Two Alarming Employee Trends That Every Leader Needs To Address…Right Now!

Quiet Quitting. Since a July 25th TikTok video — all 17 seconds of it — got posted, the term has been everywhere. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LinkedIn, Medium. Everywhere.

A Google search on the term returned 220 million results.

What is it?

Employees give the minimum effort so that they keep their jobs. No “above and beyond” effort.
The. Bare. Minimum.

· Don’t come to work early. Maybe come late.

· Don’t stay beyond scheduled work hours. Maybe leave early.

· If the project doesn’t go well, who cares?

I’m calling BS.

This is not a new phenomenon. It just has a new name.

The Gallup organization has been documenting employee engagement for the last fifty years. Every year they ask thousands of employees a series of questions that allow them to assess whether the employees are engaged, disengaged, or actively disengaged. Engaged employees enjoy their work. Actively disengaged employees hate their jobs. The group in the middle, the disengaged, are the employees who are coasting. Doing the minimum. The RIPs (retired in place). These are the Quiet Quitters.

At first blush, the trends aren’t alarming. Comparing the years 2000 to 2022, the percentage of employees in the actively disengaged category was the same, at 18%, while the engaged population increased from 26% to 32%. The disengaged Quiet Quitters went from 56% down to 50%.

Progress, right?

Maybe not. When you take a closer look at the numbers, two trends should get your attention.

Like hit-you-over-the-head, I-need-to-do-something-about-this kind of attention.

The percentage of actively disengaged employees was 13% in 2019 and is at 18% today. Quiet Quitters have been there. Over the last three years, the percentage of employees who hate their jobs is growing. 😳

Another way to look at this is the trend in the ratio of engaged to disengaged employees.

That ratio has declined from 2.7 to 1 in 2019 to 1.8 to 1 in the second quarter of 2022.

Those haters are the Loud Quitters and they can influence others. Poor attitudes. Poor effort. Lots of bitching and moaning.

During the last two years, employees have had to weather a pandemic, virtual and hybrid meetings, supply chain issues, rising interest rates, rent increases, spiking gas prices, a war in Europe, and gyrations in the stock market.

Are these truly extraordinary times? Maybe. But don’t get comfortable believing that we’re about to enter a period of complete sanity and certainty. Don’t hold your breath waiting for business and social nirvana.

You can’t control the economy, social moods, or the political climate — locally, let alone around the world.

You can’t completely control your team. But you can control whom you hire. Whom you develop.

How you communicate.

How you lead.

It starts with you.

The demographics driving Trend #1 are even more telling. Employees under the age of 35 are growing more restless. Disenchanted. Disengaged.

They’re the most educated, technologically savvy cohort in the workplace today.

And they’re your future leaders.

According to Gallup’s The State of the Global Workplace — 2022 Report:

  • The percentage of engaged employees under the age of 35 dropped by six percentage points from 2019 to 2022. During the same three-year period, the percentage of actively disengaged employees increased by six points. Fewer lovers, more haters.
  • The under-35 group of workers saw a drop of more than 10 percentage points on whether they strongly agree that someone cares about them, someone encourages their development, and they have opportunities to learn and grow. They feel less connected, less recognized, and with fewer growth opportunities.
  • The number of fully remote and hybrid young workers who strongly agreed that someone at work encourages their development decreased by 12%. They feel that “out of sight, out of mind” is in full effect.
  • Less than 40% of young remote or hybrid employees clearly know what is expected of them at work. Clarity of expectations is a key driver for engagement. And those expectations are very fuzzy for a large number of young workers.

The pessimist looks at these statistics and wonders what’s wrong with younger employees.

The realist takes the responsibility to be the leader who addresses these challenges. It takes intentionality to create connection. To create followership. To create engagement.

Photo by Elisa Photography on Unsplash

The fact that for the last twenty years more than two-thirds of employees are disengaged is sad.

Gallup will tell you the most important variable that impacts employee engagement is the quality of the manager. The Gallup organization claims they can predict 70% of the variance in team engagement just by evaluating the boss.

That’s you.

Employees who work for a bad boss are almost guaranteed to hate their jobs.

You should be challenging yourself to:

  • Role model the behaviors you want from your team. Are you walking your talk?

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” ― Albert Schweitzer.

  • Develop your leadership skills. Listen to podcasts. Read (you can find prior posts, like the Ultimate Manager’s Guide to Leading Great 1×1 Meetings; 9 Steps to Master Delegation as a Leader; and Managing Up — Even When Your Boss is Delusional).
  • Join a leadership peer group like Vistage.
  • Raise your level of self-awareness. Seek feedback on how you are being experienced by others.
  • Apply the Gallup Q12 survey to your team (see below).

Photo by Jud Mackrill on Unsplash

Hire people with great attitudes. People who want to learn. Who naturally take pride in their work. Who have high expectations of themselves — and of you. Don’t accept any Eeyores. People can have different skills, be introverts or extroverts, that doesn’t matter. But you do need good attitudes.

Focus on the managers and supervisors on your team. They are the few who influence the many. According to Gallup, only one in three managers are engaged at work. That means that two-thirds of employees are being managed by someone who is coasting — a Quiet Quitter — or by someone who hates their job. No wonder we’ve got engagement issues in the workplace!

But don’t stop there. You need to ensure that your entire team, from top to bottom and side to side, people are feeling your influence and your leadership.

Prepare to survey them with the Q12.

But you go first.

The Gallup organization has conducted employee engagement research for more than fifty years and surveyed millions of employees. The organization has identified 12 elements, referred to as the Q12, which predict employee engagement and group performance.

The questions are a great way to evaluate the engagement of your team members. But first — ask yourself the same questions from the leader’s perspective. Feedback from your employees is important, but first take a critical look at your own actions.

Ask yourself the following:

1. Do each of your team members know what is expected of them at work? Have them repeat back their understanding to confirm it — don’t take it for granted.

2. Do they have the materials and equipment they need to do their work properly? If so, have they been properly trained to use those materials and equipment?

3. At work, does each team member have the opportunity to do what they do best every day? When people can utilize their strengths on a daily basis, engagement and job satisfaction go up dramatically. It may not even be a majority of their day — just a consistent use of their strengths in the workplace is positive.

4. In the last seven days, have you recognized or praised team members for doing good work? Don’t only go looking for poor behavior and shoddy work. When you see team members doing good work, recognize it in real-time. Don’t wait.

5. Do you seem to care about your team members as people? Do you know about their life situation and any concerns or stressors? Do you demonstrate care about them outside of their job function? Some employees will be more open than others — but you can still demonstrate a level of interest and care.

6. Do you encourage their development? Nobody wants to sit still, particularly when you are early in your career. Encourage learning and growth for all your team members — and role model these behaviors.

7. At work, do they feel as though their opinions seem to count? Ask questions, seek opinions, welcome new ideas — and then shut up and listen to them!

8. Does the mission/purpose of the company make team members feel like their jobs are important? Convey your mission and purpose — regularly. Let people know how the work they do ties to the mission and purpose. Seek out and banish BS jobs.

9. Are all the members of your team (including you) committed to doing quality work? A players want to work with other A players. If you tolerate sloppy work and poor effort, you stand to lose your best employees.

10. Do members of your team have a close friend at work? Humans are social animals. Create opportunities for people to connect and establish relationships.

11. In the last six months, have you had a conversation with each team member about their progress? Employees need feedback. They need recognition. They need to know the boss is aware of their performance — and their progress.

12. This last year, have your team members been given opportunities at work to learn and grow? Good employees want to develop. Are you intentional about giving them the opportunities to learn? Are they planned? Encouraged? Measured?

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

Quiet Quitting has gotten a lot of attention recently. The tone is one of alarm, shock, and outrage.

But employees coasting is nothing new. The Gallup organization has documented the disengaged workplace for decades.

Gallup’s research provides some insight as to what causes employees to check out mentally and go through the motions.

But in the last three years, the percentage of Loud Quitters is growing. They don’t like their jobs and don’t like working for their bosses.

They’re also likely to influence others and take them to the dark side. That prospect demands you take action.

Those employees who are under 35 are also starting to get restless.

In many cases, it is due to working for a lousy manager. A poor communicator. Someone who doesn’t give them the tools, the support, or the time they need.

Those are your future supervisors, directors, and leaders.

Before you focus on your team and try to figure out what’s wrong with them, take a critical look in the mirror. Start with that person first.

Ask yourself the Leadership Q12 questions.

I think your answers will identify some behaviors you’ll need to prioritize. Right away. You’ll become a better leader. Connection. Engagement. Results.

As your people react to having the tools, the clear expectations, and a leader who cares AND listens, you’ll find people becoming actively engaged. They’ll be energized. They’ll be motivated.

And they may just become evangelists. For the team. For the leader. For you.

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