Insider Risk, Productivity

A Surge in Quiet and Loud Quitters Presents New Threats

By Elizabeth Harz

According to the Gallup State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report, worker stress is at an all-time high. While other issues related to the pandemic have subsided, stress is causing trouble for organizations, especially those with remote workers, where it is harder to spot issues.

Where there is stress, there is risk. Employees make more mistakes and are more likely to intentionally create other problems for employers. Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report found that humans cause 83% of data breaches in the form of mistakes or willful insider attacks.

Clearly, stress is a problem, and spotting signs of stress can help companies reduce incidents.

Quiet and Loud: Risk and Threats

Perhaps related to this stress, Gallup also found that globally, less than a quarter (23%) of employees thrive at work, while 59% are quiet quitters and 18% are loud quitters. That means most companies have about 77% of their workforce in some state of disconnection from work. However, there is variance by region. The US and Canada have the most daily stress at 44%, while South Asia has the most daily anger at 36% of the total workforce. In the Middle East and North Africa, only 15% feel they are thriving at work. There are different risks in each region that are worth investigating to better understand how to mitigate them.

Gallup defines quiet quitters as “not engaged”, while loud quitters are “actively disengaged.” Both groups pose potential problems for organizations, as people not engaged at work are more likely to pose a threat.

Quiet Quitters Pose Risks, But Need Support

Risks are early warning signs of a problem. Quiet quitters might not be ready to act out against their company, but they also might be less likely to work productively, follow company protocols, and stay at the organization.

Understanding the early signs of a quiet quitter can help companies get ahead of a number of issues and create a happier, more productive workforce. First, knowing if someone is not engaged can be a good reason for a conversation with a manager or an HR representative to see if there is a way to re-engage them. Gallup notes that the workplace has gotten worse for younger employees, who feel less cared about and less able to develop their careers. Addressing these issues head-on with better communication can help get quiet quitters back on track rather than become a bigger risk to their company.

Loud Quitters Pose Threats and Need Mitigation

When someone is actively disengaged from work, they are more likely to act out against their employer. That could mean they commit fraud or theft or harass another employee.

If someone is actively disengaged from the company but still working there, they pose a more imminent danger than a quiet quitter who has simply limited their engagement to necessary tasks. A loud quitter who still has access to sensitive data and the ability to chat privately with co-workers or use company equipment could easily create big problems.

Spotting loud quitters should be a priority for organizations. Using employee analytics, loud quitters should be relatively easy to spot, as they are willfully working against the company. Capabilities like natural language processing can uncover negative sentiment or harassment, and systems can be set up to send a flag up when someone accesses things they don’t need for work or shares information with people outside the company.

If loud quitter behavior is uncovered, a conversation with a manager is still important, but containing them is also necessary. Limiting a loud quitter’s access to important information until their status is resolved could mean the difference between a difficult conversation and a costly data breach.

Moving From Threat, to Risk, to Engaged Workforce

The moral of the story is that today’s workforce is stressed out, and identifying and reducing that stress can help companies reduce the number of insider threats that they deal with, which comes with many benefits. Companies can approach this climate proactively:

  • Nurture quiet quitters: Monitoring productivity is only one part of the puzzle. Quiet quitters need personal attention to re-engage. Happy workforces are more productive; therefore, an investment in morale is worth it in the long run.
  • Contain loud quitters: Anyone acting out against the company needs to be managed immediately to minimize the fallout – from data breaches to harassment to more widespread decreases in negative sentiment.
  • Create a culture of productivity: Not only will monitoring help companies get ahead of issues, spotting the signs of quiet and loud quitters over time will provide companies with a baseline understanding of their workforce, allowing for a data-driven view of engagement and the ability to actively understand the health of the culture and get ahead of situations that need course corrections.

Investing in an engaged workforce isn’t just good for a company’s productivity, it’s also a constructive way of reducing insider risks and threats. By actively monitoring for signs of quiet and loud quitters, companies can spot signs earlier and get ahead of issues.

Insider Risk – How Prepared Are You?

Not every company is equally prepared to deal with insider risk. This report outlines the four stages of insider risk maturity and explores how to improve your insider risk preparedness.

About the author

Elizabeth Harz
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