The new trend that has caught everyone’s attention as we move into a time of recession is something called Quiet Quitting. This phenomenon has posed a problem for companies because not only are they seeing their employees demotivated to take initiative, but they are experiencing the outright resistance to take on any work that their teams feel are out of their scope of work.
Research from Dr. Timothy Clark has led us here at Inclusion in Progress to believe, however, that being more intentional about Psychological Safety in the workplace can help reduce the risk of Quiet Quitting. Listen to this episode to find out how giving your people a place to belong, learn freely, measure their contributions, and oppose the status quo can be advantageous to your teams!
Welcome to the Inclusion in Progress podcast where we give you the ideas, actions and insights to help you build more equity at your workplace and in the world at large. I'm your host, Kay Fabella, international expert on diversity, equity and inclusion, a Filipina American living in Spain and your guide in navigating this DEI journey. Having worked with teams at companies such as Philips, the IMF, Red Hat, PepsiCo and more, I know firsthand that the work of inclusion only works when everyone has a seat at the table. Regardless of your personal entry point into this conversation: your race, ethnicity, gender, ability, age, sexual orientation, country of origin, or educational background, we all have a role to play in creating inclusion for all and it starts with us having conversations we need to create the change we wish to see. So let's dive into today's episode.
Hey, friend, welcome back to the show! I am Kay Fabella, and I'm the CEO of a global DEI consultancy for remote teams. I'm also your host for this Inclusion in Progress podcast, where you'll get research-backed industry insights into the future of work, and practical how-to’s for Equity and Inclusion. I also lead a remote team and work with clients across EMEA, APAC and the Americas, which means you'll get global perspectives on this show!
So Inclusion in Progress is actually coming up on its 100th episode and it's third year running. Now, this is a super exciting milestone for all of us on Team IIP because we put out these episodes for free to our global audience across 35 countries - and counting! - as a labor of love to the industry that we care about and as part of our mission to support Equity and Inclusion at work for all. This podcast is really a team effort, I say often on this show, and it really couldn't have grown without the support of listeners like you! We love hearing how you're taking the insights we're sharing about how the DEI or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion conversation is evolving worldwide, how the future of work is being shaped, and how cross-cultural communication is critical as our teams continue to diversify in perspective, location, and background.
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So today we're going to talk about another big topic that seems to be everywhere in 2022: Quiet Quitting. Y’all, if you didn't believe in the power of Gen Z - or Zed for my British folks - before this, to shift this conversation about the future of work… man, Gen Z! Take a look at how Quiet Quitting went from a viral conversation topic on TikTok to showing up on everyone's LinkedIn, podcast feed, media articles, and more. But Gen Z's power aside, what is Quiet Quitting exactly? Now, basically, what it boils down to is that every employee, every work day makes a decision. Option 1, are they only willing to do the minimum work necessary to keep their job; or Option 2, are they willing to try and put more of their energy and effort into their work?
Now many of those who choose option one have self-identified as Quiet Quitters. They reject this idea that work should be a central focus of their life. They resist the expectation of giving their all or putting in extra hours and they say no to requests to go beyond what they think should be expected of a person in their position. In reality, Quiet Quitting, like many of these so-called “Workplace Trends” is just a new name for an old behavior. Basically, if employees don't feel like they're in a work environment where people want to go the extra mile due to a bad manager, feelings of exclusion, lack of clarity and their job role, or not feeling supported by their employer, but feel like they aren't in a position to leave, they will engage in what is now known as Quiet Quitting.
Now, this is clearly bad news for companies... A workforce that is willing to go that extra mile is a critical competitive advantage for an organization. And the reality is that most jobs can't be fully defined, as we know in a formal job description or contract or even in the onboarding process. And it's normal for companies to rely on employees to step up to meet extra demands as needed. So it makes sense that many leaders reacted negatively to this Quiet Quitting trend. According to them, losing employees who want to leave is difficult. But having them not quit is even worse because it increases the burden on their colleagues to take on that extra work instead. If we look at it from the employee perspective, this Quiet Quitting trend suggests that they feel as if their employers are demanding additional effort without investing in them enough in return. Many team members we’ve spoken to from different tech organizations and financial services companies are either suffering from or teetering on the edge of burnout from having overextended themselves over the last 2 years. As we head into a global recession and outright quitting becomes less feasible, we're likely to see more folks engage in this Quiet Quitting alternative.
So what can companies do to combat this? This comes back to a theme that we've talked about on the podcast many times before: the importance of Psychological Safety. If your teams feel like they are included, that they are able to learn and make mistakes, that they are able to safely contribute their ideas, and they are able to challenge the status quo if need be. This all contributes to their sense of psychological safety. But each one of these stages takes time to achieve. So listen to the rest of this episode to find out how psychological safety can help reduce the likelihood of Quiet Quitting from your employees so that you can ensure that your best people stay and engage with their work at your organization.
According to Dr. Timothy Clark, there are actually 4 stages to Psychological Safety on teams, if we want people to engage, stay productive, and contribute their best ideas to our organizations.
Stage 1 is Inclusion Safety. This satisfies the basic human need to connect and belong, whether we are at work, school, home, or in other social settings. Everyone wants to be accepted. In fact, the need to be accepted actually precedes the need to be heard. When others invite us into their social group or their gathering space, we develop a sense of shared identity and a conviction that we matter and this also applies to our workplaces. Inclusion Safety allows us to gain membership within a social unit and interact with others without fear of rejection, embarrassment, or punishment. Inclusion Safety is connected to boosting someone's confidence, resilience, and independence, which increases their effectiveness in their job position.
But what if you're deprived of that basic acceptance and validation as a human being? In short, it actually gets in the way of your effectiveness in your job or professional role on a fundamental, biological level because it activates the pain centers of the brain. In the workplace, especially when you're looking at remote or hybrid teams, not being intentional about inclusion initiatives can lead to resistance from your teams. If a person doesn't feel heard, or is not given the space to be themselves or, for example, feels that their time zone or culture or background or other important aspects to their identity are overlooked, they won't feel valued, they won't feel accepted, and they won't feel like they belong, which will affect their engagement and the likelihood of them quitting or Quiet Quitting their job. Granting Inclusion Safety to another person is not just a moral imperative but, according to Clark's research, an effective business imperative in the workplace. When we create Inclusion Safety for others, regardless of our differences, we acknowledge our common humanity, and we invite others to participate and show up as they are to our workplaces.
Stage 2 is Learner Safety. This level of psychological safety satisfies the basic human need to learn and grow. It allows us to feel safe as we engage in all aspects of the learning process: asking questions, giving and receiving feedback, experimenting, and even making mistakes - not if, but when we make them. We all bring some level of uncertainty to the learning process, we all have insecurities. I mean, who hasn't hesitated to raise their hand to ask a question in a group setting for fear of, maybe, feeling or looking a little dumb? For many of us, our negative experiences with learning are related to some of our earliest experiences or feelings of rejection, of inadequacy, even in some terrible cases outright harassment. That's because learning is both intellectual and emotional. It's an interplay of our heads and our hearts. As we move into a recessive period where many employees are nervous about losing their jobs, there may be an increased pressure for teams to do things right and decrease their margin of error. In times of uncertainty, we need innovation to tackle challenges and that requires people making mistakes in order to learn what works and apply those lessons moving forward. The more questions an employee can ask about their tasks or about their job role, the better equipped they will be to come up with creative solutions in the face of uncertainty. But if a team member is discouraged from learning, experimenting, asking questions, and making mistakes - a necessary part of any job - they're more likely to engage in behaviors like Quiet Quitting.
A lack of Learner Safety in a workplace triggers the Self-Censoring Instinct, causing people on our teams to shut down and be wary of speaking up when they're learning or making mistakes because they're afraid of the personal risk of doing so. On the other hand, when people experience an environment of Learner Safety, we know that teams are more willing to be vulnerable, to take risks, and develop resilience in the learning process. When we create Learner Safety for our workplaces, whether remote or hybrid or fully in-person, we provide encouragement to learn in exchange for a willingness to learn, which is what we need in our organizations if we want our teams to stay engaged and effective in their jobs.
And if you're struggling with implementing Psychological Safety in your distributed workforce, our team at Inclusion in Progress can help! As a global DEI consultancy that specializes in supporting remote and hybrid teams, we partner with forward-thinking people and human resource leaders through both data-driven and qualitative strategies to center the well-being of your workforce, no matter where they come from or where they choose to work. We've already opened up our calendar for Q1 and Q2 and 2023. So if you'd like to learn how we can support you, you can book a free consultation call with us by emailing us directly at email@example.com.
Stage 3, according to Dr. Timothy Clark, is Contributor Safety. This satisfies the basic human need to contribute and make a difference. When we have Contributor Safety in a workforce, teams feel safe to contribute using both their skills and, potentially, even some non-work abilities to participate in creating value for their teams and those around them. In an environment of Contributor Safety, we lean into what we're doing with energy, with enthusiasm. We have a natural desire to apply what we've learned to make a meaningful contribution and, think about it, why do we dislike micromanagers? Because they don't give us the freedom to reach our potential when they're basically helicoptering over us!
Now, many of the people we saw engaging in Quiet Quitting over this past year had a micromanager to contend with. Other so-called Quiet Quitters simply didn't feel like their contributions to their teams would be heard or acted upon because they saw that it was more important to their leaders and those around them to just get their job done. And why do we like and remember our empowering bosses, on the other hand? Because they encourage us and draw out our best efforts! The more that we contribute, the more confidence and competence we develop with their support. Team members that we've spoken to that feel engaged with their jobs often share that they feel like their voices are heard, that they can speak up and share their ideas, and know that it will somehow move them and their team members forward. These are exactly the types of people we want to keep on our teams, rather than worrying about them quietly quitting. When we create Contributor Safety for our distributed teams, we empower them with autonomy, with guidance and encouragement in exchange for their effort and for the results so that, no matter where they are or where they choose to work from, they know that their contributions to our teams and organizations matter.
Stage 4 is Challenger Safety. This satisfies the basic human need to assess what is around us and decide what is needed to make things better. It's the support and confidence that we need to ask questions such as, “Why do we do it this way?” or, “What if we tried this?” or, “May I suggest a better way?” It allows us to feel safe to not just contribute, but also challenge the status quo without fear of retaliation or the risk of damaging our personal standing or our reputation on our teams or in our companies. Challenger Safety provides respect and permission to dissent and disagree when we think something needs to change and it’s time to say so. It allows us to overcome the pressure to conform and gives us a license to innovate and be creative.
As companies and individuals start to fear the effects of a pending recession, there may be an increased pressure for teams to want to step back from contradicting or challenging their peers and their leaders. But as we've already stated in this episode, it's exactly during times of uncertainty, faced with challenges that none of us have seen before, where we need creative ideas the most. Maybe some of you listening have heard this phrase: “What got us here won't get us there.” So we need our team members to feel safe to come forward and to share when they don't think that the way of doing things is actually in alignment with a team's goals or simply suggest an alternative way. But if a team member is discouraged from contributing their ideas and making their voices heard and challenging us in the process, they're also more likely to hide those ideas or engage in Quiet Quitting, and a lack of Challenger Safety means that the voices that could be leading us forward are scared of speaking up because they're afraid to take the risk. As the highest level of psychological safety, Challenger Safety matches the increased vulnerability and personal risk that we associate with challenging the status quo. When we create Challenger Safety in our workforce, we give air cover in exchange for candor.
So there you have it!
That's what Quiet Quitting is, what it's really about, and why creating environments of Psychological Safety can help mitigate Quiet Quitting as we move into a recessive period. And while every organization is doing the best they can to adapt to the changes and our structures and expectations of work, at Inclusion in Progress we see company culture evolving and taking a necessary step forward in creating Equity and Inclusion for all.
So if you want someone to help you make hybrid work inclusive and efficient for your distributed teams, we can help! As a global DEI consultancy that specializes in supporting remote teams with psychological safety, we can partner with forward-thinking leaders like you to center the well-being of your workforce, no matter where they come from, or where they choose to work. And one of the ways we can support you is through our Inclusive Virtual Work Survey, so you can immediately know which policy or strategy to implement that is tailored to your global teams. We'll share our insights from working with companies across EMEA, APAC and the Americas so you can navigate the minefield of knowing how and when to apply your inclusion strategy to untap the full potential of your distributed workforce. To learn more about our Inclusive Virtual Work Survey or learn how we can support your global DEI strategy for your distributed teams, head to the link in the show notes to book a call to learn more. And as I stated already, we've already opened up our calendar for 2023. (We even have some bookings for Q2 already!) So if you'd like to learn how we can support you, book a free call with us or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thank you so much for listening. Thank you for sharing these episodes with others as we head into our third anniversary. And we will see you next time on the Inclusion in Progress podcast!