Today, employees are Quiet Quitting by not going “above and beyond” for additional responsibilities at work, for which low morale and job dissatisfaction are likely to be held responsible. Can design thinking, a human-centric approach to solving problems, provide a solution and give a morale boost for employees? Read on to know. 

Quiet Quitting isn’t some newfangled terminology that’s been creeping up lately into the talk of the corporate town. It has always been there, just more ‘quietly’ than now. Instead of actually resigning from their jobs, employees are simply not going above and beyond for their work. As per some TikTok users, it represents a rejection of the hustle culture. It’s a mentality that glorifies working all day every day in the pursuit of professional goals. From an organizational perspective, we understand how demotivating it can be to watch your employees work with such disinterest. It not only demotivates the management itself but also puts greater pressure on them on so many levels. 

What can organizations do to give a morale boost to employees? To find a solution to this modern-day facade, there’s a need to value the emotional needs of your employees. This is why design thinking is the absolute need of the hour. 

“A good job is more than just a paycheck. A good job fosters independence and discipline and contributes to the health of the community.”—James H. Douglas, Former United States Secretary of the Air Force

What is Quiet Quitting and How Design Thinking Can Prevent it?

Quiet Quitting is a form of employee disengagement, a kind of protest against a declining work-life balance, and a covert act of non-compliance. When an employee “quietly quits”, they do not necessarily disobey their employers. They continue to do job duties, however, object to new duties. They frequently use strategies to avoid exerting more effort beyond what is required by the job description. Lack of recognition, unfavorable working conditions, excessive workload, low compensation, and no room for promotion or career growth—are some reasons why employees are quietly quitting these days.

This trend is alarming because it suggests a misalignment of expectations between the employer and the employee. The employee’s refusal to perform additional work is not the main problem. Instead, the employee lacks confidence in their employer’s ability to control their workload and fairly commend their efforts. This can strain relationships between managers and employees, exacerbate job satisfaction, and foster a toxic workplace environment for other workers.

In the end, “experience” is what makes a workplace favorable for any employee. The first step for managers and leaders is to concentrate on better knowing their employees to enhance the employee experience. Though Design Thinking is used to develop innovative goods or services, it can be a powerful tool to help organizations fight quitting.  

Design Thinking is a strategic approach to finding out-of-the-box solutions to complex problems where user (in this case, employee) experience is at the heart of finding the solutions.  A human-centric approach, design thinking is often used to understand users’ deep desires to find solutions to their problems. This is one of the reasons why design thinking can be used by organizations. It helps to deep dive into their employees’ minds and be able to come up with solutions to prevent quiet quitting. 

Why is a Morale Boost for Employees Really Needed?

morale boost for employees

According to research, a morale boost for employees has several benefits. Some are as follows: 

  • Higher Productivity:  Employees who are happiest and most engaged put in more effort and are more resourceful, leading to a productive workforce.
  • Enhancing Talent Retention: Because the happiest workers are less likely to quit.
  • Lower turnover: Even if you pay your long-term employees well, low turnovers can help your payroll because you won’t have to train new hires and won’t lose productivity as they get up to speed. The expense of finding and training substitute staff is avoided.
  • More creativity: The more your employee is satisfied with their job, the more creative and innovative ideas they will put on the table. 
  • Stronger branding of your organization: Happy employees typically have more favorable opinions of their employer, its goods and services, and provide better customer service.

5 Design Thinking Principles to Prevent Quiet Quitting

The five steps involved in Design thinking—empathizing, defining, ideation, prototyping, and testing—when applied to employee management, can help organizations prevent increasing cases of quiet quitting. Let’s discuss them in detail:

  • Empathise With Your Employees 

As explained in the earlier sections of this article, putting your feet in your employee’s shoes to understand their pain points is the best way to give a morale boost for employees. To lead with empathy, one must be able to comprehend the needs of others and be conscious of their emotions and thoughts. Unfortunately, due to performance metrics, empathy has long been a soft skill that is often overlooked. The successful leaders of today, however, must be more “person-focused”. 

As an empathetic leader, one must watch out for signs of workplace burnout. Workplace burnout is a serious issue today, and it is more likely to occur during periods of high stress and pressure. Many people are under stress, working longer hours than ever, and finding it challenging to separate their personal lives from their professional lives. Empathetic leaders are adept at spotting indicators of overwork in others before it escalates into a problem that leads to disengagement or turnover. This could entail spending a few extra minutes each week checking in with team members to see how they’re managing the workload they’re now facing and assisting them in recovering from overwork. Creating a morale boost for employees is an essential component of empathy. 

  • Define Why Your Employees are Quietly Quitting

Empathizing is the most basic thing that your employee would seek from their leaders. To go one step ahead to give a morale boost to employees, you must get a clear idea of how to stop them from quietly quitting. For it to happen, leaders can have one-on-one meetings with their employees to understand why they are not giving their best to their job. 

During these meetings, chances are you will get a variety of reasons from each team member. The key is to list down all their responses, define several problem statements, and pursue solutions to the pain points of the employees. Each negative response will be a separate problem statement for you. 

  • Ideate What Type of Culture Would Make them Not Quit

design thinking for quiet quittingWhen you define your problem statements, it becomes easier for you to ideate potential solutions. For instance, if a heavy workload is a problem, leaders should focus on strategies to allocate work as per employees’ capacity.  If lack of appreciation is the problem, leaders can strategize to make employees feel recognized for their work. For instance, coming up with monthly award ceremonies for employee performance. Many such ideas can give a morale boost for employees so that they do not feel like quitting (in any form).

  • Come Up with Interim Amendments in Organisational Structure and Give them Out to Employees for Feedback (Prototyping)

With all the problem statements, leaders can further discuss their learnings with HR management. Together, both can come up with amendments to the organizational structure. A fresh example of such a path-breaking change in organizational structure can be Meesho’s 11-day companywide break for its employees. Meesho, a social e-commerce platform, is being lauded for announcing its annual 11-day companywide break from October 22 to November 1 under the company’s new initiative called “Reset and Recharge”, which emphasizes employees’ ability to completely disconnect from work and prioritize their mental health. During a time when burnout and anxiety have emerged as significant challenges for the workforce, it is a great move. The initiative gives a reflection of Meesho’s efforts to create a people-centric workplace that values its most valuable resource: its employees.

To boost employee morale, organizations can make similar amendments to create a favorable work environment for employees. Since design thinking considers prototyping to determine durability without much alteration at the foundational level, you can make amendments for some specific period so that employee feedback can be captured. 

  • Evaluating Feedback Obtained from Employees to Make Permanent Changes in Organisational Structure (Testing)

As you take responses from employees on the new policies, you can record their feedback. Evaluate if those policies are favorable to employees or not. Do not take the whole activity as a waste of time. If the employees still don’t feel satisfied, then make changes in the policies as per their feedback. Since the concept of design thinking embraces failure, negative feedback is welcome to find the best solution. So, do not hesitate to go a phase back in the process. Make new amendments until you create policies that align with the interests of both employees and your organization. 

The Bottom Line: Stop Quiet Firing to Avoid Quiet Quitting

The rage of Quiet Quitting has shaken up the foundation of the corporate culture. However, the biggest factor that leads to Quiet Quitting is Quiet Firing, a practice often followed by organizations.  Quiet Firing is when employers, either knowingly or unknowingly, exert unnecessary pressure on employees in the name of productivity. This kind of behavior happens when leaders consider numbers as the only parameter of the success of their business. Quiet Quitting can be considered a wake-up call for employers who have forgotten the power of happy employees and empathy. 

By keeping the human-centric principles of design thinking at heart, you can avoid situations of quiet quitting.  It not only gives a morale boost for employees but also fosters the growth of your organization.

About the author

A Haryanvi by origin, an entrepreneur at heart, and a consultant by choice, that’s how Ajay likes to introduce himself! Ajay is the Founding Partner at Humane Design and Innovation Consulting (HDI). Before starting HDI, Ajay founded the Design Thinking and Innovation practice at KPMG India. His 16+ years of professional career spans across various roles in product and service design, conducting strategy workshops, storytelling, and enabling an innovation culture. He has coached 50+ organizations and 2000+ professionals in institutionalizing design and innovation practices. He loves to blog and speak on topics related to Design Thinking, Innovation, Creativity, Storytelling, Customer Experience, and Entrepreneurship. Ajay is passionate about learning, writing poems, and visualizing future trends!

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