In an ideal world, we’d wake up every day feeling energized and ready to conquer the day’s challenges. Our to-do list would consist of fulfilling, impactful tasks that hit organizational targets and allow us to grow as individuals. But in practice, the items on our list often feel like competing priorities, making it hard to lift our heads from the desk every now and then.
Of course, your team needs to get work done. But without the right tools or support, things can go south really quickly. Feeling overworked or unsupported can impact team morale, breed resentment, cause dips in performance, and have negative consequences on their health. Eventually, these feelings fester, leading to burnout and turnover. And now, there’s a more concerning trend — quiet quitting.
Here’s how to address quiet quitting, aka low engagement, in employees before it’s too late.
Is Low Engagement the Same as Quiet Quitting?
Quiet quitting is a recent phenomenon resulting from the rising rates of stress, anxiety, and burnout throughout the pandemic. It is essentially a response to excessive workloads and increased demands without the appropriate recognition or compensation.
Some argue that quiet quitting is really just employees reclaiming their work-life balance and going back to doing what is outlined in their work description. They argue that the extra demands brought by the pandemic didn’t translate to extra rewards; thus, it’s time to return to doing what they were hired to do.
In contrast, others see quiet quitting as an over-correction that leads employees to do the bare minimum to keep their job while finding something else. The economy is uncertain, there are layoffs everywhere, and they feel trapped. And this sense of stagnancy and dependency breeds resentment and escalates unhappiness even more.
Spotting Low Employee Engagement on Time
Engaged employees are responsive (not reactive), maintain steady or upward-trending performance, and are naturally inclined to participate. They’re also productive and efficient. And while everyone is unique, an engaged employee is generally well-integrated with the group, even if they’re quiet or introverted.
Conversely, low employee engagement manifests as doing the bare minimum, making more mistakes or presenting lackluster work, keeping to themselves, and generally changing their demeanor in the workplace. You may notice a short temper, more mistakes in their work, and evident signs of unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Perhaps feedback that used to be well-received is now a cause of contention, or friendly exchanges outside of work topics are reduced or disappear altogether.
Other signs of an employee struggling to feel engaged are tardiness, indifference toward the quality of their work, and a why bother attitude.
Why Are Employees Disengaged?
There is no blanket statement about why employees lose interest in their work. But there are some general causes you may be able to identify:
- Not enough opportunity for growth and challenges. Feeling bored and stagnant is a huge cause of burnout and frustration. Instead, feeling challenged, having room to grow, and being able to envision a path are big motivators to do better and try new things.
- Low autonomy. When employees feel micromanaged or constrained by their manager rather than supported or encouraged, they’re more likely to develop resentment and frustration that could lead to disengagement.
- No recognition of their efforts or accomplishments. A sadly common issue for many employees is only hearing from higher-ups when something goes wrong. That famous saying, “No news is good news,” doesn’t apply to management. Instead, sharing positive reinforcement is just as important as sharing constructive feedback on a regular basis.
- Can’t see how they fit into the bigger picture. Most people seek meaning in their work. If they feel like a hamster running on a wheel, completing tasks with little to no impact, they’ll eventually fall off the wheel.
- Excessive red tape or seemingly ineffective workflows. Every job has a side we don’t like, but the positives usually outweigh the negatives. If an employee finds an unbalance in terms of tracking, reporting, and other procedures compared to their core work, they may feel increasingly frustrated or simply not have the time to actually get work done.
Preventing and Correcting Quiet Quitting
Stress is an inevitable part of life. The difference between positive stress and detrimental stress is in how we manage the responsibilities on our shoulders. As a leader, it’s up to you to create a nurturing environment where employees feel safe and have the tools to thrive.
In order to keep super busy teams engaged and feeling productive, try the following tips:
- Practice prioritization. Prioritization is a crucial aspect of project management. When distributing workload, consider how tasks relate to one another, which ones take the longest to complete, the level of effort required, and how teams can collaborate to get them done efficiently.
- Enable teamwork. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Strike to find a balance between individual accountability and shared responsibility, and make space for team members to ask for help or support when needed.
- Make room to innovate. Employees who feel safe are more likely to propose innovative solutions to existing challenges. They’re also more confident stepping out of their comfort zone and figuring things out on their own without fear of repercussions.
- Provide support. On the flip side of micromanagement is unsupportive leadership. The goal is to be there for your staff when they need you — and learn to let them work independently without feeling abandoned.
- Encourage rest. Proper rest and disconnection allow team members to return energized and ready to fulfill their duties. One way to make room for rest is by actively preparing for employees’ time off, having backup teammates for different tasks, and delegating assignments based on skills and workload.
Happy Employees = Happy Business
Strategic project management creates a systematic approach that allows you to balance your staff’s workload effectively so that everything they’re doing connects with your organizational objectives, has a positive impact, and pushes you forward.
Enroll now in Lean for Project Managers, a self-paced program that teaches you the fundamentals of the Lean Methodology for more impactful projects, happier clients, and a fulfilled workforce.