. Let’s not be outraged that “they’re somehow different,” but open ourselves up to a different perspective. Let’s show respect for diversity in practice!

If we want to take care of work/life balance, let’s not forget that massages at the office or fruit Thursdays are not enough. Yes, they are important, because the body should also be taken care of, and how we feel physically affects our mental shape. However, we won’t get anything out of them if we don’t change the work culture and after an employee’s morning massage, they’ll have to handle a series of meetings without any break. When they have so many goals and projects to complete at once that they don’t have time to sit quietly and think, they just run ahead, as fast as they can. Let’s not be surprised that under such conditions, with no support and understanding from the leader, the employee prefers to quietly withdraw. They’re simply out of breath.

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