Quiet quitting’s antidote also benefits D&I, says Dr. Liz Kofman-Burns

by | Nov 8, 2022

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Dr. Liz Kofman-Burns, Ph.D sociologist and co-founder of Peoplism, provides a commentary on the trend of “quiet quiting” – highlighting how the route to re-engaging employees also pays dividends for diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.

Dr. Liz Kofman-Burns writes:

“Improving employee engagement is not a quick fix. You’re not going to be able to put together a retreat or bring in a motivational speaker and call it a day. The good news, however, is that we know from decades of research what works when it comes to increasing employee engagement—and, not coincidentally, these are the same things that increase diversity, equity and inclusion.


“Our recommendation is to create a strategic plan that focuses on improving in four key areas:

  1. Clarify (fair) expectations. 
  2. Provide equitable opportunities for growth.
  3. Teach managers inclusion skills.
  4. Foster opportunities for belonging at work.”

Clarifying expectations:

“Lack of clear job expectations, and especially raise and promotion criteria, have long plagued organizations and driven disengagement. But after two-plus years of pushing employees to step up and adapt at work amid a global health crisis, now is an especially good time to give all employees true clarity about what is expected of them at work. That means that your job descriptions should match the core competencies really needed to perform the role, and those core competencies should be what is reviewed and rewarded in raise, bonus and promotion decisions. These expectations should be fair and compensate people for all the work they do. If you ask or expect some employees to step up and take on extra responsibilities that benefit your culture, like planning events and celebrations or serving on committees, that work should be made explicit and compensated. Women, especially women of color, are more likely to take on such unpaid culture-building work, and they are sick of it.”


Providing equitable opportunities for growth:

Advancement doesn’t necessarily mean getting a promotion. Business needs often mean that not everyone can be promoted. But everyone can grow and learn in their job. And there is a vast amount of research that shows employees crave growth and leaning opportunities. A WorkDay Peakon study of millions of employees, for example, found that employees that said they didn’t have growth opportunities were much more likely to quit within 9 months. The key to introducing growth and learning opportunities is to ensure that they are equitable. Don’t just give growth opportunities like coaching, mentorship, or stretch assignments to people that leadership has already identified as stars (these are often people who look very similar to the current leadership due to similar-to-me bias). Research shows that organizations actually benefit most when learning opportunities are democratized and given to those employees that are least likely to be on leadership’s radar, including underrepresented employees.”

Teaching managers inclusion skills:


“Like offering equitable opportunities for growth and learning, good management, which includes caring about your employees as people, needs to be applied equitably. It’s not enough for managers to have good relationships with some employees. In fact, researchers studying employee turnover have found that employee turnover is highest when managers have great relationships with most of their team, but not all of their team. That scenario is actually worse than having just okay relationships with your whole team. The key is for managers to be able to connect with alltheir team members. Fostering connection is a skill that can, and should, be taught, starting with understanding how an individual’s identities can impact their experiences at work. Evidence shows providing managers with management training is highly effective. Invest in advanced manager training that encompasses why fostering inclusion and belonging is important for engagement and teaches the behaviors (like leading inclusive meetings, soliciting all voices, building equal relationships, etc.) of inclusion.”

Fostering opportunities to create a sense of ‘belonging’ at work

“Employers may feel like belonging isn’t their business. But, in fact, belonging is a basic human need and our needs don’t stop when we arrive at work (even less so when “arriving” simply means turning on the computer at home). If you want engaged employees, it is in your best interest to provide opportunities for belonging. This can include opportunities for colleagues to connect as human beings, like icebreakers, events, retreats, affinity groups, and cross-team collaboration. Once again, it’s paramount that you take diversity, equity, and inclusion seriously when designing these opportunities. It’s much easier to feel like you belong when you are in the majority or your life outside of work fits into the norm. It’s much harder when you’re a member of an underrepresented or marginalized group, and may feel you need to hide important parts of your identity to fit in. Work events scheduled in the evening and centered around alcohol, for example, may not be appealing to parents with young children or people that don’t drink for religious or other reasons.


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