Jason Morwick and Debra Dinnocenzo discuss the current ‘quiet quitting’ dynamic, how the pandemic has exacerbated employee disengagement, and techniques leaders can employ to foster greater engagement. Highlights include keys to effective communication with remote/hybrid team members, skills for building trust and rapport, the importance of empathy in conveying value and appreciation for the contributions of team members in the virtual workplace, and strategies for coaching and developing remote and hybrid team members.
About the Guest:
Jason Morwick is a remote work advocate, leader, and practitioner from eons ago when we called it telework. He is the co-author of Making Telework Work (2009) and Workshift (2013), as well as co-author with Debra A. Dinnocenzo of REMOTE LEADERSHIP: Successfully Leading Work-from-Anywhere and Hybrid Teams (2021). Jason currently serves as Head of Remote-First at Cactus Communications. He has been passionate about helping organizations transition into the remote world since 2010 and is always looking for a better way to work.
About the Host:
Debra A. Dinnocenzo is the president and founder of VirtualWorks!, a consulting and training firm that specializes in virtual work issues. Debra is a co-author of the recently released book, REMOTE LEADERSHIP – Successfully Leading Work-from-Anywhere and Hybrid Teams, as well as several other books on remote and virtual teams.
Since publishing her first book on telecommuting in 1999, Debra has been a pioneer in the shift to virtual work and remote leadership. Few practitioners in the field have the depth of knowledge and hands-on experience Debra brings to her work. As a nationally recognized expert on the virtual workplace, has spoken widely on related topics and developed and taught “Leadership in the Virtual Workplace,” an online graduate-level course offered by Duquesne University. Previously, Debra was a teleworking executive and has worked from her home office for more than two decades.
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Welcome to the remote leadership Podcast. I'm Debra Dinnocenzo and I'll be your host and guide as we explore new challenges and proven keys to success for leaders and teams who must get results from a distance. For more than two decades, I've helped organizations and leaders successfully go virtual. Now that we're all on a trajectory toward the next normal of work from anywhere and hybrid teams, I'm excited to share with you the insights and expertise that 1000s of leaders and teams have acquired through my books, coaching, training, and presentations. Join me to learn tips, techniques and skills that leaders and teams in your organization can implement now, to achieve effectiveness in our evolving remote workplaces. Welcome to this episode of the remote leadership podcast focused on ways remote leaders can overcome quiet quitting. I'm Debra Dinnocenzo and I'm especially excited today to welcome back Jason Morwick. Jason and I recently published a book remote leadership successfully leading work from anywhere and hybrid teens. As a longtime practitioner in the virtual workspace. Jason brings a wealth of experience and insights on remote work trends in the expanding hybrid workplace, and practical solutions for remote leaders. Welcome, Jason.Jason Morwick:
Thank you, Deborah, for having me back.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Well, always a pleasure, always great to work with you. And people will recall from a previous podcast, we did our story of how we had never even met until after we wrote the book, which I think is just a really cool example of how the remote workplace does not hinder creativity and innovation. So Jason, to get us started, I think it's important, let's just what is this quiet quitting that everyone's talking about? That seems to be the the latest trend, or at least the hot topic.Jason Morwick:
Although the term quiet quitting is the new buzzword. I think it is really something that has been around for quite some time, even pre pandemic, we've always just called it back then employee disengagement, right when employees don't want to put in any additional discretionary effort. And pre pandemic. That's what a lot of employers were after they did surveys, they figured out how they can increase employee engagement, because that meant they could squeeze more work of their employees. And I think during the pandemic, that period of time gave, gave a chance for people to step back and really reevaluate work in their life, and to see where things fit in and what's important to them, and start to reevaluate things. So as employers are complaining that people are doing the bare minimum, well, they're doing what is necessary to get them through their job. But they're not going to put in 10 or 12 hours worth of work for only eight hours of pay. They're going to do what's necessary to maintain their lifestyle. And maybe that's it because work is no longer the top priority in their life.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Yeah, and I think of the pandemic, you're right, this this existed, this dynamic existed, existed forever. I know when I worked on a military base, the term was rode retired on active duty. And, you know, the assumption was, if you were within 18 months of retirement, you were just not giving it your all anymore. And but I think you know, what's different is I hate to say it's the icing on the cake, but it's accelerated this or it's exponentially more present or we're more aware of it. I was just reading a piece by work human. And it said, the pandemic has left workplaces reimagined. Of course, we know that, and workers forever changed. And you were just referencing the reflection that has happened, the reprioritization that has occurred among people, and work human went on to say, and it's a wake up call for employers. And I think that's where we need to focus today. What's changed for employers and certainly, organizations are operating now in a very different environment with the state of the economy. The flux and markets inflation, recession, supply chain issues, which have not really gotten a lot better in many cases, exchange exchange rate problems challenges. And, you know, bottom line when it comes down to staffing, not getting people not getting the talent that they need, and those that they have, in light of all the economic situations, doing more with less. Are you seeing that?Jason Morwick:
Yes, I was just going to bring up that phrase doing more with less, because I'm sure everyone has heard that at some point in the past. But it seems like many companies are saying that more and more right now, I think a lot of people are expecting a recession to come through early next year. And because of that, they may have a hiring freeze going on, or maybe slowing down some of their hiring. So they're not backfilling positions quite as fast, or as you said, they can't find the talent that they need currently. So the people that are already there, and doing more work, or at least the expectation is that they're going to do more work than they have in the past. But of course, their compensation is not being adjusted accordingly.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Right. And they're not, they're just not in the frame of mind to want to step up and give it their all and do more. I mean, this is not true for everybody, obviously. And but it certainly seems to be the case, you know, Gallup just did a study recently. And their data indicates that quiet quitters make up at least, and they think more at least 50% of the US workforce, which from an employer perspective, a leader perspective, is just pretty scary, because overcoming that, which is really what we're the challenge that we're talking about today, overcoming that is not only challenging, but it takes an inordinate investment of, of time and energy.Jason Morwick:
Correct. And when I feel bad for, if anyone, are those supervisors and middle managers that are out there in corporations, because they don't have the levers, such as changing someone's compensation necessarily, right, they can argue for that, but they don't, in many cases, have the decision making authority to change that structure. So they're left with team members that might be disengaged, that might be quiet quitters, and they have to deal with the challenge of trying to motivate them to ensure that their key success metrics, whatever they may be our met.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Right. You know, I think, as I as I look at it, and from what I hear from from leaders who are confronting these challenges, but it's it's difficult, is, you know, we're in a place where we really we've been, first of all, you know, talking about the next normal of the remote workplace and what that looks like, and what does hybrid look like. And now we're really rethinking the whole organization employee compact, as you know, aside from any contracts people might have or from their, regardless of their job description. It's a compact that we have, when we employ people. And, you know, typically, we've paid for hours worked. But we've wanted more, you mentioned that briefly. We've wanted, we've wanted their heart and soul, we've wanted them to be committed, we want them to love what they're doing, and give it their all. And that doesn't seem to be happening. That's why we have this thing called Quiet quitting the great resignation happened for a while, it's probably still happening. All the economy is impacting that right now. So what what can leaders do? What are some of the the actions that they can take steps they can take to begin to confront this? And to address what they said from the beginning? It's all about people are disengaged, so we have to reengage them? Where do they where did a leader start with that?Jason Morwick:
I think number one, it starts with some of the fundamentals and what you'd call leadership one on one, you know, it's about setting the right example, it's about not asking people to do things that you wouldn't do yourself. It's about being transparent, communicating with your team members often being open and honest with them, recognizing that, you know, they may have challenges. And that, you know, work may not be the top priority in their lives. So understanding, you know, what drives them, listening to them to get a better understanding of who they are, what makes them tick, that sort of thing.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Yeah, I think, you know, from everything I'm seeing, and what I see leaders trying to do, it starts with communication. It also builds on and you need to build on trust building trust. And so how, you know, how do people do that? We talked about that in the in our book, of course. But so first of all, I want to just reference what you meant Ginger earlier that a lot of leaders, you know, right up to senior executive leaders aren't in a position to say, well, you know, if I just give them more money, maybe they'll be more engaged, there'll be more motivated. I don't think it's about throwing money, because I think you throw money at some of these situations, some of these people, that's not, that's not necessarily going to take care of it. And that's not an option. Anyway. So coming back to basics of communicating reaching out to people, we have this plethora of fabulous tech tools that people can use now. And I, you know, I keep reminding people, and I feel like a broken record, because it's still it continues to be true, this is not the time to under communicate. Leaders have to use this mix of methods that we have, and I believe use the most live tools that they have, which means, you know, live voice reach out to people pick up the phone, have video meetings where there's live, live human connectivity and human connection.Jason Morwick:
You mentioned compensation, which is interesting, because there were surveys done throughout the pandemic that showed that people preferred flexibility even over additional compensation. And it's interesting to try to understand why that is. And I think a lot of senior leaders who have recalled people back into the office erroneously think it's really because people just want to work in their pajamas all day. And that is clearly not the case. And it bothers me, every time somebody evokes that image, you have to understand why do people really want flexibility a lot has to do with working parents, especially working mothers that have childcare issues, and need that flexibility to take care of things at home, and responsibilities with around their children and that sort of thing. Other people have other personal obligations that are trying to balance with their work schedule. So the whole concept of providing flexibility is really granting people more freedom, to structure their day, to be able to better integrate work and life. And if you understand that piece, and you can begin to think about, okay, what are the challenges that somebody may have, and it really forces you as a leader, to be more empathetic. And I think that is motivating to a lot of team members to have a leader that is that empathetic that will understand their needs, and try to help them with that.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Right, I think that kind of gets to where some of the solutions might be, and that is to afford people more flexibility, and adapt to what people want and need. Because you're right, I mean, we've seen this data for for several years, even pre pandemic, where people would choose to work for a little bit less for greater flexibility. And so I think that ties into another and it's a basic getting back to basics leadership 101 We tend to lose sight of it when we get really busy, but it's really important right now and we're all hearing more about it and and that is really conveying the value and the appreciation that we have for people and the work that they're doing. And and empathy for the all the balls that they're trying to keep juggling in the in keeping the air because it's it's difficult for young families and, and schools still occasionally shut down. We're going into winter, and we're going to have weather issues and we're going to have flu issues. And so we need to leaders need to be more in a position to adapt to what people need, which does convey empathy and appreciation for for them and the job they're doing if we can adapt and flex to their needs. Agreed. Yes. Yep. So and you know, going back to communication, a lot of how we convey that is by by communicating keeping in touch with people focusing on on building trust, which means you do that through starting with building familiarity. And that is between leader and team members. I also think it's important for leaders to ensure that members of the team feel connected to each other and are in a position to support each other. That means encouraging rapport and relationship building at the team level. And I say all this, recognizing that everybody's running at hyperspeed once again, and doing more with Last, and there are only so many hours in a day. And, and you know that what we talked about earlier, the kind of reprioritization, the reflection of what's important, the kind of re rethinking of how I want to invest my life energies that didn't just happened just with employees, that happened with leaders as well. So many leaders are also struggling with all these challenges to keep people engaged. And they themselves don't feel as engaged as they might have at one time.Jason Morwick:
That is true. And I think remote working over the course of the pandemic taught us one thing is that we had to be very intentional and purposeful with how we did things, right, because we could no longer describe somebody, as we walked down the hallway or saw them in a break room, we had a scheduled time with people, and that sort of thing. So it forced us to be very intentional with how we were using our time. And I often think regardless, if we're back in the office, or we're still working remotely, that we have to be very purposeful, very intentional, with our relationships, right? To think about the work relationships that you have, and that you rely on. If you're a manager, and you have team members, or if you're just a person in an organization trying to get things done. You need those relationships around you to make it happen. So how are you building those? How are you maintaining those? Are you setting some time aside, just to you know, catch up with various people to get to know them to make sure that things aren't just transactional in nature. Because if that's the case, and people will become quick, even more quickly disengaged, because they'll feel absolutely no connection to their other team members or to the organization at large.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Absolutely. And I think, you know, we saw some of that during the particularly the early part of the pandemic, where we really were concerned about each other, you know, we were all kind of living through a collective near death experience. You know, we didn't have vaccines, people, some people were very worried kids were home from school. And so we saw more examples, then I believe, of leaders doing creative and innovative things to help people be connected, feel connected, reach out to them at a human level. And we talked about that, in the book, some of the examples of fun and creative things people did, I think we're, you know, no pressures on, we're kind of back to meeting start. And, and we're overlooking some of those opportunities to particularly when new team members join, to get people familiar with each other, get to know people. And so one of the ways to do that, of course, we talked about it in the book is to ensure that when you're doing virtual meetings, whether it's a hybrid meeting, or a completely remote meeting, that you're taking time for some of those social interactions, the kinds of things that would happen if we were meeting face to face, and using things like icebreakers, and we have the virtual meeting icebreakers in in the book. And I just want to mention to everyone listening that we've provided that actually as an excerpt and available as a free download at remote leadership book.com and just scroll down to free resources. And you can download the virtual meeting icebreakers. And Jason did much of the work on that section translating a face to face icebreaker activities into remote and hybrid meeting icebreaker activities. And it's a really cool tool. And this gives me an opportunity to remind people also my other big mantra is, leaders need to continue to think about how to replicate and simulate, what would we would do if we were all face to face. And do that through these technology tools that we have. So I think bottom line communication is vitally important. Reaching out to people in your leaders are always asking me well, you know, how often well the end? Of course, the answer is, it all depends. It depends on what each person needs, which means you have to get to know each member of your team, and maybe even agree on how often you'll check in with people. And doing more to convey this, this sense of appreciation so that people feel appreciated, and some of that is just the check ins that we do. Hey, how's your day going? And as you mentioned, Jason that kind of replicates and simulates that I bump into you in the in the break room and say, Hey, how's your day going?Jason Morwick:
Right. And Deborah, as you're talking on another screen, in my home office, I have news feed coming in and I can see what's going on at Twitter, with Elon Musk taking the helm And the layoffs that are happening today. And not surprisingly, maybe some of the images of people that are leaving the building, they're actually smiling and looking like they're happy. And I think there's a message here that no one wants to feel burned out, no one wants to feel undervalued, underappreciated. And I think the pandemic has taught people that you know what, they're worth more than that. And if that's not reflected here, at least in their compensation, then at least personally, if they're not feeling appreciated at work, then why bother working there? Why, you know, feel burnt out all the time. So I think that's why people are checking out their quiet quitting in a lot of cases. So I think leaders just by exercising some empathetic leadership from you know, what I call the leader fundamentals can go a long way to ensure that people stay engagedDebra Dinnocenzo:
without question, I think, at this particular moment. So first of all, Jason, this means you're multitasking? Well, we're living proof that people do that. And that's okay. If you can keep up with our conversation, that's fine with me. And you know, Twitter at this very moment is chaos on steroids, right? Because we talked to people and leaders every day, who are feeling overwhelmed, not maybe in the state of chaos that Twitter is in currently. But it's hard to keep up, there's always too much to do. And it is exhausting for people. And sometimes the best that leaders can do is to be empathic about that. And part of empathy is, you know, actually saying going to sympathy, which is I know how you feel, because some days sometimes right now, I'm feeling the same way. And so what can we do about that? That's a way of to engage people to say, you know, what can I do to help you? What can we do together about that? What can I do to make our team meetings, take less time? Any number of creative solutions to get people to help address the challenge? Sometimes the challenge is, there's just as you mentioned earlier, Jason, just not enough people. I was recently in a store. And they didn't have any checkout lines open, there was only self checkout. And it is because the person that was helping with self checkout said, Well, you know, I don't usually do this, we were having a little problem with the self checkout. And the the cashier probably wasn't really a cashier said, I don't really I don't I do this very often. I'm just helping out here, because we had 10 People call off today on this shift. And so those people who were there in this store had to feel had to feel like they were trying to do a lot more with a whole lot less.Jason Morwick:
Yeah, unfortunately, that's not sustainable. Right. So need to figure out ways in order to make people want to come back to work.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Yep. Yep. And so it's so that is a challenge. And, and a lot of people are debating why people aren't coming to work. So but leaders need to focus on the people that they do have keeping them engaged. And so I think another way to keep people engaged and to feel valued and appreciated is to work with them with them on their, on their development, to coaching and supporting team members on professional and personal development. And there may not be a promotion immediately available, but helping people develop for when there is an opportunity to advance. And so let's let's just talk briefly about some ways that leaders can help with coaching people and supporting them in their development, so that they are ready for new opportunities.Jason Morwick:
Yeah, and that gets back to really understanding your team members, right? What do they want to do in the future? What excites them? What keeps them engaged, if they are engaged, and once you find those levers, then trying to match them with opportunities that may take them in that area a little bit further, right. And it might not even be something that directly has to do with their current role, right? It might be something that's kind of on the periphery, but yet, if that's what it's going to keep them motivated at work, then as a leader, then you should pursue that and try to find opportunities in that area that will help that person develop those skills or those desires,Debra Dinnocenzo:
right. So that might mean you know, support them taking some internal training, if there's budget for that, or assigning them to some special projects, so long as it doesn't feel like it's real. doing more work for the same amount of money. But I think it's also important to remind leaders, they don't have to guess at what that is. So many times leaders just don't stop and ask. So what can I do to help you? What would be motivating to you know, are there some skills you'd like to develop that I could help? I could support you in that development. And let's explore some of the creative ways to do that. Have you thought about any ways to do that the leader doesn't have to have all the answers. And some of that might be, you know, off the job learning opportunities. You know, for somebody to get more comfortable with speaking, to do some, some self development off the job if that those aren't opportunities aren't offered within the organization. I also think this ties into the importance of getting back to communication, the whole issue of transparency. And if there are no new jobs, no promotion opportunities on the immediate horizon, then I think it's fair to be transparent about that. But to also say, you know, we, we, you're a keeper, and we want to invest in you, I want to invest in you, and I want to help you.Jason Morwick:
Yeah, I agree with that approach to Abra. And I think, like we've been saying all along, there's a lot of things that leaders can do without having to try to move something that's beyond their control, like promotional opportunities, or compensation, or anything like that leaders still have things in their toolbox that they can employ to help ensure that, you know, people are still engaged.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Right, right. And I think that's really important. And as we wrap up, I want to leave people with that thought, focus on what you can do as a leader, and not all of the impossibilities all the things that are outside of your control, because everybody has those things. And it's a tough time right now. But what can you do, and obviously, you can communicate more frequently, you can focus on building rapport and trust, getting to know team members, ensuring that team members get to know each other, if that means having a virtual lunch once a week, where there's no discussion about business, why not do that, that there's no cost to that. That's a way to keep people connected, and to do things like that. But to remember and, and rely on the things that you can do, that will help people feel valued and appreciated, and want to stick around, and maybe want to step up and do a little more for you as a leader because you're doing a little more for them.Jason Morwick:
And Deborah, just one final thought, because you called me out on multitasking. And I just saw, I just saw another tweet from Elon Musk's saying that small talk should be illegal. And I am the polar opposite of that I say, you know, have that small talk with your team, you know, talk about something other than work, get to know them. And, you know, you'll find that over time, you'll have more in common with them than just the task at hand, wherever that work task is, and you'll have some real true bonds growing, and that will help you in the long run, versus just trying to be all business all the time. YouDebra Dinnocenzo:
know, small talk is so human, isn't it? And that reminds me of a situation years ago when I was working with a banking client. And they were moving to telco telecommuting back, you know, when we used to call it telecommuting. They were moving some people to work from home. And I was working with the planning team. And they were wondering, and debating. And this gets back to the compensation issue we talked about, and we should do a whole other podcast on this issue, Jason, but they were debating, should people sign off after their work is done? Even if they haven't worked there for eight hours? Or should they have to be signed on for eight hours whether their work is done or not? So it gets it that, of course gets into a whole discussion about performance management and how we manage performance and how we compensate. And it was very interesting. At 1.1 of the people in the meeting said, Well, you know, here's what we have to think about. When we're here in the office. Some days we'll spend 45 minutes talking about where we're going to go to lunch. And it was kind of a little wake up call for them. And they had to really continue to rethink are they were they paying people for the work that they did? Are they paying them to be signed on for eight hours, which gets back to, you know, our people being compensated for the time they're in the office or for the work that they do. And, you know, that was early on into the telecommuting days. And I have long said remote work, is the best thing that could ever happen for for performance management, because it forces us to think about, you know, what, what are we really expecting of people? How do we communicate that. And I think part of the whole issue with quiet quitting right now is that people aren't really clear about their expectations, and the rewards for that, and the value that's placed on that. And so they're checking out. So I think that that also reminds us that wherever there's the opportunity to flex, as you mentioned earlier, Jason, to adapt to people's needs. And you know, somebody needs to leave every day at 515 instead of 530, to be able to pick up their kids at daycare, that that we are flexible with that so long as we can flex with equally with other people on the team to meet their needs, which means they might not have to leave at 515. But they need some other accommodation. Also, so anything you'd like to add, Jason, as we as we wrap up any news from Twitter you'd like toJason Morwick:
that's all the tweets I've seen for today.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Okay, well, that's great, very timely, of course, so. So, exciting times, again, new challenges all the time. But, you know, we're here to help people, you know, move forward into the, what we call the next normal of the remote and hybrid workplace. And I'll just wrap up with reminding everyone Our book is available on Amazon, as well as at remote leadership book.com. And remember to download the virtual meeting icebreakers which is on that same website remote leadership book.com. And, Jason, thanks again for being here. And I will I'll look forward to you joining for another podcast.Jason Morwick:
As always, Debra, thank you for having me.