«Quiet Quitter» in the Team? What Bosses Can Do

If a team member suddenly performs only the bare minimum, you may be dealing with quiet quitting. You can't ignore it. Why does it happen? How can you deal with it?

"Quiet Quitting is neither full resignation nor full engagement, but something in between," says Tiktok user @zkchillin in his July 2022 video message. He addresses something that is not limited to a viral web trend, but is real: cutting one's work output down to the minimum because one no longer sees any point in doing more.

Quiet Quitting Is About Bad Bosses, not Bad Employees

How did Quiet Quitting become so widespread? Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman write in the Harvard Business Review: „Our data indicates that quiet quitting is usually less about an amployee’s willingness to work harder and more creatively, and more about a manager’s ability to build al relationship with their employees where they are not counting minutes until quitting time.”

„Quiet quitting is usually less about an amployee’s willingness to work harder and more creatively, and more about a manager’s ability to build al relationship with their employees.”

Jack Zenger, Joseph Folkman Zenger/Folkman leadership development consultancy

Zenger and Folkman found out that:

  • The most effective managers in the study lead 62% high performers and only 3% quiet quitters.
  • The most ineffective managers, on the other hand, lead 20% high performers and 14% quiet quitters – three to four times as many. Ouch!

How to Avoid Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting is bad news for employers: Not only does productivity drop, but the corporate culture suffers as well. So how do you prevent employees in your own team from "quitting"?

  1. Give appreciation: We all know bosses who think not openly criticizing is praise enough. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life we often don't recognize every detail. Still: Pay attention to what people on a team are accomplishing and give appreciation.
  2. Enable a healthy life-domain balance: You can do it, for example, by allowing the team a lot of flexibility. Or scheduling emails concerning orders or requests to office hours – even if you don't expect immediate response. This shows that you respect the other domains of your employees' lives.
  3. Enable self-realization at work: What are the people on your team particularly good at, what makes them shine? Maybe you can distribute tasks accordingly - if someone can hand over an unloved analysis to a colleague who loves it, both are more motivated.
  4. Build mutual trust: You can achieve this, for example, by consistently keeping your promises – and by being open about it if, contrary to expectations, it is not possible. Many employees also value your expertise and the fact that you are up to date about their work.

When It Has Already Happened

If you have the impression that someone on your team has switched to minimal operation, take action:

  • Talk to the team member and show interest in her/his situation.
  • Make suggestions and let you team member make suggestions on how the cooperation can change for the better.
  • Agree on what you wish to change and until when. Don't forget to put your agreements in writing. Both you and your team member will get a copy.
  • Don't expect to solve all problems in one step: Stay in dialogue, keep what is working well and try new things where you are not satisfied.

The company must follow suit

As a manager, you cannot implement all of these points autonomously. Nevertheless, in your role you are an advocate for your employees when it comes to working conditions that are important to them:

  • Fair wages: Will you stand up for your team when their performance justifies a pay increase?
  • Development and career opportunities: Is developing your employees according to their abilities encouraged?

An important task for you as a leader is to set realistic demands and ensure a good working atmosphere. When your employees' performance is valued and rewarded, both sides win.


Hansjörg Schmid

Hansjörg Schmid