How to help leaders understand ‘quiet quitting’

It starts with encouraging leaders to look within and move past blame to focus on solutions.

Here's how to help leaders respond to quiet quitting

Many PR leaders with whom I’m in touch are concerned about quiet quitting. They should be. When people give up to a perceived level of what they’re supposed to give and no more, and that spreads, an agency or communications department can be in deep trouble.

But as with any situation when team members aren’t performing at the levels they’re needed or expected to by leaders, those leaders often think “What’s wrong with them?!”  At that moment, I encourage the leaders to look within. Not to ask what they did wrong as leaders, but instead to say, “What do I want to do about this now?”

“I,” because it’s up to you as a leader to make change. “Do,” because that’s an active verb, and taking action always improves things. And “Now,” because what are you waiting for?

So here are some things you can do if your organization is experiencing quiet quitting, or you’re concerned that it will experience it soon:

  1. Listen: If you haven’t done a listening tour in a while, now’s the time to do so. What’s going on for your team members? Do they understand your vision for the organization, and especially, their role in achieving it? Do they believe that you have a career plan for them and that you’re actively supporting them?
  2. Just ask: Sometimes leaders don’t know what causes an individual team member to feel uninspired or to lean towards quiet quitting. Don’t assume you know. Ask the right questions, the ones that help you get into your team members’ mindset, and that will help you understand what they need to get out of or avoid adopting a feeling of Quiet Quitting. And be sure to ask questions that get them thinking not only about the present, but the future. Sometimes employees lean into quiet quitting, because they can’t imagine a better way. Your questions can help them do so.
  3. Determine if they’re motivated: Many leaders ask be about how to motivate their team members. “You can’t,” I tell them. But you can create situations where they motivate themselves. One of the best ways to do this is, to the degree possible, align their roles and responsibilities with what they’re good at, and for which they have a passion. Depending on the size of your organization, you may not be able to create a role with complete alignment, but the more alignment, the more motivation.
  4. Delegate and empower: Perhaps some of your team members need to step into their next-level role. That will require the person above them, perhaps you or someone from your leadership bench, to delegate some key responsibilities and empower them to own it. Don’t wait for responsibility to be taken: Give it away! And don’t wait until you’re ready or they’re ready. If you do, it’s too late.Delegation and empowerment should be a little scary for both of you. But remember, at one point in your career your boss delegated to you. You went out on the trapeze, and they acted as your safety net. Now may be the perfect time for them to go out on the trapeze, and for you to be their safety net.
  5. Remember, it’s not about the hours they put in: Sometimes both team members and leaders fixate on the number of hours put in on the job. But the focus should always be what we achieve with that time. Make sure your team members are consistently focused on their most important priorities, the ones that will have the greatest impact on the organization, and its internal and external clients. And in an always-on world, make sure they’re looking at this a few times in a day. In our business, what appeared mission-critical at 8:30 a.m. is far less so at noon. And things not yet on our plates at 10:00 a.m. become mission critical at 3:00 p.m. Focusing on their work, and the impact on their work has, will help keep team members motivated.
  6. Inspire: If you’ve ever worked for an inspiring leader, you know how powerful that can be. During my career I was fortunate to work with some inspiring leaders such as Jean Schoonover, Barbara Hunter, Lenore Cooney and Marina Maher. It will take some inspiration to get people out of the quiet quitting mentality. And if you’re not feeling particularly inspired yourself, now’s the time to shake things and get some inspiration, whether that’s from taking a leadership class, going on a long-awaited trip or hiring an executive coach.

Ken Jacobs, PCC, CPC is the principal of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching. Please find him at or on LinkedIn.


One Response to “How to help leaders understand ‘quiet quitting’”

    Anonymous says:

    You forgot arguably the single most important solution: pay people what they’re worth. Most people quiet quit because they’re expected to take on more work without compensation. Daily Headlines

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