What is “quiet quitting” and how do you deal with it?


What is “quiet quitting”? It isn’t an employee walking out the door while singing the old country song Take This Job and Shove It, but someone doing only the bare minimum of the job description. Such people have always been around, but many employers are seeing increasing numbers of go-getters who are now dialing back their efforts.

Even among employees who rely heavily or entirely on commissions for their pay stubs, quiet quitting can still be an issue. It not only affects that employee but any others who have to pick up the slack, creating resentment and possibly a wave of quiet quitting across the store.

What can lead to it? There are numerous factors, and it could be one or a combination of a few.

External issues. Times haven’t been easy in the auto industry these last couple of years. Your employees are dealing with customers who might be upset because cars are in short supply; they have enough bills to pay without repairing their old cars as they wait for their new ones; or when they do find a car they want, interest rates are high. Those factors may also be affecting the number of leads your salespeople are getting. This can all lead to frustration – if the cars and the customers aren’t there, what’s the point of trying harder?

Stress and mental health. The issues facing customers are also facing employees. The cost of living, interest rates, any health issues, the effects of the pandemic on their young children, even family expectations during the holiday season – all of these are tough enough, and then when you add job stress to it, it may be overwhelming.

Frustration with the job. The pandemic brought financial issues for companies, and many cut back on their hiring. As a result, some employees may be expected to do extra work but without any extra pay. People may also see limited chances for promotion, so they can’t aim for better wage opportunities or new challenges to keep them mentally engaged.

It may not always be easy to recognize quiet quitting, and the reality is that if the job description has been laid out for them, they should have the right to be able to follow it to the letter. Even so, that doesn’t make for a good work environment. Collaborating with them on a solution is always the better way.

Look objectively at what you’re asking them to do. An occasional “can you do this” is fine, but be careful you’re not piling up on people. If enough is added to their jobs, they should be getting something back out of it, whether it’s a wage bump, a regular bonus or extra time off (and ask which they’d prefer).

Empower them to contribute to the dealership. Whether it’s suggestions for improvements, new ways to do a job, or better methods to deal with customers, listen to what employees have to say. As well, within reason, give them the autonomy to deal with situations. It not only improves the employee’s outlook but also customer relations if someone doesn’t have to run up the ladder, but can just say, “Let’s do this to fix it.”

Remember that work-life balance. You may feel it’s better for your bottom line to have your employees devote themselves primarily to you, but a store full of burned-out people doesn’t benefit anyone. If someone needs an afternoon off, make the effort to accommodate it. If you’re fair with time off as needed, most people won’t try to take advantage of it.

Open your door. Let people know that they can talk to you about issues without fear of repercussion. Listen to them before you answer them, and look for solutions instead of ultimatums. Don’t downplay any problems, even if they seem minor. It could be something as simple as an employee who’d appreciate a couple of short breathers through the day to clear his head – and he can’t because that’s considered “goofing off,” while others can do it because it’s a “smoke break.” Be fair with everyone.

One thing to keep in mind is that “quiet quitting” is almost always the result of issues between employees and management. Hone your skills, keep your eyes open, and play fair to help quit the issue of quiet quitting.