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Equity Theory & Engagement

Wooden blocks are being stacked, reading from top-to-bottom "Balance, Family, Work, Life."

J: Welcome to Slingshot25 Shotcasts, a series of bite-sized podcasts that will feel like an espresso shot straight to your brain. I’m Jackie.

C: I’m Courtney.

J: Something we’re thinking about right now is actually picking up where we left off on the last episode.

C: Is this like Dallas? I just woke up from a dream, Bobby’s alive. I don’t want to spoil it for everyone, but Bobby’s alive. 

J: That’s not what we’re thinking about actually. We’re thinking about “quiet quitting.” That’s what we were talking about in the last episode, and it led us right up to this doorstep. So all of this quiet quitting that people are doing, which is essentially this phenomenon where people are saying I am going to do my job, I’m going to do it well, but I’m not going to do any more because I’m just not really getting out of this job what I’m putting into it. And so, it led us right up to the space of what do we do about that. And there are a couple of theories that were thinking about that are related to this. The first one is Equity Theory. So Courtney what are your thoughts about this idea of equity. 

C: Yes, so I want everyone to understand first of all that Equity Theory is a thing and we all operate with it in every aspect of our life. Essentially, what it says is as human beings we are wired that we’re never going to put more into something than what we are going to get out of it. 

So, think about this – in your work, in your lives, in your assignments, in your whatever – we put something in as human beings with the understanding, belief and trust that we’re going to get something out. So we put into our jobs our time, our travel, our skills, our heart, our passion and out of it we get a paycheck, we get connections, we get visibility, we get future. Right, we get things back and we stay in jobs and we like them when we’re getting more back. At least what we put in. We love it if we’re getting more. 

And, when things start to change maybe I’m not as visible, maybe I’m asked to work more hours, maybe I have to travel more – you pick the thing in the equation that moves. As soon as the equation changes where I’m starting to get less out than what I’m putting in – that starts becoming a taxing job. that starts to become something I question. I will do that for a while. I will not do that forever. And now I’m saying I’m getting out less than what putting and I need to make a change. Maybe the change is I’m going to put less in, which I think is what quiet quitting is. I’m just going to put less in because I’m not getting as much back. It might be like… I’ve got to find something else to do because I don’t actually see this job getting me to a place of equity.

J: Absolutely, it reminds me what’s on the tip of my tongue right now is the theory of Engagement. Employee Engagement has been a word buzzing around the corporate world for a really long time, but with his quiet quitting phenomenon I think that now is the time to look at engagement again with a new set of eyes. I’d like to remind us what engagement really is. There’s been so many different ways of talking about Employee Engagement through the years – most of them relatively off base. But if we can just remember that engagement is really what you’re talking about Courtney – this idea of like the epitome of Engagement is maximum employee satisfaction combined with maximum contribution. When you consider those two concepts together, it should come to mind for you that when you are experiencing those two things. Both maximum satisfaction (C: I love what I do) that’s right and maximum contribution (C: it matters to the company). You’re in this moment of losing track of time almost like you are in just a blissful space of Engagement. That’s what employee engagement actually is. 

Those two concepts – satisfaction and contribution – are mutually reinforcing concepts. Our job as leaders is to understand what are the unique individual needs of each employee. Like what makes them more satisfied, what are the kinds of things that they want in their job? And then our job is to connect them to those things as much as we can – and this is where it gets at the discretionary work that you’re talking about. When we can connect people into to those things that are most satisfying to them – whatever those may be – flexibility, travel, no travel, interesting work – whatever it is. When they feel like they are really getting those things out of their job, they tend, to not just tend to, it’s almost a given that they are going to give maximum contribution to their job. And so all of these theories are mutually reinforcing concepts. And these are the things that if we just start paying attention to these things once again, sort of get to the truth at the bottom of all of this. I think we’ll be able to be able to deal with this quitting phenomenon that’s out there.

C: I’m going to add… it almost allows you to leap in the equation to say if people are quiet quitting and I can get to that point where I can walk away from it, then as a leader I have not done the things that are available for me to do to create a job where there’s a lot of satisfaction and there’s a lot of impact. Because when you create work that’s meaningful, when you value people, when they can get what they want out of their lives, they’re going to want to be in that job. They’re going to want to do more. They’re going to want to stay there. They’re going to want to contribute and they’re going to give you everything they’ve got towards it. So, if they’re walking away, that’s not a “them” problem, that’s a leadership problem.

J: So, we’ll leave you with this warning. Once you have lost them, once they are truly in the space of a quiet quitting, it’s really hard to get them back.

C: Depending on how long they’ve been there.

J: So, stop what you’re doing and take a few minutes to think through the folks that work for you and where you think they are on this engagement spectrum.

That’s all we have for this episode, but we always have much more to say. So if you want more, drop us a line at

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