Turning quiet quitters into the pioneers


For companies, continued growth has turned out to be more complicated. The management has to look into the mirror and think about what they have accomplished in the last two years. Have their employees been involved, and how well do team members complement each other and the business itself? Everyone needs attention to ensure that the quiet ones do not walk away or slow down the pace.

„Quiet quitting and dragging the feet behind have come to the spotlight due to the special circumstances of Covid-19 that allowed hybrid and remote work followed by the wave of quitting. More and more people are dissatisfied with the traditional ways of working, and while hoping for change, they resign. Of course, it is the worry for the well-established societies,” says Martin Rajasalu, the founder of Moticheck – an innovative tool for employee feedback and survey.

Some quitters are ambitious people looking for career alternatives or want to establish their own businesses. Another “patch” is people who might not catch the attention at first. They work well and take care of their assignments without any extra fuss until they get bored with their meaningless job and quit quietly.

When money doesn’t motivate anymore

According to Rajasalu there is a trend in Nordic countries, Western Europe, and also the US. If the job offers little now and the person has enough money to take off for 1-2 months, people tend to do it. In most countries, parents cannot take off three years from work to take care of their children. In the US, maternity leave lasts for two weeks. Life in the US has always focused on work and career; having a longer vacation might even make one feel guilty.

„So, when people see an option for a more extended break, they take advantage of it. Also, many quiet quitters resign because in challenging times people are looking for more meaning in their work; money is not a main motivator anymore,“ Rajasalu says.

He explains that when thousands of years ago, motivation package 1.0 was focused on getting the food – run after a mammoth with a spike and an axe. Urbanization and working for others (too much) brought us to package 2.0. Today, the 3.0 means that we don’t have to work only for money – or not too much at least. 

„For example, many people have some family money. Also, people make decisions based on their beliefs. We might be ok with paying a lot to a person who stands up for the environment, but we probably cannot convince this person to start working for an oil company. People can choose to do the work they like that is in line with their beliefs and values. It is the core of motivation – your job has meaning and substance, and you create something meaningful (at least in your eyes),” Rajasalu adds. “If the work has no meaning nor value, you are just „spending time“. It is like the house has the lights on, but no one is home. People are not happy, and this might result in a toxic work environment.”

Moticheck measures its customers’ employee satisfaction every day. The results reveal that aspects related to mental health are more and more relevant. „And it is not only due to the war in Ukraine or other societal issues. People complain about bad relationships with teammates and superiors, and too high expectations. A person working in a toxic workplace would rather be somewhere else. He keeps on working without getting noticed.

According to Amy C. Edmondson, professor at Harvard Business School, the unhealthy mental environment is the reason for 47% of quittings, and it decreases about 12% of work efficiency of those not quitting

 A mentally unhealthy work environment can form unexpectedly. Also, in Estonia, the last few years have witnessed a lot of recruitment. But many new people joining the organization at the same time could bring changes that are not suitable for those who have been working there for a long time. And these changes need attention. Unfortunately, management could be more eager to pay attention to these issues.

If the manager does not have the time for the employees, he is not their manager.

People join the company for the salary and the brand and leave for lousy management. The manager is okay as a person, but he/she focuses on the business results rather than giving his full attention to employees. “But employees are the most important resource for the company,” Rajasalu says. “Many organizations say that, but only a few act on it. At the same time, companies that care about their team members’ success have significantly better results  – it does not matter if they are writing code or serving a client. 

He elaborates that carrying out a development dialogue with an employee once a year is undoubtedly too rare to talk to your team member about professional growth. “Do you as a manager find the time to ask, what does the employee think about some actions or what is his assessment of a colleague’s work? This is very important! When a person does not have the time for a direct report, he is not a manager. He is more like an expert in a field, who instead of leading the team deals with other things. Does the manager have to be an expert in the field? Yes, it is useful but most important is to notice the potential within the team and help employees succeed in their work.”

Unengaged team employees are dragged along, and it is a lot of weight for the organization. Managers should open their eyes and change the quality f leadership, engage the quiet quitters and consider how to turn those people into pioneers! “When a manager says that there is no place for innovative tools in their organization, then it means there is no courage for changes. But today all our lives are about changes: organizations, processes, people, ways of communication, products, and services. And change management is crucial, but you need the team to be on board. Nowadays manager is a person with a clear vision and communication, who has followers, who people can relate to and wish to come along. A manager with only a loud voice does not bring in results. A good leader has to make the first steps, be ready to make and admit mistakes and show the way.”  

Do not assume, but talk to employees openly.

 According to Rajasalu, quiet quitting results from the organization’s inability to develop the workplace. “For example, inserting the same info into three different systems is stupid work, and an employee gets that. If the unuseful and pointless actions aren’t eliminated, the sparkle in the eyes vanishes, and the person probably won’t be working for the company for too long. Organizations should meet the individual needs of each employee. For example, some people like to work on their own time. And some value a four-day workweek.”

“While living in a multicultural environment, we might make wrong assumptions due to our habits and cultural background. So, the more you ask, the more you know – there’s no point in assuming,” Rajasalu says. “As managers, there are many thoughts in our head and these are always dearer to us than the ideas of others. But we must be ready to listen to others’ ideas and encourage our team to open up. Even if we have been used to seeing a person being quiet does not mean that this person has nothing to say. It just means that, as a manager, you have not cracked the code yet! The shared concern is twice as small, and a good manager listens to the person and addresses the concerns. Happy employees experience time flying while working. Those who just feel themselves dragging through the day do not bring in the results nor experience workplace happiness.”


The article is written by Gerli Ramler and initially published at personaliuudised.ee