Relaxed employee on couch after finishing work

Loud leadership is the answer to quiet quitting

Why both create the right balance to prevent burnout at work 

Written by Professor Gary Martin FAIM
4 minute read
Relaxed employee on couch after finishing work

As millions of employees around the globe continue to “quietly quit” their jobs, employers are rethinking the relationship with their most precious asset: their people.

Quiet quitters are those workers who have decided to dial back investment at work to give them time and energy to the rest of their lives. 

Their growing presence has many bosses in a tailspin as they contemplate how to manage without a hardcore group of workers frenetically overservicing their jobs.

Employers have long relied on at least some of their employees giving more than they are paid for.

Everyone knows the type: they arrive before the official start time, work through lunch to get a client quote done, volunteer to help out when colleagues are overloaded and will toil away long after others have gone home.

Even before the pandemic, many workers of this type were smouldering towards burnout – that state of perpetual exhaustion brought on primarily by a person’s job.

When the pandemic hit and going above and beyond appeared to be required of everyone, health experts urged employers and employees alike to take steps to arrest spiralling rates of burnout.

While employees acted swiftly to reset their lives, many employers sat silently on the sidelines.

Some workers moved to jobs they believed offered better opportunities to balance work and life, triggering “The Great Resignation.”

Many decided to stay with their existing employers but quietly quit and make work less of a focus in their lives.

Quiet quitting is misunderstood

Framed in this fashion, quiet quitting is less about slacking off and more about what health experts have been telling us to do for decades – restore our work-life balance.

With quiet quitting focused on workers re-establishing a healthy work-life balance, it is puzzling why this approach has so many bosses in a flap.

After all, do employers not understand that well-rested employees with healthy minds, who have a life outside of work, end up being more productive in the workplace?

Just quietly, they do understand.

However, they fear workers setting boundaries that will separate their jobs from the rest of their lives means employees might become so disengaged that workplaces will fall apart and productivity will plummet.

So far leaders have opted to make use of quieter or more avoidant forms of leadership to respond to the rising tide of quiet quitters.

Many fail to recognise that a problem actually exists.

Some have silently swept the problem under the office door mat and others are in the process of “quietly firing” their quiet quitters – in other words, treating workers so badly they end up quitting themselves.

Much to the chagrin of some bosses, such approaches have done little to address what is a complex situation. They have not been able to replace workers who have been quietly fired while quiet quitting appears to be highly contagious.

Loud leadership is the answer

This is why loud leadership needs to make a rowdy debut in the workplace – not to end the quiet quitting movement as we know it but to rebalance an employee-employer relationship that many believe has been too heavily weighted in favour of the employer.

Loud leadership, or leadership that is emphatic, bold and decisive, is required to allay bosses’ fears that productivity will slump if workers achieve more balance in their lives.

It requires those in charge to rethink their perspective on quiet quitting.

Rather than thinking of quiet quitters as lazy workers who are somehow robbing them of productivity, loud leaders accept that we might have gone too far in asking people to do more and more for less and less.

They recognise that quiet quitting is just another way to talk about a healthy work-life balance.

Loud leadership involves taking steps to alter work practices to ensure that it is possible for workers to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay without a decline in productivity.

It requires leaders to re-consider and re-engineer business practices to ensure precious time on the job is maximised and not squandered on senseless busywork or unnecessarily bureaucratic policies, processes and procedures.

Changing business practices might include offering regular feedback to optimise performance, removing unnecessary meetings from the workplace and avoiding the temptation to misspend their and employees’ time through unnecessary micromanagement.

Loud leaders coach employers to make better use of their time, streamline workflows and listen to employees’ ideas to make the workplace more efficient.

Although it sounds cliched, loud leadership truly empowers employees to work smarter, not harder – to make the best use of available time and prevent work from overflowing into employees’ personal time.

These leaders are not concerned with the impact of quiet quitting, they embrace it.

They accept that any unspoken requirement for employees to do more than they are paid for is unethical, counterproductive and likely to purge productivity in the long term.

Loud leadership is not simply about helping burnt-out employees take back their lives but represents a sustainable way through which businesses and their people can thrive long into the future.