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Quiet quitting isn’t new. It’s just larger and louder. 5 ways to embrace your “steady stayers” 

By Melissa Jezior

By now you’ve either read about the new term “quiet quitting” in the news or seen it on TikTok. But quiet quitting isn’t new. The term is, but not what it describes. 

We all know the “first to arrive, last to leave” employees who seemingly toil tirelessly during the week and into the weekend. They take on whatever comes their way, often without question or hesitation. And we’ve all likely interacted with employees on the other end of the extreme, those who do just the minimum, don’t meet performance expectations, and often create more work for others. 

Then, somewhere in the middle are those employees who show up, get the job done, and that’s it. They may not go above and beyond, but they do what’s required. They don’t have a 24/7 work mentality; instead, they value work life balance. These are the so-called “quiet quitters.” 

Indeed, the new lingo is confusing and problematic. To imply, or view, workers who just get their job done as quietly quitting suggests that they aren’t doing enough. But, if they are getting the job done, they are doing enough. They show up consistently, get the job done consistently, and they want balance in their lives. A more accurate description: “steady stayers.” 

So, why all the attention on these employees right now? It’s likely the seismic power shift to the employee that we’re experiencing due to changes in the labor market (that won’t budge anytime in the near future if you believe labor estimates). Employees are in high demand and in our post-pandemic world, many have re-evaluated their priorities. Work often isn’t at the top of the priority list. They know that they can work remotely or with flexible work schedules and still perform. And for many younger workers, they aren’t subscribing to the “always on” workstyle of older generations. They’re not defined by their jobs and are content leaving their work woes at the door. 

What’s new beyond the catchy term, though, is the increasing amount of people who are quiet quitting and talking about it. Some estimates indicate that as much as 50% of the workforce is focused on better work life balance, and the numbers are rising. But this isn’t surprising. This group of employees, better referred to as the “steady stayers” have always been a large, essential part of the workforce. However, until recently, they weren’t as open about their intentions to separate their lives from their work. Because let’s face it, such a mindset isn’t exactly welcomed by most U.S. employers. But, as we’re witnessing, long gone are the days where employees fear talking about such things amongst friends and on social media.

So, what’s an employer to do? I say embrace the “steady stayers” who are getting the job done and meeting or even exceeding expectations. If you have employees who aren’t meeting expectations, address their underperformance. As studies have shown, employees who are happy in their work are much more likely to go above and beyond. Employees who feel that leadership is invested in their growth are more likely to invest in their own growth. It’s on employers to create a culture where employees want to stay. In short, employers are likely to get out what they put in. 

Here are five ways to embrace “steady stayers”: 

1. Flip the script. Don’t perpetuate negative connotations associated with quiet quitting. If you have “steady stayers” you’d like to see put in more effort, start by asking them about their goals and how they’d like to grow. Keep in mind that it’s OK for employees to be content in the role and not seek additional responsibilities. Take the time to understand what they need to be successful or where they could use support. Demonstrate commitment and you will improve their experience and show that you value their efforts. 

2. Extinguish burnout. Burnout has long been a problem across virtually every industry. It came to a head during the pandemic and seems to be stabilizing. But employee burnout is still far too high. Eagle Hill research finds that nearly half (49%) of American employees say that they are burned out from their jobs. Younger workers (53%) and women (54%) report feeling higher levels of burnout. Workload is the number one cause of burnout for all workers. So, a good first step towards addressing the issue is to ask employees how they feel about their workload. That shows you understand that burnout at the workplace is an issue and want to help address it.

Nearly half of U.S. workers report feeling burnout from work.

Source: Eagle Hill Consulting

3. Rethink performance management. An effective performance management culture will engage and reward your performers (yes, even “steady stayers”) and weed out the underperformers. While the pandemic forced employers to rethink performance management in a hybrid world, we’re still not there. The keys to success are focusing on outcomes, communicating effectively, and defining clear expectations. Recent Eagle Hill research has found that 45% of remote workers – both fully remote and hybrid workers – say their teams’ performance has improved during the past two years. And, 50% of remote workers say their individual performance is better, along with 49% of hybrid workers. Only 34% of in-person workers say their team’s performance has improved. Going forward, it’s on employers to tap into what’s driving improved performance through hybrid work and sustain it.

Nearly half of remote workers report improved team performance over the past two years.

Source: Eagle Hill Consulting

4. Deliver flexibility. If we learned anything during the pandemic and Great Resignation it’s that employees want autonomy, control, and flexibility when it comes to their work. With the right performance plan in place, employees are empowered to accomplish their work on their terms. For some, that may mean flexible work hours, remote options, or a compressed work week. Giving employees flexibility and control over when and where they work helps tackle burnout, as evidenced by 69% of workers reporting that increased flexibility would help alleviate their burnout. 

Over one third of U.S. workers say increased flexibility would alleviate burnout.

Source: Eagle Hill Consulting

5. Encourage unplugged vacations. Forty-two percent of U.S. workers report that they have not taken a vacation during the last 12 months, highest among younger workers (50%) and lower income employees (56%). Employees really need time to disconnect from work. Ideally, employees should fully disengage from work rather than checking email and responding to messages while they’re out of the office. It’s not just employees who benefit from taking time off. When there is time to rest and take a break from job pressures, employers are far more likely to have workers at their peak performance, including the “steady stayers.” It’s incumbent upon employers to create a culture that encourages employees to regularly take time off and fully unplug from their job while they’re away. While 54% of workers say they fully disconnect from work during vacation, 28% say they check work email and messages.

Nearly half of U.S. workers report they haven’t taken a vacation in 12 months.

Source: Eagle Hill Consulting

The bottom line:

Your “steady stayers” are essential performers. Find ways to keep them happy and engaged. Leaders who are strategic about managing ALL of their performers will improve retention and ultimately win the war for talent and achieve their business goals.