Quiet Quitting: How to reverse it in the age of remote work.

Quiet Quitting: How to reverse it in the age of remote work.
February 1, 2023 Rob Artigo
In Podcasts

Quiet quitting isn’t just a buzzword, it’s happening. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn discussing this costly staffing dilemma and offers a simple solution. (Click here for the video podcast)


Rob Artigo: Welcome to the Tough Things First podcast, your indispensable source for business, leadership, and life advice with the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. I’m your guest host Rob Artigo, and he’s Ray Zinn. Hello Ray.

Ray Zinn: Hello there Rob. So good to be with you this morning.

Rob Artigo: It’s good to be with you and good to be back. This is a special edition of the Tough Things First podcast. So if you’re just listening, you can go to the website, toughthingsfirst.com and you can find the podcast and then you can click on the link that’ll take you to Ray’s YouTube channel and you can watch the video there if that’s what you prefer to do. Make sure you rate this podcast wherever you find your favorite podcasts and keep us going strong. So Ray, I was reading Business Insider on the internet and I saw a headline recently that touted quiet quitting is the natural sequel to the great resignation as workers still rethink their jobs three years into the pandemic. Now, when I read that I was thinking, I’m not sure it’s a sequel. I think it’s part and parcel to the same process. Am I wrong?

Ray Zinn: No, you’re correct. And what’s interesting is that the pandemic, which came on in 2020 actually precipitated this concept of the great resignation slash quiet quitting.

Ray Zinn: So, allowing people to work from home has been the enigma of this whole issue of the great resignation and quiet quitting. I don’t know what percentage of people that really like their job, but I don’t think it’s greater than 75% and maybe half of them just tolerate it. I know that in my career I probably quit four or five times my job because I wasn’t that happy in what I was doing. And so if you give a person a reason not to be happy in what they’re doing, they’re going to look around, they’re going to try to find some other way to provide for their family.

If they have no choice, then that’s a different situation. But the pandemic gave them a choice. They could work from home, they could work from some other office, they could go work from a hotel room. This whole pandemic thing and the ability to do things like Zoom and other team viewing and whatever allowed people to work remotely. And I think as this remote concept is what’s precipitated this whole great resignation and quiet quitting. I know my son, for example, he loves working from home. He’s not looking forward to going back to the office.

Rob Artigo: Yeah, I was looking at the definition of quiet quitting and it says doing the bare minimum at a job without actually leaving. I’m sure your son is not doing the bare minimum working from home. He’s doing hard work and he’s dedicated, but there are people who, whether they’re working from home or working in an office or forced to go back to the office, that they’re just sort of running through the motions or showing up for work and checking in. I even heard the other day that somebody who worked for Meta was posting videos about how their, whatever their job is that they don’t do anything. So they would post videos of them showing up for work and going and having snacks at one of the restaurants in the building and then going over and doing something else.

They were literally posting videos of them doing nothing. So I don’t know if this person’s quiet quitting or just trying to announce that she’s not usable over there at Meta, and probably she’ll be laid off, but I see this trend. And then I was also thinking to the fact that Google just announced 12, I think it was 12,000 across the worldwide, their total numbers across the world, which is huge. So I don’t know if 12% might have, I mean 12,000 might have been 6% of the workforce or something, but again, you got layoffs going on. Do you think the fact that we’re seeing layoffs now because of the downturn in the economy will impact the way people behave, whether it’s quiet quitting or the great resignation?

Ray Zinn: I think it’s both. So let’s talk about this layoffs that are occurring mainly in the tech industry. So if you remember, Biden had this program where if you didn’t lay people off during the pandemic then you could get a tax credit. So that’s run out. So then all of these tax credits that these companies have been getting, keeping these people employed has now gone away because the pandemic’s over. So I think a good chunk of why Meta and some of Google and others are having these, and Microsoft, these big layoffs is because they’re not getting credit for keeping these people on, and at least that’s what I’m hearing. I met on Sunday, just a few days ago, I met with the Secretary of State for the state of Montana, and because she was doing some fundraising and she was talking about all things that she was accomplishing and had accomplished. She has been able to cut back her department by 75%.

In other words, she’s got one fourth of the number of people that she had just during the pandemic. And I thought that was interesting. And I said, well, how’d you do that? She said, “Well, because we’re being more efficient.” And so I think with people working from home or working remotely has allowed companies to look at really what progress do these people or what efficiencies do we get by having all this extra staff that we don’t need? And the companies haven’t been really trying to teamwork with their people, and people have been working alone because they’re remote. And so there’s been no team building, there’s been no camaraderie. And so it’s just like people who go to church, they go to church because to socialize. So part of the reason for going into the office is to socialize, like you talked about that lady at Meta. And so this whole socializing thing has been perturbated by the pandemic and people have been getting used to working alone. And so how do companies keep their employees enthused and motivated if they’re working remotely? That’s the key I see.

Rob Artigo: Yeah, and the culture at Micrel, which you were CEO O for 37 years, you were there at the beginning of a growth spurt for Silicon Valley, what created the namesake for the area, and you’ve seen downturns and you’ve seen upturns and you’ve seen everything in between and you’ve had to deal with staffing. And the culture at Micrel has always been one where people not only enjoyed working, but if they left they tended to want to try to find a way to come back because they found the culture someplace else not be as advantageous. Do you think that the working from home, from what I’ve heard you so far, I think the answer is going to be yes, but working from home has diminished the capacity of many companies to perform at their peak?

Ray Zinn: Oh, absolutely, at least in my opinion. There’s a book written called Managing by Walking Around, and that’s kind of what I used to do and a lot of my managers, we would walk around, visit with people, learn about their families, learn about what’s making them happy or unhappy. And you can’t do that if you’re remote and hardly any managers are managing people in the way that we used to before the pandemic. And so the whole concept of managing your staff or your people is changing. How do you manage remotely? That’s the key. In fact, we probably ought to write a book about managing remotely because that’s the way the world’s going, with the exception maybe of the restaurants and places that have to have people there.

More and more people are finding that working from home is great because they don’t have the commute time. They’ll save maybe two hours a day just not commuting, and that means that there’s more free time for the family. It just a much happier situation working remotely. But then how do you keep your employees happy? How do you keep them motivated and keeping them working together as a team if they’re really not working together physically as you would?

Rob Artigo: Yeah, and the communication when you were, your management style was, as you said, walking around. You would walk around and talk to people because getting to know them as people, not just in terms of what they’re doing on the job, you went around and you wanted to know what was going on in their lives, how they were doing, what was their work-life balance like. But I think when you’re managing remotely you may end up being the manager that talks at people instead of listening to them more often because it’s just a different communication than when you’re sitting there and you can put your hand on somebody’s shoulder when you’re talking to them. And your example of leadership contrasted to a remote environment I think is like you said, there are some good things about being able to work from home, and there are some things about management perhaps that aren’t going to work as well because you don’t have that personal touch.

Ray Zinn: I’m not sure that every family has a remote office in their home that they can work efficiently from. So they may be working at the kitchen table and their little kids screwing in and out, or maybe the phone’s ringing or the TV’s going in the background or whatever, and just so many distractions. So the efficiency is just going to go down, down, down. And so what companies are finding is that they know that this is happening and yet they’re getting the same amount of work out so they’re saying, well then why do I really need this person if my efficiencies or my projects are still getting finished on time and if this person we know is not being that efficient at what they’re doing because they’re working remotely.

So that that’s a problem, even though they’re not traveling or not doing the commute as much, not putting in the two hours a day commuting, they’re still getting a lot of distractions. Somebody knocking at the door, telephone ringing, their radio going in the background. I just can’t imagine the distractions that occur when you’re working remotely so that’s a challenge. So the concept of working remotely is what we have to figure out how to do a better job in managing our employees while they’re working remotely. So my suggestion is they almost have to have a group meeting either at the facility where they just socialize as you would just have a socializing time for half an hour or so.

Maybe they have some refreshments or whatever, but they just kind of get together. So you need people. We’re a very social animal. We need to be around each other. And so if you’re watching this video and listening to this podcast, consider having a little get together at work or at the office with those who can get to the office, get together once a week and for half an hour, an hour and just have a little get together, a little socializing, and maybe just have a way to talk about the business and review with them how business is going and keeping them in touch as you want them keeping them in touch with you. That’s a suggestion for those that are going to continue to work remotely.

Rob Artigo: Yeah, it seems to me that if you have somebody on the staff who is being passive aggressive, which I think is what that quiet quitting is really all about, just being there and taking up time and taking a paycheck, you can, in a social environment like that, you may be able to spot those people who are disenchanted and you may be able to save yourself the hassle. If you’re not in the middle of layoffs, you may be able to save yourself some hassle by identifying the person who is in that mode and then trigger something in them that gets them out of the quiet quitting mode and gets them recommitted to what they were doing at the business.

Ray Zinn: Yeah, stay in touch socially is very important. So the bottom line of this podcast that we’re doing today is to really encourage those who are going to have a remote work environment is to get together on some weekly basis at the office where you just socialize a little bit and maybe talk about the program, talk about how the company is doing, keep them engaged as you would. Don’t just let them sit around at home. We know that bad habits can occur within a day or two, and it takes weeks to get a good habit.

So, if the employee starts getting some bad habits and during the remote workday, that’s going to be hard to get them back on doing the right things, the good things that they should be doing because I’ll tell you what, I’ve worked from home also in my career, and it’s very easy to get distracted. I liked it because I had more flexibility. Nobody watching over my shoulder, nobody micromanaging me. I was able to just do my job and I felt that was great, but I could see how inefficient that was because of the distractions that occur when I was working remotely.

Rob Artigo: Well, a great podcast, Ray, really, and for the listeners you know can always reach out to Ray Zinn with your questions at toughthingsfirst.com. It’s a continuing education here as you know. If you’ve listened enough times you know that it’s a masters class in business and management. So keep joining us, keep coming back. We love having you here and having you listen to us here at Tough Things First. You can find more at toughthingsfirst.com on the podcasts, and also blogs and links to Ray Zinn’s books, Tough Things First and the Zen of Zinn 1, 2 and 3. And hope you enjoy those books as well. Make sure you get them and pick them up. It’s all part and parcel to what you’re hearing here at Tough Things First. So great conversation, Ray.

Ray Zinn: That’s great. Great. Good, stuff there, Rob.

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