A couple of months ago I wrote an article regarding quiet quitting by project team members. While there are many reasons why someone might choose to physically be present but mentally check out, I felt that there were a limited number of root causes. Similarly, there are many triggers for someone participating in the Great Resignation, but these can likely be traced back to a handful of reasons.
The topic of psychological safety is never far from my thoughts and I wanted to understand how much it factored into people’s decisions.
I decided to run a one week informal poll on LinkedIn from those who had quiet quit or recently resigned asking them what was their main reason for doing so. I provided respondents with four choices: insufficient compensation, a lack of professional growth, low/no psychological safety and an other category.
Unfortunately, I only received thirty-three responses to the poll so it is by no means conclusive, but 42% chose the low/no psychological safety option with 30% picking other, 18% a lack of professional growth and only 9% indicating insufficient compensation.
The results would appear to support the theory that compensation is a hygiene factor. While everyone would like more, so long as we are being given fair pay for our work, it is unlikely to be the primary cause for checking out. The higher scores for professional growth also make sense from a Maslow’s hierarchy perspective as those address motivation goals such as self-esteem and self-actualization.
Respondents who chose the other category provided reasons such as a lack of autonomy or poor culture.
But the underpinning for nearly all of these might be low psychological safety.
If a team member feels safe, they will not be afraid to lobby for greater control in their way of working, support for career growth, and increased compensation. They will also feel comfortable raising concerns about organizational cultural dysfunctions knowing that their peers and reporting manager will protect them from blowback. They will be more likely to adopt the mantra of it being better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission. They won’t bear the daily emotional and mental burden of having to pretend to be something they are not.
A decade ago, Google’s Project Aristotle identified psychological safety as the underpinning for improved team performance. Similarly, its absence might be the underpinning for quiet (or loud) quitting.
(If you liked this article, why not pick up my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on Amazon.com and on Amazon.ca as well as a number of other online book stores)