Future Cain - CEO & Founder of Future of SEL
Please STOP with the narratives that employees are “Quiet Quitting.” According to Gallop’s June survey of 15,091 workers, just under one-fifth of employees are actively disengaged due to their needs not being met on their job and at least 50% of the workforce can be categorized as “quiet quitters”. Let’s not forget that the world has not gone back to what some considered normal as we all continue to live through a co-pandemic. Many workers are more stressed than they have ever been in their lives, and why would they not be?
They shape our culture, society, world, and how we treat others. As we have seen from past history, our reality, or how we perceive things to be, is molded by the narratives we share and believe. These narratives will rule our personal and professional lives before we realize it; creating both opportunities and disadvantages.
We must reckon with the current narrative of “quiet quitting” and ask if what is trending is based on full truths. Hearing about employees' supposed quitting narratives are at the center of humans making sense of things. More than ever before in the past few decades is a time in our history that workplaces are grappling with the lack of high levels of employee engagement and productivity. Over the past two years, as the CEO of Future of SEL, I have engaged in conversations with thousands of employees from around the world during cultural facilitations, educational workshops, speaking engagements, and one on one coaching. The resounding theme is that many employees have experienced an “Audible Abandonment™” by their organization. The counter-narrative to “quiet quitting” is what many organizations have been doing for decades which is exactly what has led to millions of employees only working the required terms.
“Audible Abandonment™” is when employers are aware of the needs and concerns of their employees, but refuse to acknowledge or address them and in fact lack self awareness. Eventually, the employee does not feel safe, seen, heard, or valued and their wellness and well being are impacted. Due to the employee’s hierarchy of motivational needs not being met, they decide to work exactly what the terms of the agreement were and nothing more, also known as “quiet quitting”, and may even choose to resign from their position or from the organization entirely. I decided to create this definition because it tells a full story of what countless employees have experienced throughout their professional careers.
The current narrative points the finger solely at the employees for valuing their personal lives too. Organizations have to sit in an awareness and also acknowledge how they have reaped what they sowed. Should it be considered normal that employers draft and sign contracts that state the employee is to work 40 hours a week and then expect free labor from those same employees weekly? I think some employers have forgotten that there is a hidden cost to employees when they are asked or expected to perform better, produce more, and all at a faster pace. In turn, businesses face higher health care expenditures, workdays lost, more workplace accidents and errors, lack of loyalty, and lower retention rates. The collateral damage on the employees is an impact on their wellness, disengagement, and disease at best, and lack of belonging, connectedness, and death at worst.
People are exhausted, and that fatigue continues today for many. Maybe employees would consider working over their allotted time for free if the workplace climate was better, if they were recognized for staying the extra time out of the kindness of their heart, if they were paid fairly, and if they had a guarantee that their boss would not confuse hours with effort and instead the leaders looked at the results of the employees work. This is an opportunity to be a win-win for both the employer and the employee. Now is a moment in time, I am hopeful that employers will sit with and reflect upon why any employee would purposely sign up for unappreciated, unpaid overtime which inevitably has an impact on their wellness and well being in this traditional work construct where some employees are treated unfairly.
Many variables have played into this perfect storm, and one that must not be overlooked is Maslow's 1954 theory of a human hierarchy of needs. Maslow hierarchy of needs explains how we move from surviving to thriving. “Quiet quitting” is occurring because employees are not satisfied with the current workplace environments. When employees’ physiological needs are not met, especially as many employees are stressed more than ever before while also being unsure of their job stability, there is a grave impact on the employee and the organization. Without the security of a human's most basic needs of food, water, and shelter being met, one will not feel safe or perform at their best levels. This also can lead to lower morale in the workplace. People choose to work in places where they can live well and lead well, and if both cannot co-exist, workers have shown they are choosing health and wellness because that is their legacy wealth.
Seeing that the current quitting narrative portrayed is one that can cause more harm, below are a few suggestions the Future of SEL has shared with organizations they have partnered with during this time to support environments that live and lead well.
Don’t be Careless, practice Self awareness. The employee's actions, words, or silence speaks for itself. Taking the time to sit with and acknowledge how the employees are doing, personally and professionally, will pay dividends in the long run. Understanding personal strengths and limitations, as well as others, is key to a team's growth.
Listening is the new tradition, so that your employers don’t go to your organization's competition. Workplaces are experienced differently by every worker. All people have something to add, and when employers choose not to listen to each and every employee, they miss an opportunity for personal and professional knowledge and growth.
Human centered approach. If you are unsure how to do this, get a coach. With only 1 in 4 employees strongly agreeing that they are connected to the culture at their workplace, it is vital for employers to recognize what value the employees bring to the organizations. Offering thanks, seeing the employees as their full selves, and demonstrating appreciation go a long way, especially for retention.
Be Zealous for caring about everyone's Wellness. The stats are out regarding the wellness of the world, and inevitably the pandemic and unrest have had an impact on the workplace. Having to replace employees is a high cost and labor intensive. If employers are not prioritizing social emotional intelligence, support, positivity, and empathy for all, I fear they will not be future-proofing the workplace.
We cannot overlook that mental health illness diagnosis is on the rise, and with stress being classified as the health epidemic of the 21st century by the World Health Organization, it is not likely the stress of the employees will disappear anytime soon. Since the pandemic, there is a new meaning and standard of well being in the workplace and employees need to know the organizations they choose to work for care about the totality of their lives and experiences. In turn, employers should consider how they are showing up and the impact their “Audible Abandonment™” is having on the culture, climate, and wellness of their workplace.