According to countless articles on social media, half of the US workforce is doing the minimum required of their jobs. Dubbed "quiet quitting", it should come as no surprise to anyone whose been following the plethora of research data on workplace burnout. People are disillusioned, overwhelmed, and stressed out. They are seeing their worlds through a changed lens and asking big, meta-questions.
Instead of delving into the whys and hows of quiet quitting though, let’s reframe what is happening in the workplace in terms of energy. When we see disengagement and burnout statistics like we’ve been seeing it is alarming in and of itself. When you think about it in terms of energy, it’s even worse. Because the thing about energy is, that it attracts like-energy. It’s contagious. So, how do we move people forward? How do we increase the energy of the quiet quitters and do it before it spreads even further?
There are two types of energy: the kind that depletes you, and the kind that builds you up. Everyone has some combination of both. In the Energy Leadership™ methodology in which I work, we break this down into seven levels that reflect how people show up – both in their day-to-day interactions and in reaction to stress. To put it another way, we look at the energetic lens through which people see the world, themselves, and their situations.
The quiet quitters? They are deep in that depleting energy at the lowest level, level one. This shows up in people as apathy, disengagement, and not caring anymore. When people have a lot of this energy, they retreat, “drop out”, and tend to just go through the motions. They think, “why bother?” They quietly quit.
According to Gallup, the decline in engagement at work is related to “clarity of expectations, opportunities to learn and grow, feeling cared about, and a connection to the organization’s mission or purpose.” There is a disconnection between employees and their employers. When you put this in the context of the pandemic and social justice movement of the past couple of years, you get a good picture of why some people are questioning their “why.”
The coaching approach for people with a lot of level one energy is to let them vent. Listening, acknowledging, and validating their feelings is the most important thing. People here want to feel heard, and as Gallup found, “feel cared about.”
To combat quiet quitting, companies should focus on reconnecting their employees to the mission and purpose that attracted them in the first place, or at the very least, to the mission and purpose of the company today.
Remind people of the mission and how the part they play in achieving it
Discuss their specific contributions to the bigger picture
Share with them how what they do matters
As a leader, you want to energize your people to move them forward out of apathy, and into inspired action. To do that, you must connect on an individual level. To start, focus on development.
Talk to people about their goals
Find out what interests, motivates, and excites them
Discuss what attracted them to the company, and the job, to begin with
Find out the direction they want to grow
Discuss what their future at the company might look like
Discuss how you can help get them there
As people feel more inspired through reconnecting to their company, their leaders, and to their ‘why’, gain clarity around goals, and have better defined paths to achieve them, they will feel more inspired. Their energy will go up. As individual energy increases, so too does that of the organization.
You know now what level one energy looks like, but what happens at the higher levels? At levels five, six, and seven – people see opportunities, they can connect the dots, and they collaborate. These higher levels are where creativity, confidence, and wisdom thrive. Now, imagine what it would look if your quiet quitters were able to move into those levels and it spread through the organization. How would that change things?
Amy Kan is the founder of The Workplace Initiative, a certified professional coach in Energy Leadership, and Energy Leadership Index assessment master practitioner. Reach out to learn more about discovering the energy levels in your organization.
This article contains my interpretation of the copyrighted work of Bruce D Schneider and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).