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Just when we thought we were turning the corner on the Great Resignation and a hiring and retention crisis, there’s a new term to worry about – quiet quitting. While not an entirely new phenomenon, quiet quitting is quickly gaining in popularity as professionals share their experiences on social media and shifting mindsets around work continue to evolve in a post-pandemic world. 

So, is this a problem associations should be considering, and how can organizations get proactive about addressing these concerns?

What Is Quiet Quitting?

Not every day at work is going to be the best, and maybe on those tough days, you check out a bit, do the bare minimum and live to fight tomorrow. However, for some professionals, this has become the everyday norm. But that isn’t the only problem. While most definitions of quiet quitting often harp on the fact that staffers are doing the bare minimum, it usually has to do more with engagement at work. 

According to a Gallup Study, in today’s workplace, around 50% of workers are not engaged at work, and an additional 18% are actively disengaged – meaning the ones you see on social media putting an active voice to their dissatisfaction – and that trend is growing. 

But where did it come from?

To say the last few years of work have been challenging is an understatement. However, quiet quitting likely is the culmination of two primary factors – the end of hustle culture and work’s encroachment on our home life. 

Related: Is The Traditional Work Day Broken? Learn More >

So what happens when professionals everywhere realize that maybe obscenely long hours, loss of work-life balance and a general disassociation with mental health are likely not the best thing for us?

Cue quiet quitting. 

Signals From Your Team

For associations, quickly spotting and addressing quiet quitting is critical as it impacts not only the growth and success of the organization but also your members as a byproduct. Luckily, like most performance-related issues at work, there are some signals to look out for.

  • Disengaging from work – They’re not taking on new projects, stop contributing at meetings or simply seem disinterested in the work. 
  • Constant negativity – They make outward comments about their work or constantly critique coworkers, vendors or members. 
  • Productivity drop –They miss deadlines or it seems that coworkers increasingly have to pick up the slack. 
  • Separation – They’ve stopped participating in meetings, rarely engage coworkers and never go to community-building activities. 

One important note is that many of the symptoms of quiet quitting can also stem from burnout. Of course, if you’ve addressed these issues and the behavior continues – there’s a bigger problem. This is why open communication and support are essential. 

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Combating Burnout Learn More >

Are Leaders Doing the Same?

Of course, quiet quitting isn't the only thing coming down the passive-aggressive pipeline for organizations. We’ve previously talked about how damaging jerk bosses can be. Whether they’re micromanaging their team or purposefully keeping them in the dark about happenings in your organization – it culminates in the opposite side of the coin – quiet firing. 

But not all bosses realize they’re to blame. In a study by Harvard Business Review researchers, they surveyed workers on how they felt about their boss or manager, including their ability to “Balance getting results with a concern for others’ needs.”

Of that group, staffers who felt their boss was highly effective at balancing results and their staff’s wellbeing were 62% more willing to give extra effort, with only 3% quiet quitting. Managers struggling in that department only had 20% of staffers willing to give extra effort, with 14% quiet quitting. 

What Quiet Firing Looks Like

However, it’s not just about a leader struggling to inspire and care for their direct reports. In some instances, toxic leaders can take an active approach in pushing staff towards quiet quitting, with behavior including:

  • Isolating a particular staffer from the rest of the team.
  • Cutting down on the amount of work a staffer gets (to drive disinterest).
  • Adding an unmanageable amount of work or challenging projects (to cause burnout).
  • Purposefully excluding staffers from major projects or initiatives. 
  • Poor performance reviews with little to no feedback. 
  • Actively preventing staffers from pursuing professional development or growth. 

Curbing The Rise of Unengaged Leaders & Staff

When it comes down to it, whether it’s staffers “quiet quitting” or bad leaders forcing folks out, the real problem is a disengaged workforce. As associations, mission is already a driving force as to why professionals join your ranks, but that doesn't mean it's the reason they’ll stay. 

Often, when leaders look for ways to fix the problem, their focus is misguided – opting for things like hollow office perks that don’t address the issue. Your staff’s priorities are changing, and they want more from their work – more purpose, more balance and more growth. So how do you move the needle? 

  • Create and Reinforce Purpose – Your association has a mission, but what does that mean for your staff? Professionals are looking for ways to make an impact and find fulfillment in their work, so be sure that the organization's mission resonates with them. 
  • Empower Your Staff – Staff want to feel that they’re growing in a role. Not only should you be providing opportunities for professional development – think conferences and online learning – but you should also have a clear roadmap of how they can move up within the organization. 
  • Train Leaders – Your leaders play a significant role in keeping staff actively engaged. And while some professionals are great right off the bat, the vast majority need training. Not only should they understand the intangibles of leading a team, but emotional intelligence and communication training should be a top priority.  
  • Build Boundaries – The days of bragging about 80+ hour work weeks are over. However, as many associations continue with remote work, the responsibility falls on the workplace and leaders to ensure your team is respectful of each other’s boundaries. From scheduling emails and messages only during work hours to actively encouraging vacation for staff, it starts with you. 

Quiet quitting or firing won't be the last trend to impact the workplace as professionals continue to change how they experience work and what they look for in an organization. By understanding the underlying problems and implementing these changes, your association can look to boost retention while doing what matters most – moving your mission forward.

Jose Triana
Post by Jose Triana
September 22, 2022
Jose Triana is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.