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Stop 'Quiet Quitting' With One Key Leadership Technique

I recently posted on LinkedIn about the Harvard Business Review article from August suggesting Quiet Quitting Is About Bad Bosses, Not Bad Employees. I've suggested many times that the explosion in talk this year about quiet quitting -- the phenomenon of employees deciding to do the bare minimum required of them at work -- should really be focused on workplace culture and how leaders are engaging with their teams. It's not them, it's us. When we don't provide a place and a relationship where they feel valued, employees will either check out (quiet quit) or find a new place to work where they do feel valued. Importantly, that HBR article noted that leaders who were most capable at balancing workplace relationships with organizational results saw among the lowest rates of quiet quitting and, by far, the greatest percentage of employees willing to "go the extra mile."

A new article by HBR adds another concern to the quiet quitting trend. While the costs to employers areobvious -- reducing organizational flexibility in meeting changing demands -- employees, themselves, may be taking on unacknowledged risks/burdens as well. Employees who are disengaging from their work are losing out on the social capital and professional recognition that are critical to growth. While employees may feel "[e]mployers are demanding additional effort from workers without investing in them enough in return," their disengagement is a two-edged sword that may hurt them as much as the employer.

The authors suggest three ways leads can change the dynamic, but I want to focus on one: more thoughtful crafting of work assignments.

In an unhealthy workplace culture, employees often feel compelled to go above and beyond in ways that harm their wellbeing, such as by taking on additional projects that cause them to miss out on important family or social events. But if employees can prioritize citizenship behaviors that align with their own motivations and needs, these activities can be energizing rather than burdensome. For example, some employees may be driven by helping others, and so they may be excited to take on extra tasks when there’s a prosocial component. Others may be more motivated by public recognition, and so they may benefit more from focusing on citizenship activities that are highly visible within the organization. It’s managers’ job to listen to their employees, help them determine the specific forms of citizenship that align with their intrinsic motivations, and encourage workers to focus on these tasks if and when they have the bandwidth to go beyond their core job duties.

"Citizenship behaviors" include staying late, showing up early, attending non-mandatory meetings, and generally contributing in ways that fall outside of their formal duties. As the authors suggest, giving your staff what they need to feel appreciated requires knowing them. Being able to develop a sense of empathy toward them and understanding what is uniquely important to them can make all the difference. In the process, you'll be helping your team grow professionally and reduce the impact of quiet quitting on your firm.

You can try to incentivize your way to reduced turnover, or you can create a culture that attracts and retains talent instead of pushing it out the door.

When you're ready to start doing something about associate turnover, contact BKG Leadership Coaching to talk about how to develop law firm leaders at all levels who know how to build inclusive and collaborative teams.



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