Transitioning from Quiet Quitting to Remarkable Success

The following is a guest post from Carole Wehn (CultureWise). Carole works behind the scenes at HPC, writing, editing, and proofreading online learning materials. 

Transitioning from Quiet Quitting to Remarkable Success

By Carole Wehn

headhshot of Carole Wehn

How do you motivate your team to “go the extra mile” in a world of “quiet quitting?” 

Going the extra mile was probably a key factor in your successful climb up the corporate ladder. You did whatever it took to accomplish the job—plus a little bit more. You may have been the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave. The job description was just the starting point, and you volunteered for additional assignments. That was the playbook for career advancement. 

But now you read a lot about quiet quitting. Unfortunately, you may be experiencing it with team members. The global pandemic caused many workers to reexamine their priorities in life, and work often dropped to the bottom of their list. In addition, the stress and health implications of the pandemic made them reprioritize physical and emotional well-being. For many employees, the answer was to pull back on their work effort and do the minimum required. 

Companies responded to employees’ concerns about Zoom fatigue, burnout, and mental health issues. In many cases, they reassessed and strengthened their employee wellness programs. 

But now, economic worries are pressuring employers to improve productivity. Remote workers have been asked to return to the office. Companies that staffed up in the last couple of years are announcing layoffs, restructurings, and the need to do more with less. We are in a “perk-cession” as companies cut back on employee perquisites. Workplace efficiency has become the new buzzword. 

So how do you reengage your team and get them to go the extra mile for their colleagues and customers? 

Being a Good Corporate Citizen 

Most people define going the extra mile as: 

  • Going beyond their job role to help a co-worker 
  • Volunteering to take on additional assignments 
  • Suggesting improved work processes 
  • Attending non-mandatory meetings 
  • Putting in extra hours

These are also called “citizenship behaviors.” Organizational citizenship behavior reflects actions not part of an individual’s required work activities. Unlike employee performance, which reflects the expected work product and is measurable, organizational citizenship is supplemental to the required activities. These behaviors aren’t essential to the job—but they tremendously impact the company’s effectiveness, team performance, and employee morale. 

Harvard Business Review researchers Mark C. Bolino and Anthony C. Klotz note that many employees exhibit citizenship behavior because they feel committed to the company and their co-workers. Helping out and doing more than expected is rewarding to them, personally and professionally. It can make work more meaningful and engaging. Doing these activities is often noticed by management and rewarded in performance evaluations too. 

Why Do Employees Want to Go the Extra Mile? 

While lack of employee engagement grabs the headlines, some committed employees routinely give more than 100 percent. 

There are three main reasons why these workers are willing to go the extra mile: 

  1. The employee’s values and beliefs 
  2. Their leader’s style 
  3. The organization’s culture 

It's in their DNA 

Psychology Today reported on a TINYpulse survey of over 200,000 employees. The survey asked, “What motivates you to excel and go the extra mile at your organization?” Camaraderie and peer motivation was the top-ranked answer, closely followed by “intrinsic desire to do a good job.” 

Some employees naturally go above and beyond what’s written in their job description. It’s just the way they operate. They may be fortunate to have found a position that genuinely taps into their passions. Or they may understand that going the extra mile leads to broader responsibilities, higher compensation, and promotions. Sometimes it’s generational – Boomers and Gen X employees grew up in a “rise and grind” hustle culture. 

It Doesn't Take Much

In the era of quiet quitting, going the extra mile doesn’t require much. Callum Borchers, writing in the Wall Street Journal, said, “Common-sense moves that might once have been considered standard—meeting people in person, doing small favors for colleagues, hitting deadlines even if it means occasional late nights—are now seen as exceptional in the current work climate.” He observes that some initiative and a good attitude are paying off in bonuses and promotions. 

Leaders can also help employees shape their “citizenship behaviors.” People may excel in some activities more than others. For example, some employees work better later in the day and may have the ability to stay late to finish projects. Some may feel rewarded by mentoring newer team members. Others might enjoy travel and have the flexibility to help in a short-staffed field location. 

It’s best to speak with employees about their preferred ways to contribute. Bolino and Klotz refer to this as “citizenship crafting” – adjusting citizenship behaviors to the employee’s strengths, motives, and passions. 

They Have a Good Manager

A study by Zenger Folkman cited in the Harvard Business Review asked employees to rate their managers’ ability to “balance getting results with a concern for others’ needs.” The managers who ranked highest at balancing results with relationships saw almost two-thirds of their workers willing to go the extra mile. 

Showing concern for the needs of others, and being able to put oneself in another’s shoes, characterizes empathetic leadership. 

Empathetic leadership has risen in importance since the pandemic. In the past, personal issues were kept out of the workplace. However, the line between personal and work life continues to blur. Employees have become more comfortable speaking up about their struggles in meeting work and home responsibilities. They seek managers who listen empathetically to their concerns and show compassion. 

Managers need to be sensitive to their team members’ potential burnout and the need to take a break. And they ought to do much more than implement work-life balance policies. Managers should: 

  • Check in with employees frequently to see how they are doing 
  • Show a sincere interest in their employees’ goals and objectives 
  • Match those goals with assigned work to maximize performance and employee satisfaction 

And empathetic leadership isn’t just about making employees feel better. It’s good for business. Research by the Center for Creative Leadership found that empathy in the workplace is positively related to job performance. Managers who practiced empathetic leadership toward direct reports were also considered better performers by their bosses. 

When employees feel supported and believe their leaders care about their well-being, they are likelier to engage in citizenship behaviors. As Zenger and Folkman point out, if you can encourage your direct reports to give just 10 percent additional effort, overall productivity soars. 

The Culture Encourages It

An employee’s manager significantly impacts whether they choose to go the extra mile. Sadly, research from the Center for Creative Leadership shows that about half of today’s managers are ineffective. So rather than leave it to chance that the employee has a good manager, ensure the company culture encourages all team members to go above and beyond. 

Consider this example. 

CultureWise CEO David J. Friedman tells of an experience with Bruegger’s Bagels near Phoenix, Arizona. He pre-ordered a dozen bagels and planned to pick them up on the way to the airport. Running late for his flight, he called to say he was unable to stop and get them. The team member inquired which terminal he was departing from and sent an associate to personally deliver the bagels at the airport. 

What motivates a minimum-wage team member to go the extra mile like this? 

It’s all about the culture. Surely this franchise encourages associates to take charge of problems and be creative in finding solutions. They likely emphasize delivering legendary customer service. The employees must feel supported by management and recognized for going above and beyond. 

Employees respond when they believe the company supports and empowers them to do their best. They are more likely to show a higher level of commitment to the company. They volunteer for extra assignments and help their co-workers. 

What About Your Culture?

Company cultures are about behaviors. Inspire your employees to exhibit empathetic leadership behaviors and encourage team members to go the extra mile. 

Ensure that the following behaviors are an integral part of your culture: 

  • Generous listening to one another 
  • Creating a safe environment for employees to speak up 
  • Establishing expectations and requiring accountability 
  • Showing meaningful appreciation for employees’ work 
  • Investing in relationships with one another 

Inova Staffing Insights

Dan Barnett, President & CEO of Inova Staffing, says:

headshot of Dan Barnett

As a devoted staffing agency, our mission is to connect businesses with exceptional talent and motivate employees to go the extra mile. This post emphasizes the importance of truly understanding individual employee motivations. If your organization can do that, it becomes much easier to foster a sense of purpose, provide recognition, promote effective communication, and support work-life balance—all things that are extremely important to your employees. By aligning individual aspirations with business objectives, acknowledging achievements, facilitating transparent communication, and prioritizing well-being, we strive to create an environment where employees feel valued and motivated to exceed expectations, ultimately contributing to the success of businesses we serve at Inova Staffing.  

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