How engaged are your people? Are they truly present, active members of the business community? All of them?

    Maybe you have a few people in mind that are. What about everyone else?

    How do you truly know? How well do you listen to what your people are saying? What if they’re pulling the wool over your eyes? 

    Lots of questions and my aim isn’t to provoke a paranoid, panicked frenzy. Maybe you and your business are doing well on all of these fronts.

    But people have become very good at pretending to work - putting on a good professional mask, while leaving much of themselves at home.

    They’re going through the motions, fulfilling the requirements of their job spec, but not really giving what they’re doing their full attention. 

    If - and I mean if - no assumptions or judgements here - but IF this is your workforce, what a missed opportunity.

    And what a potentially dangerous state for your culture to be in as we approach a likely recession. A time when we need our people to be more awake and actively engaged than ever.

    What is ‘quiet quitting’?

    There can be a real danger of reductionism when we give every, often nuanced, trend a sticky title. However, I do think there’s something in this. What it means, according to TikToker @zkchillin is:

    “You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life - the reality is, it’s not.”

    It’s a reaction to poor business culture and burnout. It’s part of a movement to reclaim more balance in life where exhaustion has been the norm.

    Balance is absolutely crucial and 100% something that should be both strived for and supported by businesses. So how can we help our workforces to experience healthy balance while being fully present rather than mentally absent from work? It’s a duty of care for leaders to understand and better serve, rather than judge, their teams.

    Your ‘marvellous middle’ 

    Kim Scott, former CEO of Google Ventures brilliantly makes a distinction between the ‘rockstars’ and ‘superstars’ of companies.

    According to her, the ‘rockstars’ are the ‘rocks’ of your team. They are reliable, enjoy their work, perform well and aren’t interested in promotion or more responsibility. They’re crucial for stability, for maintaining excellence and taking care of what is, rather than always looking to what next. They help to ground your business.

    ‘Superstars’ have a steeper career trajectory as they’re driven by new challenges, growth and pushing the boundaries. Their voices and presence are probably more easily heard and felt within businesses. Superstars are needed, but it’s not practical to have a business full of them. Otherwise, who’s taking care of the now?vb

    It’s probably the ‘rockstars’ who are most in danger of being overlooked, undervalued and overworked. As a solution, they ‘quietly quit’. It’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.

    We’re currently working with a client that has recognised this challenge and are investing heavily in better understanding the wellbeing, needs and wants of what they’ve christened the ‘marvellous middle’. The challenge being, to stop it becoming the ‘miserable middle’.

    How much do you really know and care about the vast majority that make up the middle of your business?

    How do you reward them? How do you make them feel valued? How do you keep them engaged?

    What if they’re already sleepwalking? If they are, then it could be that you’re sleepwalking off the edge of a very steep cliff.

    The solution

    I don’t share the above to scare anyone into a state of paralysis. It’s all just information that hopefully encourages us to rethink or think deeper about how we do things. It’s so easy to get stuck on the conveyor belt, sleep-walking - at all levels. Hey, what if we’ve quietly quit ourselves and we’re not even aware of it?

    1. Start with you

    How awake are you at work? How connected to purpose are you? Have you done any work on this? If the answer’s no, then I really recommend you build time in your diary for the lateral thinking that this requires. Bringing more self-awareness to our daily lives and our daily work can be transformational when acted upon. Indeed, self management is one of THE key leadership competencies. Do have a look at our webinar on this here: Leading transformational Change: Self Management Using the Trust Equation

    2. Ask your people 

    Put together a comprehensive, anonymous survey to take a temperature reading on the current business culture. You can be quite direct in asking people their feelings on things when it can’t be traced back to them. And from our experience, you get some pretty honest answers that may stay hidden in the day-to-day BAU. 

    3. Show appreciation for your rocks

    Think about how you reward those who turn up every day, do a great job, offer stability, ensure quality, but aren’t necessarily so visible. How can you be more vigilant in ensuring that they’re not forgotten among the louder, more visible presences in the businesses?

    The real take-away from this piece is to stay awake and stay curious. Then you’ll know that those who remain checked out just aren’t in the right place. Those who buy-in and engage are the people that you need in your business now more than ever - particularly with some potentially challenging times ahead.

    A version of this article, by The Speaker's Gym, was first published at

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