Quiet quitting – addressing the root causes

Despite being shouted about as a new phenomena, it’s been around forever and there are known solutions.

Dropping your efforts to the bare minimum to avoid management scrutiny, and making no effort to engage in proactive efforts to improve the business.  Not what the doctor ordered for a sustainable business.  Even worse the next step for people in this bracket is to become saboteurs, whether that’s a conscious decision or not.

Previous headlines that raise the same red flags include “low employee engagement levels”, and “low business productivity”.  The solutions as ever feature in good business:

  1. Getting, listening to  and acting on employee feedback
  2. Setting and measuring performance outputs and expectations – positively
  3. Aligning everyone around a motivating purpose and objectives
  4. Monitoring health & wellbeing and proactively improving your contribution to positive impacts
  5. Addressing, training or removing “bad” managers

1. Getting, listening to and acting on employee feedback

“People are our biggest asset”

What sort of qualitative and quantitative feedback do you get from them about the business and their motivation?  Typically this conversation creates a tumbleweed moment. Or there is recognition that it’s fairly random based on the quality of un-trained managers gut feel approach

Decide on the most effective ways to gather feedback from employees, such as through surveys, focus groups, suggestion boxes, one-on-one meetings, or online platforms.  Give anonymous options too.  Ask clear and specific questions to help employees provide relevant feedback that can be used to make informed decisions. Listen actively without being defensive or dismissive. Give feedback so they know you have listened, and if action is needed or not being taken tell them.

Review feedback formally at regular occasions, potentially quarterly board meetings.  Let people know the actions arising and make sure they get completed.

2. Setting and measuring performance outputs and expectations – positively

Experts talk about high performing teams having “psychological safety”.  Enabling people on performing well.  An absence of expectations or targets, combined with no feedback, creates uncertainty.

Creating a positive environment where achievement is celebrated and underperformance is supported is clearly good business.   This enables and also helps steer professional development, continuous learning, and skill-building.  Avoiding micro management and a negative use of metrics is the challenge.

3. Aligning everyone around a motivating purpose and objectives

Our view is that in an authentically sustainable business, profits are a positive consequence of achieving your purpose.  That’s not for everyone and we don’t judge.   There are elements of art and science in creating meaningful purpose.

A strong purpose can relate to different outcomes such as a social cause, an environmental cause, giving customers a highly efficient or ethically sound service option. For some businesses, whilst they could have a cause based purpose, satisfying the functional and emotional needs of customers can be the thrust.

Why bother?  To achieve buy in from a broad range of stakeholders, particularly employees, suppliers and investors.  Then align their efforts with the north star of your purpose, and get the discretionary effort that moves people above “quiet quitting” effort levels.  If your purpose is not authentic and doesn’t contribute tot his, don’t bother.  It’s not a marketing exercise.

4. Monitoring health & wellbeing and proactively improving your contribution to positive impacts

Ultimately, health and wellbeing is how someone’s life is going.  Gallup has done a lot of work in this area and identifies five core elements of wellbeing – Career, Social, Financial, Physical, Community.  When employees struggle or suffer, they’re about twice as likely as thriving employees to change jobs.  En route to departure they typically quietly quit,

Equipping managers to recognise and support positive and negative wellbeing properly is the fundamental.  There are plenty of measurements and controls to back them up once you start looking.

5. Addressing, training or removing “bad” managers

Which neatly leads us into the concept of bad managers.  The adage that “people leave managers not organisations” may not be totally valid, but has plenty of support.  No-one sets out to be bad, however many managers come from a technical background and get little quality training and support on how to manage well.

Employee feedback helps flag issues, particularly when the population enables comparison or feedback goes downhill over time.  Intervention is difficult, however the tough conversations need to happen with supportive intent, or productivity will likely plummet and employee churn rises quickly follow.  Longer term, establishing leader development and mentoring support is considered a worthy investment by CEO’s in various research papers.


There’s nothing new in the problem or it’s solutions.  However in the maelstrom of growth and business as usual it is easy to let some of the fundamentals slide.  Its worth having the checks and balances in place to get early warning of this, as it can destroy your bottom line and challenge the long term sustainability of your business if you let it slide.


Subscribe to our newsletter

Get sustainable business updates and latest thinking*

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
*No SPAM. Ever.
Scroll to Top