Quiet quitting – the new risk for public agencies

If you have been listening to the media, you are fully aware of this new trend called quiet quitting. Quiet quitting is doing only what is required of you at your job and no more. Quiet quitters are only doing the bare minimum. This phenomenon has seemingly increased in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic. Perhaps you are seeing it in your agency as well.

COVID Changed Our Life Perspective

Frankly, I hate speaking about COVID. But we are about to embark on many years of dealing with the ramifications of this global pandemic. We saw an exodus of workers from their lifelong careers once COVIDstruck. Among other things, COVIDforced us to become introspective and consider what things in life truly matter to us. That turned out to be family, our children, and our happiness. From a life perspective, this is wonderful. At the job site, not so much.

Many don’t expend much effort at work, saving it for home and their personal lives. Quiet quitters aren’t making sure projects are done well anymore, just done. They are clocking off the minute they are able. If they can take longer breaks or lunches and get by, they will. They are coasting. But we all know coasting can’t go on forever. It goes only one way—downhill. And we are just about to the bottom.

Working From Home

Another side effect of the pandemic was that we were forced to make concessions in how we work. In some respects, it gave us a new appreciation for the power of the Internet and software. But videoconferencing and remote access software can only take you so far. Humans need interaction with other humans.

No matter how robust your software is, you cannot overcome the processing speed of the human brain. You make countless subconscious calculations in any direct conversation via such things as body language, tone, and even the length of pauses. This is at least muted, if not impossible, over miles and miles of ethernet. It just doesn’t work. Our focus isn’t there. We lose more than just simple communication. We also lose the ability to project ourselves and motivate our workers. And we can provide little oversight for our workers through a digital connection.

New… Or Timeless?

Quiet quitting seems to be the new fad. But is it? Is doing just enough to get by really new? Is “working to live” actually that novel of a saying? Our media suggests that quiet quitting is something brand-spanking new. It’s a risk to all employers everywhere, they say, and we aren’t prepared to deal with it. But it’s not new.

It’s a fact of life as old as the human village. Some people pull more weight than others. Some are self-motivated, but many require supervision. IBM knew it back when remote work first started. That is why they recalled all their employees to the office—work wasn’t getting done. Elbert Hubbard knew it in 1899 when he wrote “A Message To Garcia,” one of the best-selling letters ever written. I encourage you to read it because it speaks to the trend we see in the present day.


The Ultimate Solution

So how do we manage this risk? What can we do to ensure the work is being done, our vendors are being paid, and we have properly motivated people in place for the job? The solution is no more a new concept than quiet quitting is. It’s something I have said numerous times in presentations and writing. These are front door problems. You need to bring in the right people.

You must identify the type of individuals motivated to do the work you are asking them to do. This starts with your hiring process. You should streamline it to focus on the qualities of the self-motivated. Are they punctual? Do they put effort into the details? Does the quality of the work matter to them?

This isn’t something you can throw money at, either. The self-motivated don’t need the money to push themselves to work. The externally motivated are unlikely to work harder for any level of money. We have all heard of those studies that say $70,000 is the threshold amount for happiness. More than that, happiness doesn’t increase. Less than that, and you’re still striving.

What counts and matters are the intrinsic value and reward you gain from doing your work. Carpenters and other laborers who work with their hands know this all too well. They can see the product of their finished work. They feel good. Ever mow the lawn? You may know the feeling, too. Big corporations with cubicle-laden offices have struggled with this issue. There is a separation between the work the office worker is doing and the value the work produces. They don’t get to see the good in their work. Making sure your employees know the value of the work they provide is critical to overcoming quiet quitting.

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