Be honest, fair, and empathetic to others at work and outside of work. Even if that honesty might hurt.
Quiet quitting is the emerging phenomenon of employee disengagement, essentially quitting on the job. What strategies do high-impact leaders deploy to motivate themselves and those around them to move from quiet quitting to quiet committing? Because, at its core, there is no change without commitment. Commitment to change ideas. Change beliefs. Change perspectives. Change routines, rituals and boundaries. Organizations change one commitment at a time. One leader at a time. As part of our series about “Quiet Committing: The Top Five Commitments High Impact Leaders Make & Keep To Themselves Daily”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jeffrey M. Gabriel.
Jeffrey M. Gabriel is an expert in domain brokerage and building sales teams. Jeffrey most recently founded Saw.com, an industry-leading boutique brokerage specializing in acquiring, selling, and appraising domains. Since entering the domain industry, Jeffrey has contributed to over half a billion dollars’ worth of domain sales. Some of those include the most recent, Ai.com, the Guinness World Record-breaking sale of Sex.com for USD 13,000,000, and the highest.Org sale ever, Poker.org.
Previously, Jeffrey was the Vice President of Sales at Uniregistry (recently purchased by GoDaddy), one of the industry-leading domain marketplaces, domain registrar, and monetization platforms on the net.
Thank you for making time for our visit. What was the first job you had, and how did that job shape the leader you are today?
I was a Gopher, not a golfer at a golf course. This included refilling water jugs on the course, emptying the trash, cleaning the golf carts, stocking shelves, and any other task that needed to be done. Since it was 1995, we used CB Radios to communicate. One night when I finished my closing duties, I left my CB radio outside on the seat of a golf cart. The owner of the golf course fired me for it. I did not understand it then, but I certainly do now. When he fired me, it was not just for that reason. Anyone could leave that radio on the seat of the golf cart. It must have been a culmination of things, and I was probably oblivious to the fact that the value I was bringing to the company was not enough to justify the compensation plus the value of the CB radio I was receiving…Or the value was so low that replacing me with the unknown was worth the risk. When it comes to leadership, part of that is recognizing the value any person, including yourself, brings to an organization and also realizing you are replaceable.
We’re talking about quiet quitting in this series. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from a job you decided to quit?
I should have left sooner. Like a bad relationship or someone putting off going to the gym…when it is time, it is time. If your heart is not in it anymore, or you know you must go, then go. I have never regretted quitting a job, and I have never regretted firing someone.
Employee Engagement is top of mind for most organizations. How do you define an engaged employee?
It starts with their attitude. Are they participating in meetings, helping others, or have they immersed themselves in the project they are working on? When they meet a new challenge or assignment, do they say? “This is outside of my job description. I am not doing that.” Or do they say, “This is something I have never done before; I am excited you chose me for this new challenge?” Do they challenge you as the manager that the process could be better or ask why we are doing this when we could do it a different way? Why are we doing this when something else would be more effective? Are they using the resources around them to improve the outcome for everyone and the company? Do they look outside of the problem or project presented to them and find other opportunities than the one glaring them in the face? Do they care?
They are engaged if there are a majority of positive responses to these questions. However, I don’t want them on my team if they bring up their job description when a new opportunity arises.
Say more about your Employee Engagement portfolio. What’s working? What’s not working? And what are you piloting now to address the Quiet Committing trend?
A manager that has someone “Quiet Quit” might not grasp what is happening with their team. They should see it coming by having regular conversations (not meetings) with their co-workers. I like to treat the people I work with as equals and like human beings. I have regular conversations with them, and treat them fairly and like adults that have lives, challenges, and problems happening just like in my own. I congratulate my co-workers on a well-done job and will let them know when I am not pleased with poor performance. I use poor performance as a teaching opportunity, and when they do well, I use it as an opportunity for them to show the team the great thing they accomplished OR a chance to tell the story and how they can do it too. Someone quiet quitting will get found out quickly if this is happening on my team. At the same time, do not let the ups and downs of life let one assume your co-worker is quiet quitting. They could be going through some hard times. They might make you aware of those through regular communication. My memory is very short, and I do not hold a grudge or hang their mistakes over their heads very long.
As goes the leadership, so goes the team. How do you hold leaders accountable for their own level of engagement?
I have had the opportunity to manage managers. The best analogy I can make is great General Managers/owners of sports teams do not go down to the locker room, hold batting practice, or participate on a day to day matters with the team. The GM needs to trust what his manager is doing but still be accessible, relatable, approachable, and lead by example to those below him. Having those same honest conversations with management will allow you to have an open enough relationship with management that they come to discuss their problems and how you can help them solve them together.
The first phase of the pandemic ushered in the phenomenon called The Great Resignation, where employees left organizations to pursue greater meaning and purpose. Then came The Great Reshuffle, where employees left organizations to pursue promotions, pay and perks. Now we’ve entered a third phase, Quiet Quitting, where employees are deeply disengaged. What do you believe to be the key drivers of Quiet Quitting?
Everyone goes through highs and lows at their job. I have great weeks where I am engaged; other times, going to work is the last thing I want to do. That feeling of not wanting to go should not last weeks or months. If it does, then the manager should be picking up on that, and the Quiet Quitter should certainly start doing some soul-searching.
From my own experience and seeing this with other colleagues, the key drivers are:
- Feeling their contributions are meaningless. Not being challenged
- Feeling trapped/unfulfilled
- Disliking or not respecting management.
- Being lied to treated unfairly
An empathetic manager that is having honest conversations and check-ins with their co-workers allows the potential quiet quitter to be found out, or turned back into the contributor they were or want to be.
A deeply disengaged employee is nothing new; just that the disengaged employee can get away with it longer because they are working from home. The methods are the same now as they were twenty years ago. It comes down to straightforward questions that can be answered quite easily and quickly:
Can they do the work or tasks they have been hired to do?
Do they want to do the tasks they have been hired to do?
Are they team players and happy to be there?
What do you predict will be the next phase in the evolution of the employer / employee landscape?
With a long term recession and possible depression looming, we already hear about companies that are installing software on employees’ computers that track keystrokes, time on the laptop, and many other statistics. Increasing micromanagement in an automated fashion will cause this problem to get worse before it gets better. Who wants to live like that? We will find that companies will not allow a quiet quitter to get away with disengagement for long and be quick to lay people off or terminate them instead of drawing out the process with a PIP or some sort of probation. Hopefully, there will be some reform where companies should not be concerned about litigation whenever they have an employee needing to succeed elsewhere.
When I became disenchanted at a previous company I worked for, it dawned on me that the goals assigned to me, and my bonuses were not aligned with the C-Suite I reported to. Neither were the supportive co-worker’s goals and bonuses tied to the success of the division they supported. Each division and team should have aligned goals with aligned compensation/bonuses to achieve the business goals. Everyone contributes. What they contribute matters to the ultimate goal or goals of the business for that sprint, year or five-year plan. It should become quite apparent to those affected and, in turn, around bonus time should be reflected on their pay check.
What leadership behaviours need to evolve to improve employee engagement in a sustainable way?
Leadership needs to lead from the front. Leadership needs to understand from the bottom up what makes their company work, the vernacular, and be compassionate and understanding of the challenges those beneath them face. Then, they need to use that knowledge to try and implement solutions to make those beneath them more efficient while moving the business forward. Making ridiculous signs, counting keystrokes, or sending passive-aggressive emails is not management. That is creating Quiet Quitters!
Change requires commitment and happens one choice at a time. What are the top five commitments you make and keep to yourself daily that have a material impact on those you lead?
1 . Go to the gym. It works wonders on controlling my stress, focus and overall feelings.
2 . Be honest, fair, and empathetic to others at work and outside of work. Even if that honesty might hurt.
3 . Act quickly on situations, problems, and hard conversations rather than letting them sit. Leaving them sitting causes anxiety, and lack of sleep and hurts your overall mood/attitude.
4 . Call friends that understand the problem or have faced similar issues and ask for their opinion.
5 . Offer favors, advice help to others without looking for anything in return….Not keeping score.
What’s the most effective strategy you’ve discovered to get back on track when you break your commitment?
Find out the root of the problem and ask yourself why? Why do I feel this way? Why did this happen? What could have I done instead of what I did to get myself there? Then, take whatever outcome you have as a learning experience, dust yourself off and move on.
Thank you for sharing these important insights. How can our readers further follow your work?