4 Reasons Your Team is Quiet Quitting (and What To Do About It)

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“4 Reasons Your Team is Quiet Quitting” is written by Carly Voinski, Carey’s Executive Assistant and Social Media Manager. Carly lives in New Jersey with her family, where she serves local ministries as a Worship Leader and spends too much time growing tomatoes.

Does it sometimes feel like your team is quietly on strike, yet they still show up and do their job? Well, you’re not crazy; something is brewing.

At some level, you’ve experienced the impacts of the Great Resignation. Perhaps your team began to hand in their notices one after another, or your favorite restaurant had to drastically change its business model due to a lack of employees.

Whether directly or indirectly, you’ve felt the burden of the Great Resignation. Well, what about those who stayed? Have you considered the burden placed on the employees who didn’t leave?

There’s been a sudden movement washing over the workplace, and it’s being led by those who stayed in their roles. It’s called Quiet Quitting.

What is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet Quitting has received many definitions over the past few months, but essentially, Quiet Quitting describes what happens when an employee chooses to do the bare minimum.

They work their 8 hours, but not a minute more. They continue to do the work that is assigned to them, but they do not volunteer or offer to take on additional work without additional pay. 

In other words, they go to work, do their job, and go home. 

So, why is there a term for someone simply doing their job? 

The expectations for employees have been so high, far beyond their job descriptions and beyond their salary range, that by giving no extra effort, it’s as if they are on strike. And so, a new term was born.

The expectations for employees have been so high, far beyond their job descriptions and beyond their salary range, that by giving no extra effort, it’s as if they are on strike.

The expectations for employees have been so high, far beyond their job descriptions and beyond their salary range, that by giving no extra effort, it’s as if they are on strike.- @carlyvoinski Click To Tweet

While I’m not currently Quiet Quitting, there have been times when I’ve noticed myself slipping into this behavior. Before joining the Carey Nieuwhof team, I spent ten years working in local churches. I began my time in ministry by filling support roles and then transitioning into leadership.

And guess what? I could be on a roller coaster of ambitious highs and bare minimum lows in both positions. It wasn’t exactly a wave of indifference that would wash over me, I still cared deeply; my energy and desire to push was just zapped. 

In those seasons, it didn’t matter if I worked in administration or leading an entire creative department. It also didn’t matter that the work I was doing was purposeful. 

Churches and volunteer organizations are not immune to Quiet Quitting.

Church leaders might need to ask whether the shortage in staff and volunteers at most churches is a form of quiet quitting. 

Volunteers that were at one time on fire and passionate about your mission, donating hours of their week, and stepping into leadership roles, are now stepping aside and letting the paid staff take back the work. And your paid staff? They’re feeling the workload pile on and watching their free time vanish. 

Church leaders might need to ask whether the shortage in staff and volunteers at most churches is a form of quiet quitting. 

Church leaders might need to ask whether the shortage in staff and volunteers at most churches is a form of quiet quitting. – @carlyvoinski Click To Tweet

It’s easy to think your team is simply being lazy, but there are real reasons behind the behavior that is now known as Quiet Quitting. 

If you do a google search, you’ll find that many articles blame poor bosses for the Quiet Quitting epidemic. Leaders and managers have been accused of causing their teams to burn out and lose drive. I’m sure in many cases, it’s true. 

But what about leaders like you? Leaders with the best intentions who care about their team and just want to see the mission succeed? Quiet Quitting is hitting teams of these leaders too. 

So let’s take a couple of minutes to explore why.

By understanding what causes employees or volunteers in your organization to engage in Quiet Quitting, you will be better positioned to lead your organization forward without leaving dead bodies behind.

Here are four reasons why your team is Quiet Quitting.

#1 You no longer have a correct understanding of their scope of work

When you place someone into a new role, you usually hand them a job description. However, after a year or two, what begins to happen? The team member has taken on additional tasks, and their responsibilities have shifted to include things that were never listed on that piece of paper.

And if you have a high-capacity leader in that position, that job description will be out of date in no time. In fact, a great employee will begin to fill roles and positions you didn’t even know you needed.

So what happens? You no longer have a correct understanding of their scope of work. Your expectations don’t match their workflow. And in turn, they feel underappreciated, underpaid, and overwhelmed.

By engaging in Quiet Quitting, your team no longer takes on extra work they don’t feel is being compensated.

By refraining from the extra responsibilities, your team is focusing solely on the work that you originally expected from them, and no more. 

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#2 They are just as exhausted as you are

The last few years have been a whirlwind for everyone, there’s no denying that. However, as people began quitting their jobs and stepping back from volunteer roles, leaders focused on replacement and restructuring.

Leaders have had to navigate incredible change, grieve the loss of relationships, and emotionally deal with their pride and humility as everything they knew shifted. It has been exhausting.

Did you know that your employees and volunteers are just as exhausted as you are? The team members that chose to stay amid chaos are tired. It’s that simple.

Those who stayed during the Great Resignation picked up the slack when others left and have, overall, felt very little appreciation for it. 

Even your high-capacity leaders who do a great job of carrying an immense workload feel tired. 

What can you do to provide some rest or relief?

Those who stayed during the Great Resignation picked up the slack when others left and have, overall, felt very little appreciation for it. 

Those who stayed during the Great Resignation picked up the slack when others left and have, overall, felt very little appreciation for it. – @carlyvoinski Click To Tweet

#3 They are not the owner, and they know it.

Most leaders would say they want people in their organizations who aren’t just ‘workers’ but who act like ‘owners.’ This means they take responsibility for the outcome of the results they receive. They constantly look for better processes and for ways to increase productivity and profit margins.

There is nothing wrong with wanting these types of people on your team. What has happened, though, is over time, these ‘owner-minded’ workers have received no benefits from their behavior.

Instead, bosses have extended the ‘owner mindset’ to include working an immense amount of hours, being available 24/7, and expecting an inappropriate amount of organizational loyalty. 

To make it worse, employers are not paying these team members as owners, and raises have not been prevalent for most of the workforce in the past few years. 

Instead of promotions and pay raises, these employees and volunteers have received extra work and responsibility. 

And as organizations still struggle to fill vacant roles, your team experiences all of this with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Want to know what many workers are thinking as we weave out of the pandemic and into an increasingly turbulent economy? 

It’s this: Why should they work above and beyond their initial job to build your organization when they could use that time at home to build their own?

Your team owes you fair work for fair compensation. 

Perhaps our expectations should change. 

Why should your employees choose to work above and beyond their initial job description to build your organization when they could use that time at home to build their own?

Why should your employees choose to work above and beyond their initial job description to build your organization when they could use that time at home to build their own? – @carlyvoinski Click To Tweet

#4 They see no room for growth.

There is another reason for employees and volunteers to engage in Quiet Quitting. It’s when they see no room for growth in your organization.

Think back. Can you remember a time when you were in a situation in which you saw no upward movement? It probably felt frustrating, suffocating, and defeating.

As the median age of workers in North America continues to rise, more and more workers see no room for growth.

When there’s no room to advance, what do you do? You begin to look elsewhere. And, in many cases, you disengage from your current work.

As you look at your team and notice the patterns of Quiet Quitting, consider if this could be one of the reasons.

If so, I employ you to have a conversation with your team member. 

Can you help develop them to eventually go somewhere else? Is there a future position they may not be seeing?

The more transparent you can be about the growth situation in your organization, the better experience your team member will have, and the more positive your workplace will be.

3 Ways to Combat Quiet Quitting

Now that you know some reasons why your team may be pulling back, it’s time to take action. 

Remember the rollercoaster I mentioned earlier? My ambitious highs and bare minimum lows were directly correlated to my health and the health of the organization I was working for.

I fully believe a healthy work culture creates an environment where terms like Quiet Quitting and Quiet Firing (you can read about that here) don’t need to exist.

Your leadership will never be perfect, and the people you work with will have good days and bad days. But, a great leader doesn’t stop at knowing why something happens; they strive to change the course of direction.

Leaders, you can’t control people, but you can control the environment in which they work. Let’s make it a healthy place.

Leaders, you can’t control people, but you can control the environment in which they work. Let’s make it a healthy place.

Leaders, you can’t control people, but you can control the environment in which they work. Let’s make it a healthy place. – @carlyvoinski Click To Tweet

#1 Respect Time Off

Most organizations provide paid time off at some level or another. While leaders view this as a benefit they provide their teams, it’s only a benefit if it’s respected.

My time on Carey’s team has shown me what respected time off looks like. In August, I took off a week to spend time in the Outer Banks with family and friends. The weather was great, the company was sweet, and the sound of the ocean each morning was a special song for my soul. 

But you know what truly allowed that to happen? Zero contact from my workplace. 

Seriously, zero contact. In fact, I forgot to turn off my Slack notifications, and when I replied to a message I saw, one of my co-workers told me to get back on vacation!

When your team member is out of the office, respect it. 

Emergencies will happen, but emergencies are rare. 

Here’s a tip: Determine beforehand what constitutes an emergency.

When it’s clear what emergencies will require you to bother (yes, bother) a team member on their time off, it will make it much easier to put the phone down and let them enjoy their rest.

Most organizations provide paid time off at some level or another. While leaders view this as a benefit they provide their teams, it’s only a benefit if it’s respected. – @carlyvoinski Click To Tweet

#2 A 4-Day Work Week

Four-day work weeks are becoming more common as companies large and small across the world begin to experiment with this idea.

In June, Carey brought the idea to our team as a summer experiment.

After personally experiencing a 4-day work week for the last three months, I can see how adopting this style can combat Quiet Quitting.

By implementing a 4-day work week, your team members receive extra time off, which gifts them with something no one can buy, time.

With extra time your team members will feel like they have more space to breathe, enjoy their personal time, and work on a passion project.

Perhaps they’ll even have space to take the initiative on a work project that randomly popped into their mind. (Confession, I actually wrote this blog post on a Friday, my day off. Yup, the opposite of Quiet Quitting.)

By implementing a 4-day work week, your team members receive extra time off, which gifts them with something no one can buy, time. – @carlyvoinski Click To Tweet

#3 Regular 1:1 Meetings

Not long ago, we posted a question on Carey’s Facebook page. We asked leaders how often they meet with their direct reports and how often they provide or receive feedback.

I was surprised at how many people reported that they still meet with their team members once a year for a formal review or once a quarter at best.

In any relationship, communication is key. Why do we ignore it in the workplace?

Regular one-on-ones with your team, weekly or monthly, will allow you to learn their actual scope of work. You’ll notice if they’re exhausted or seem off-beat. Their desire for growth will most likely come up in conversation. 

And the more consistent you make these meetings, the easier they will become. 

These meetings will become the heartbeat of your workplace culture.

The good news? 

The good news? Quiet Quitting isn’t inherently a bad thing. 

Healthy employees create healthy organizations. And as you probably know, healthy organizations have created healthy boundaries.

For the thousands across North America currently engaged in Quiet Quitting, I think most of them didn’t choose to do so specifically but began to naturally change their patterns to protect themselves from stress, overwhelm, and burnout.

Quiet Quitting in its best form is your team setting up healthy boundaries for themselves in the workplace. 

Quiet Quitting in its best form is your team setting up healthy boundaries for themselves in the workplace. – @carlyvoinski Click To Tweet

By establishing clear times of the day when they are ‘on the clock’ and ‘off the clock’, they allow their minds to focus more deeply and singularly. 

By being clear about what responsibilities they can and cannot handle, your organization can begin to simplify and prioritize, allowing you to be more effective.

And by establishing boundaries that reduce burnout, your entire team is healthier.

The healthier your team is, the better work they will do.

Have you noticed a trend of Quiet Quitting on your team? Talk to your team, listen with an open mind, and discover how you can best lead them forward to reach your mission.

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  • How do I lead this church with a vision I didn’t create and a staff I didn’t hire?
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  • How can I honor the outgoing pastor throughout the transition?

Then it might be time to make a plan for your future.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.