Is Quiet Quitting a Problem at Startup Companies?

"What's the deal with people "quiet quitting" while still working their job? How do I know my own staff hasn't quiet quit on me? How do I manage a team when I don't even know if my team's working for me anymore?"

November 30th, 2022   |    By: Wil Schroter

Startup founders need to be aware of the impact of "quiet quitting" at a startup.

  • Quiet quitting refers to when employees stop doing the work, but still show up for the paycheck

  • It's a manager's issue, not an employee issue

  • Employers have little visibility over their teams like they used to in offices, but that's not really the issue

Quiet Quitting isn't a New Phenomenon

Employees Quiet quitting has been around since the dawn of work, but remote work has made it increasingly difficult for employers to see the warning signs.

To manage and prevent quiet quitting, employers must focus on creating an environment where employees feel supported, valued, and heard, with clear expectations set ahead of time that is regularly followed up on. Creating a work-life balance proactively with employees will help reduce the likelihood of quiet quitting in order to achieve it on their own.

Sure, the great resignation was definitely fueled by people having the time and space to reevaluate their priorities - but it wasn't remote work that caused it.

Communication is Key

It's also important to encourage open communication among the team so employees can feel comfortable discussing any issues or frustrations that may arise. It's essential to provide feedback and recognition for employees when they do good work. This will help motivate them to stay engaged in their work.

A safe space to talk about feeling burned out, or stress levels during a busy season or life, in general, can turn a pending quiet quitter into an engaged employee with the enthusiasm to go above and beyond. At least half of quiet quitting can be attributed to failures in basic communication. It's not compensation packages or being asked to do extra work, its basics like being heard.

The Solution Starts with Awareness

Startup founders must be aware of the risk of quiet quitting and take steps to prevent it from happening in their business. By creating an environment of trust, setting clear expectations, and regularly offering feedback and recognition, employers can help to ensure their teams are giving their best effort. Doing so will ultimately help a business succeed.

The trend of quiet quitters continue to be a problem for employers. Many quiet quitters simply do the bare minimum as a team member

By staying on top of the employees' activity, employers can catch those who are quietly quitting and address the issue before it becomes a bigger problem. Additionally, they should foster an environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking up and voicing their concerns or frustrations. This open communication encourages team members to be honest about their feelings and can help to prevent quiet quitting. Finally, employers should recognize and reward hardworking employees with feedback and rewards, which will encourage them to stay motivated and invested in the company.

Overall, understanding the issue of quiet quitting is important for startup founders to ensure their teams are working at their full potential. By creating a supportive environment for employees, setting clear expectations, and offering feedback and recognition for hard work, employers are more likely to have a successful team that is fully dedicated to the company's mission.

The Office was Never a Productivity Panacea

Let's not pretend that "quiet quitting" started with remote work. Any opportunity we had as employers to keep people focused on work, even at an office, went out the window the moment we had mobile phones and Internet connections — the modern, ever-present, and vastly broader version of the water cooler.

Offices were never an essential part of a perfect world for employees or managers.

As a startup founder, it’s important to understand the impact of remote work and “quiet quitting” on your business.

-Productivity was never uniform across the organization, even when people were physically in the office together.

-With remote work and “quiet quitting,” that disparity has only increased.

-Employees have more opportunities than ever before to do something other than their job if they feel like they can get away with it.

-Startup founders need to be proactive in understanding how remote work and “quiet quitting” is impacting their business, and take steps to mitigate those effects.

-This may include finding ways to increase collaboration and communication between employees, setting up better processes for tracking progress and accountability, or providing more incentives for employees to stay engaged and productive.

By understanding the impact of remote work and “quiet quitting” on your business, you can create an environment where people feel motivated to do their best work and be productive. This can help ensure that your startup is successful in the long run.

Although offices have always had productivity issues, remote work and “quiet quitting” have made it much easier for employees to become disengaged without employers realizing it until it’s too late.

The best way for startup founders to ensure that their business is successful in the long run is to be proactive in understanding and mitigating the impact of remote work and “quiet quitting” on their team. By doing so, they can create an environment where employees feel motivated to do their best work and stay productive.

This will help increase productivity, improve morale, and ultimately lead to a successful and sustainable startup.

Good Players aren't Quiet Quitters

One of the easiest ways to figure out who's putting in the work versus who might be quiet quitting is to simply listen.

Good players are constantly talking about the work they do and the accomplishments they make. They put in the extra effort, they go the extra mile, and there is nothing quiet about it.

Have you ever heard of a salesperson who is crushing their numbers and "forgets" to mention it? Never.

That's because good players want to be recognized for their contributions, whereas quiet quitters want to be left alone to be unnoticed. No one sitting at home watching NetFlix when they should be working is thinking "I hope I get called up by my boss right now!"

As managers, we need to listen closely to what's not being said and dig in when our Spidey Senses start tingling. But that has always been the case.

Good players will ask questions, bring up ideas and try to push boundaries in the pursuit of success. Quiet quitters would rather sit back and do as little work as possible in order to get by.

Good players are the ones attending non-mandatory meetings, and doing things outside their primary responsibilities and job description.

As Founders, and managers, we need to make sure we're encouraging our good players and helping them develop further, while simultaneously keeping an eye out for the quiet quitters and holding them accountable.

Good players are worth their weight in gold, so make sure you recognize them for the effort they put in. And don't forget to keep an eye out for any potential quiet quitters that might be slipping through the cracks too. What starts as bored workers can result in quiet quitting. The best time to prevent quiet quitting is in the early stages of disengagement by the employee.

Remember: Good players aren't quiet quitters — and great teams aren't either.

So, if you're looking to build a successful team, make sure you recognize the good players for their hard work, and ensure that all your employees are held to the same standard of excellence. Many employees cite a lack of recognition as a reason for disengagement, which is a causal factor in quiet quitting. You'll find that with a little bit of dedication from everyone involved, nothing is impossible!

Quiet quitting refers to people who stop working, partially or completely, but without notifying their employer.

It's Still About Performance

No matter how much we get spun up about remote work and quiet quitters, the only things that really matter are performance and outcomes. It's about the what, not the where that matters most.

Chaining our labor force to desks was just a ruse. It looked like everyone was engaged, but they really weren't. They were thinking about the fight they just had with their spouse, their social media feed, or how much they hated their job to begin with.

All we can focus on as leaders is being more aligned with performance and outcomes than ever before. Performance never came from what time you showed up at that office and outcomes were never achieved simply by what time you left.

The metrics we put in place, and our ability to measure and manage them are what prevent quiet quitting. If we didn't have them before, or we don't have them now, then it's as good as asking our employees to engage in quiet quitting. We are essentially quiet firing them.

We need to be honest with ourselves and accept that performance and outcomes are the only things that really matter. That's true whether your employees work in an office, onsite, or remotely.

It's up to us as leaders to create a culture of trust and accountability—and encourage workers to engage in collaboration, communication, and gives them autonomy—all of which are necessary for success in a remote work environment.

We must also help to ensure that metrics, objectives, and goals are clearly communicated so that everyone can stay on track with their work. You won't see people who are hitting their goals and highly engaged in their work quiet quitting, it's that simple.

Finally, we have to be willing to give employees the flexibility they need in order to achieve their desired outcomes. This includes employee well-being and a healthy work-life balance, but success at work factors in just as heavily! We should be open to providing the support they need, such as access to the right technologies, regular check-ins, and clear expectations and job descriptions.

The reality is that performance and outcomes are all that matter in today's world of business, regardless of whether or not employees work remotely. It's up to us as leaders to make sure we have a culture and system in place that allows for success no matter where our employees may be.

With the right approach, we can be sure that everyone is working toward a common goal and that our teams are able to achieve their desired outcomes.

That's how we avoid quiet quitting and make sure all of our employees are performing to the best of their abilities. That's what matters most in business today.

So embrace remote work. Embrace the flexibility it can bring, but also remember that performance and outcomes are still key in most jobs. That's how we'll ensure everyone is successful regardless of where they work from.

Now let's get to work!

Now that we understand the importance of performance and outcomes, it's up to us as leaders to create a culture of trust and accountability in our businesses. We need to be willing to give employees the flexibility they need in order to achieve their desired outcomes. With the right approach, we can be sure that everyone is working toward a common goal and that our teams are able to achieve their desired outcomes and avoid quiet quitting. Let's get to work!

In Case You Missed It 

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Treat Departing Employees like Future Employees While saying goodbye to departing employees isn’t easy, how we handle it is totally in our control and can impact our future professional relationships.

Why Isn't Anyone As Committed As The Founder? Let's talk about commitment! There are certain aspects of your Startup that you’ve got to shoulder on your own. After all, a Founder’s superpower is the intensity of their commitment.


About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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