How To Spot ‘Quiet Quitting’

Post-pandemic, employee burnout is going by another name - quiet quitting. Characterized by a stealthy withdrawal from work, it occurs when an employee takes a step back and starts doing less than their normal workload. They’re not quitting, exactly, they’re just disengaging.

Technically, quiet quitting is just that - pulling back on any “extras” while a staff member is on their way out the door. Usually, this means an employee is “working to rule,” but quiet quitting is used in the context where an employee is working to rule prior to leaving the company. It has been misused as meaning employees not “going the extra mile” - it isn’t that at all. The term was first introduced in 2009 by Mark Boldger, an economist, and was only picked up by mass media after a viral TikTok video which used the term was produced in mid-2022. 

There’s several reasons why an employee might start scaling back. They may be overwhelmed by job pressure, reassessing their work/life balance, or actively exploring new opportunities elsewhere. Regardless of the reason, it leaves managers scrambling to shoulder the extra load and figure out how to avoid losing that employee for good.

Below we’ll run through the telltale signs that indicate your employee has one foot out the door, and what to do about it.

Quiet quitting red flags

1. A dip in productivity

When a hyper-productive employee suddenly starts missing deadlines and cals, you know you’ve got a problem. The question for managers should be, is this a temporary situation, caused by illness, family issues, or some other short-term issue? Or is it something that has no apparent cause and an ongoing behavior?

If it’s the latter, you may well be dealing with a case of quiet quitting. And the earlier you identify it, the better. An Employee Productivity Monitoring tool (EPM) like Prodoscore can help managers instantly recognize when there’s a productivity lapse by monitoring how employees engage with company tools. With real-time insights, you can stay ahead of who’s hitting their objectives and who might be eyeing the exit.

2. Uncharacteristic behavior

Your quiet quitter probably won’t be able to hide their disinterest. If a formerly upbeat employee seems morose, doesn’t contribute any new ideas, or skips out on watercooler chats, you can assume they’ve mentally checked out.

Any negative changes in behavior should prompt a chat with your team members, regardless of what it is.. The last thing you want is demoralized, miserable employees who are just going through the motions.

3. No extra effort

Employees who experience high job satisfaction are more likely to go the extra mile for their employers - staying a little later to finish a project, taking over from another colleague to help balance the workload, stepping up when others are unavailable. 

Of course, not every employee can (or should!) do extra work but if your star workers stop making those little gestures, it’s a sign that they’re no longer as invested in their team’s success.

4. Reluctance to communicate/collaborate

One of the hallmarks of withdrawal in the workplace is poor communication. An early warning sign of quiet quitting is an employee who stops speaking up in meetings and/or chatting with colleagues. 

Managers can stay alert to this kind of change in behavior by keeping a close eye on how team members are collaborating. Again, an EPM solution like Prodoscore can be a manager’s best asset in this situation by giving them visibility into chat tools so they can see who’s consistently communicating and who’s fallen silent.

What to do if you suspect an employee is quietly quitting

Identifying quiet quitting is the first step. Resolving the underlying issue is the next. 

This will require a sensitive approach, especially if the employee is feeling the strain from burnout or pressure. Schedule an informal meeting, and do your best to put them at ease, opening up a constructive conversation without appearing aggressive or unsympathetic. They may simply be “saying no to hustle culture,” as this article in the Wall Street Journal suggests - hopefully that is the case. 

Avoid blame or shaming - you want to get to the root of what’s bothering your staff, not chastise them for their poor performance. They won’t be inclined to honestly articulate their feelings if they’re on the defensive. 

If your employee can’t, or won’t, share what’s bothering them, they may have already made up their mind to leave. If that’s the case, your only option is to discreetly prepare for their departure.

Make sure you have resources in place to mitigate their absence if they abruptly leave, and brush up your hiring strategy if you haven’t revised it recently. It’s always disruptive when employees hand in their notice, but you can minimize that disruption by preparing for every eventuality.

Maximize your team’s performance and stay alert to signs of burnout or stress with Prodoscore. The innovative Employee Productivity Monitoring platform provides a window into how your staff is involved in the business each day. Spot team members who are struggling and offer support to get them back on track. Contact our team to book a demonstration and see how Prodoscore can help address workplace stress.

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