While scrolling along TikTok the other night, I came across my new favorite creator, Sarai Marie (@Saraisthreads), and her video about "quiet quitting" made me laugh and think so hard that I instantly had to grab my computer and write.

After walking away from a toxic work environment, Sarai now works part-time as a barista and spends the rest of her time as a TikTok influencer who uses completely relatable and humorous situations to help people focus on a healthy work-life balance that is sustainable and ultimately prevents situations like the "great resignation" or "quiet quitting."

Image: TikTok

Now, despite what the term "quiet quitting" may imply, it doesn't mean an employee simply walked away from work and didn’t tell anyone. Instead, it means that employees are finding themselves completely burned out and uninterested in going above and beyond. The bare minimum (that many have been getting away with for far too long) has finally become acceptable even for star employees who are now desperately searching for peace of mind.

So, why are these employees burned out? Burnout can stem from several different stressors. Employees can be overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated or suffering through long commutes, bad company culture, harassment, family issues, inflation, and pandemics.

If your leadership team is not in tune with its employees and genuinely concerned about their wellbeing, then you’re not only passively contributing to this new fad (or what we hope is just a fad), but you're actively hurting your company's bottom line.

There's an old saying along the lines of, "It costs more money to recruit and train a new employee than to invest in keeping the current employees engaged and satisfied." The gist is that every leader within your company should actively look for signs of quiet quitting and address them head on. If you aren't sure what signs to look for, here are a few examples:

How to spot quiet quitting

You might have noticed some of your star employees have been more than a little absent lately. I don't mean there's a literal attendance problem in your department (if that's the case, you're falling more into the "great resignation" or "lost all hope" phase, which we can go into in more depth in a later blog). Instead, you can see different patterns forming, and you can tell that your team has checked out mentally.

Employees who previously worked through lunch and breaks with a smile and generally ignored the clock are now taking every chance to get out of the office or log off that they're allowed – and not just occasionally – like clockwork.

You've noticed a drop in volunteer participation. People aren't jumping to assist on after-hours projects or offering to help draft that last-minute proposal like they used to.

You've noticed less chatter in your Teams calls or day-to-day office conversations. You haven't seen your team gather to talk about what they did over the weekend or what they have planned for the next one. Instead, they sit at their desks quietly, only offering input and interacting when required.

Team morale has deteriorated. No one is excited about hitting those monthly quotas or breaking new profit records. Instead, they seem completely disinterested and checked out, ready for the hype meetings to end so they can just get back to their desks to do what's required of them until 5 o'clock – when they can go home to their families or friends and enjoy their personal lives.

These are just a few examples – if we had more time together, this list could go on. But we don't, so let's get to how you can fix this.

The 5 Cs that prevent quiet quitting

As cheesy as it may sound, the key to keeping your team from quiet quitting is to follow the five Cs:

  1. Compensation
  2. Simply put: Pay your employees what they're worth (in money – not pizza parties)! Times are hard and money is tight. If you want your employees to feel valued, invest in them. If you're not the leader who has a say in their pay, you should then become their greatest advocate (more on this in a later blog). And if the money isn't there, consider offering extra time off as a reward for above and beyond actions.

  3. Communication
  4. Talk to your team. If you can see that your employees are checked out, set aside time to talk to them individually about what they need. This communication should be more of a listening exercise for leaders, as you strive to hear what your employees' pain points are and decipher how to help them.

  5. Compassion
  6. Be there for them. Sometimes there are personal things outside of work going on with an employee. Or maybe there's something going on in the office that you don't know about. Again, you're going to have to communicate with your team to find out how you can help, and you need to show as much compassion as you possibly can for this to seem like a genuine act.

  7. Clarity
  8. Be honest. If you know things aren't going to get better on the financial side any time soon, tell them. And then take that compassion we just talked about, and work to lessen their load in whatever way you can. Be clear on the objectives you're trying to achieve on their behalf.

  9. Consistency
  10. Be consistent. Don't have one conversation with your team and think you've cured all burnout and worry. Continue making these efforts until you've affected real change. If something doesn't work, commit to trying something new. You'll earn more respect from your team doing this than you could possibly imagine – and you'll take a huge step in keeping them from quiet quitting.