Five Elements of a Great Company Culture in the Time of Quiet Quitting
By Sarah Leggett and Corinne Cole
By now, you have probably heard of the “quiet quitting” phenomenon and its association with Gen Z professionals. Despite the name, quiet quitters are not quitting their jobs, but are instead getting by only doing what is necessary to stay on a company’s payroll – giving the bare minimum rather than giving their all.
This rejection of hustle culture is nothing new—check out the 1999 movie “Office Space” or Jim from the 2000s show “The Office.” Google characteristics of Gen X employees or read one of the articles published ten years ago labeling Millennials as lazy and entitled compared to their hard-working predecessors. Some elements of quiet quitting have always been present, and so has an employer’s ability to combat it.
Strong company culture can help prevent employee dissatisfaction and promote engagement as workers return to the office. Investing in current team members will add value in the long run and help recruit top talent. Below are five aspects of a strong company culture that helps retain and motivate employees, Boomers and Gen Z alike.
Frequent Growth Opportunities
A company culture that promotes personal and professional growth opportunities for its employees will foster motivated and loyal team members. LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report found that 94% of employees say they would stay longer at a company if they invested in their learning and development. In a survey from Deloitte, 29% of Gen Zs and Millennials identified learning and development opportunities as the top reason they chose to work for their current company.
Along with a robust learning and development program, companies must give people chances to play above their position. Managers should actively look for opportunities for employees to stretch themselves while also encouraging employees to advocate for these opportunities for themselves. Without the tools and resources to continue learning, employees will search for growth elsewhere.
While some employee turnover is inevitable, having a clear path for advancement keeps employees focused on their careers within a company. Consistently giving employees opportunities to lean in and develop increases personal and professional ambition and combats the desire to check out and do the bare minimum.
Recent research by McKinsey & Company indicates that the most common reason people quit their jobs is a lack of career development and advancement. Employees need to know that their efforts, or lack thereof, will be recognized. Recognition does not only have to come as salary increases or bonuses; receiving full credit and gratitude can bring intrinsic and social rewards that are distinctly rewarding.
Team members should know how they are performing regularly—not just during their six-month review. Frequent upward and downward feedback positively impact productivity and boost performance. Consistently tracking the progress and performance of both employees and managers helps people know where they stand, if they are meeting their goals, and which areas they can most improve.
Most importantly, workers must be allowed to make their own mistakes and learn from their failures. They should be motivated to try new things or voice their opinion without fearing harsh retaliation. Through an open line of communication about expectations and work-life balance, employees are set up to excel in their roles—and avoid being surprised by their annual or semi-annual review.
One of the most important functions of leadership in any company is to support and energize their teams. A recent Gallup poll found that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement, and 50% of Americans have left a job because of a manager. Good managers inspire effort and loyalty by being a leader that employees respect and admire.
Managers can strengthen trust across levels by holding high but realistic expectations of their team. Over-the-top expectations can quickly lead to burnout, but with the right tools and resources, employees will feel empowered to succeed. With enough space to work independently and creatively, employees and managers can build mutual trust and confidence in their work.
Frequent check-ups, one-on-one coaching opportunities, and instructor-led, competency-based training are excellent ways to engage executives and team members alike. When people feel genuinely valued by management and see their work’s impact, they continue to raise the bar.
Quiet quitters tend to view their occupation as a burden rather than a passion or challenge worth pursuing. A company that emphasizes a balanced lifestyle and helps employees find balance is already addressing one of the biggest complaints of quiet quitters. Strong company culture will cultivate an environment where employees feel safe to create boundaries for personal needs, raise their hands when feeling overwhelmed, and share their outside interests at work.
Managers should also be encouraged to tell their teams that they can log off and unplug from work, taking advantage if there are days when work can end a little earlier. We all experience busy periods at work, but if the balance becomes an ongoing issue, a resolution should be sought before it leads to burnout.
A sense of community is one of the most important elements of a strong company culture. When a team member quiet quits, the extra work will inevitably have to be picked up by other team members. This can cause resentment, and can even encourage others also to check out. A sense of community and respect between coworkers reinforces the understanding that actions affect the whole team. When teammates are people you respect, if not your friends, you will avoid harmful actions by default.
No role exists in isolation—each is part of a network of support that must be built on honesty and shared accountability. In the era of remote work, today’s workforce is lonelier than ever, so managers need to go to the extra mile to strengthen social bonds to engage employees. Virtual team exercises, annual or semi-annual retreats, and reward incentives are especially helpful in nurturing these connections and building a sense of community.
All these aspects of culture are great on paper, but they need to be backed by processes and discipline to be put into action. Robust learning and development are a must, both for the skills required for the job and the roles above, like leaders and managers. A formalized frequent review process should be in place so every employee knows where they stand and what it takes to get to the next level. Leaders should be evaluated by their teams and peers regularly. Consistent check-ins with teams about morale and balance should be encouraged. Finally, fostering a sense of community should be at the forefront of leadership’s agenda, not an afterthought.