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Beyond the Catchy Names

A More Helpful View of Quiet Quitting & Presenteeism

There are certain problems in the business world that have always been present. They have provided careers for countless consultants, trainers and writers as they redefined, renamed and brought forth reworked solutions to address them. The most common of these is job performance. The primary objective of every manager and supervisor is to get their employees to do more; do it this way and not that way; do it quicker; and do it better in some way. They sought to motivate and educate, helping them to discover their passion. If that was not happening, then they should pursue whatever corporate incentives lay on their career path.

In every business, there are some people who perform well; some that perform adequately; and some that fail to perform as expected. Roman galleys had some that rowed powerfully; some rowed just enough; and some that rowed poorly. Some of the 49ers dug deeply for the gold; some looked in the streams; and some hoped to find nuggets just by kicking the dirt. Some software developers write solid bug-free code; some write with only a few bugs; and some have bug farms. Some workers thrive when working remotely; some are okay with it; and some cannot get anything done. In different jobs in different eras, the same range of job behaviors is observed. What is the common factor?

Human beings have hard-wired personality traits that remain largely the same throughout their lives. These traits are the foundation of each person’s behaviors. Every job has certain job behaviors that are critical to the performance of that job. The degree to which a person has the necessary traits to perform that job determines to a great extent, how well they can do that job. Basketball provides a marvelous visual metaphor for understanding this. Height is a critical factor for playing the game competitively. A 7 footer would be expected to score well. At 6 feet, the expectations are limited. At 5 feet, they are none.

In the world of sales, a hard-wired trait determines how persuasive a person can be. Half of the people in the world cannot persuade others to make buying decisions. No amount of training and motivation will change this, just as no amount of training and motivation can help the short person become a star at basketball.

There are people who cannot work accurately with details. There are people who cannot follow procedures consistently. There are people who cannot interact with others in a warm and friendly way. There are people who are not comfortable managing or supervising others. To understand the performance capabilities of people it is necessary to know their behavioral strengths and abilities and how they compare to the critical job behaviors needed in a particular job.

Unfortunately, when people do not fit the jobs that they have, it is difficult for them to perform well. In fact, it takes considerable effort to even perform adequately. Companies may provide additional training or incentives, but these cannot change the problems of poor job fit. This is commonly a problem for a fourth or more of a company’s workforce. With poor job fit, excellence is impossible. When day after day is the same challenge to just get by, it does not call forth anyone’s attention or commitment.

Every age has this problem, and in each age, new terminology has appeared, still without understanding the root cause…job fit. Whether it is called presenteeism, quiet quitting, or goldbricking, and charged to a certain Generation or age group, until the question of job fit is addressed, nothing will change.

If a sports team is acquired, the new manager’s first step is to inventory the strengths and capabilities of the individual members of the team. With that information, the players can be assigned to roles that fit their strengths. Their weaknesses are also known, and strategies are devised to handle potential problems. Behavioral information is the basis for true problem-solving and workforce planning in the business world also.

Special Note on Remote Working:

Covid isolation requirements moved many companies to adopt remote working as a standard part of their operation. The glitch is that about half of the population cannot work effectively in a remote situation. This is regardless of an individual’s preference for it. In fact, ironically, remote working has a great appeal to the people who are most challenged by it. About one-third of the population is reactive rather than planned. In other words, they react to whatever is happening. This makes working away from the office difficult with the myriad of distractions that are all around. Similarly, a third of the population does not structure their workday or set up consistent and efficient processes with their work. They depend upon the office to provide that structure and have trouble being focused at home. One-third of the population gets energy by interacting with other people. They have problems working alone. Remote working, even with Zoom calls and phones, does not provide the interaction they need.

Perhaps the greatest example of the reality of these issues is that about half of the people who enroll in online universities do not finish the courses. Companies have instituted remote working programs without regard for the realities of behavioral traits. Therefore, statistically about half of the remote workers face challenges in job performance even if they fit their original job. It makes no difference whether the resulting lack of performance is labeled quiet quitting or lack of presenteeism. Until the true cause of the problem is addressed, it will not improve.

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