How to Make Silent Quitting a Thing of the Past

If you paid someone $30 an hour to do a job and they gave back a mere $10 worth of effort, what would you call that?

I would call it immoral, cheating and stealing … which it certainly is, on the employee’s part. They’re not holding up their part of the agreement.

And there are a lot of those folks hanging around organizations these days. Some people call them “silent quitters” while others call them “disengaged.”


Either way, the results are the same. There are lots of people who are doing just enough to get by and just enough to keep out of trouble. They’re leeches on the company, the company profits, the company morale, and all of their teammates.

But there is more to the story than employees performing below their potential. Almost always, when you see lackluster employee performance, it has something to do with their supervisor, manager, or senior leader as well.

It has something to do with what those leaders are NOT doing.

In my research, I’ve found that some leaders are NOT doing enough to instill enthusiasm, confidence, empowerment, and inspiration in their employees. But those who do so have found the four keys to engagement or the four antidotes to silent quitting.

Here are four techniques I recommend.

► 1. Enthusiasm

Model enthusiasm. Let it be a contagious force in your organization. You might do that by helping people put things in perspective.

During a tough, rocky season, Mark Mangino, the head football coach at the University of Kansas, was the target of some very negative press. A reporter asked him if he had had a bad week. He replied, “Let me tell you something that’s really important that’s on my mind. I have a player, D.J. Marshall, who’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a cancer center. He just started his chemotherapy this week. That’s called a bad week. I’ve had a great week.”

That’s putting things in perspective. That’s keeping the enthusiasm contagiously alive. And if you, as a leader, can model enthusiasm, there’s a good chance your fellow teammates will catch the same spirit.

Joe Torre, a 9-time All Star baseball player, commented on that. He said, “During my eight years as a player with the Braves, I was fortunate to hit behind baseball’s all-time home-run king Hank Aaron. One day Hank and I were talking about batting slumps when he made a comment that has stayed with me ever since. ‘Each at-bat is a new day.’ I’d take it even further. We don’t just have the opportunity to start fresh each day. We have the opportunity to start fresh each moment. In baseball, a hitter mired in a slump can belt a home run on any pitch.”

► 2. Confidence

During his 29-year tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, Tom Landry won numerous titles and Super Bowls. So you can be sure he knew a great deal about engaging his team and turning them into winners time after time.

One of his winning secrets had to do with modeling confidence. He said, “Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence. They need to see how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control.”

You also build confidence in people by believing in them. In fact, your confidence in them often precedes their own self-confidence, but once they grasp that confidence, great results follow.

Lou Holtz, the great football coach at the College of William and Mary, Arkansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Notre Dame, proved that time and again. He says, “People perform to the level expected of them. Because I demanded nothing short of greatness, the players elevated their performance far beyond anyone’s expectations.”

► 3. Empowerment

Homer Rice, who was the head coach at the University of Cincinnati and several other schools, knew about empowerment long before the word became fashionable. He said, “You can motivate by fear and you can motivate by reward, but both those methods are only temporary. The only lasting thing is self-motivation.”

And self-motivation typically comes when people are empowered to have more control over their decisions, their work, and their lives. And effective leaders know that. They know when it is time to “loosen up” or “tighten down.” They know when it’s okay to make the decisions and when it’s okay to empower others to make the decisions.

Trevor Adcock, a leader at Toyota-UK, learned that when he attended my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program in Manchester, England. He wrote, “From your program and my work with Toyota, I learned that I should treat my employees as if they were my children. And if you actually think about it and practice that, you behave very differently toward them. As you well know, you would never let your children fail. So why would you ever let an employee fail? You wouldn’t. You learn to empower them to take on as much responsibility as they can handle.”

► 4. Inspiration

Leaders who truly engage their teammates know about this inspiring power of purpose. Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express, said, “You have to communicate with your workers and make sure they understand that what they’re doing means something. We still tell our employees what we always told them: ‘You’re delivering the most important commerce in the history of the world. You’re not delivering sand and gravel. You’re delivering someone’s pacemaker, chemotherapy treatment for cancer drugs, the part that keeps the F-18s flying, or the legal brief that decides the case.”

Pia Sundhage, the head coach of the US women’s national soccer team that won two Olympic gold medals, said it beautifully. She said, “The name on the front of the jersey is much more important than the name on the back.” She inspired her players by reminding them they were part of something bigger than themselves; they were part of a great team with a great tradition.

How are you doing on instilling these four emotions in your team members? Which one (enthusiasm, confidence, empowerment, or inspiration) needs some more development?