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Houston expert: How to navigate Gen Z's quiet quitting movement at your company

Your perspective on quiet quitting is probably generational, says one Houston expert and startup founder. Photo via Getty Images

This month, the internet has been discussing "quiet quitting," the practice of employees setting hard boundaries about when they work and to what extent they are willing to go beyond the outlined expectations of their jobs.

The conversation around quiet quitting has also been lively at the Ampersand offices. As a training company that is dedicated to training new professionals for employers both big and small, it's critically important for our team to have a good grasp on the relationship employees have with their jobs, and what motivates them to succeed. So we had a long meeting where we discussed what quiet quitting meant to each of us.

My team's take on quiet quitting

When I first read about quiet quitting, I was surprised. I started my career in New York City during the Great Recession. I was just grateful to have a job, and I was immersed in the hustle culture of NYC, working long hours to prove my value. I made a habit of getting up early and staying late during a formative time in my career, and still maintain those expectations of myself today (here I am now, working on this blog at 5:43 am).

The Gen Xers on my team were even more surprised by the quiet quitting trend than I was. Their take was that you have to do what it takes to get ahead. It’s taboo for many Gen Xers to leave before the boss. They are used to working longer hours, with less “work life balance” than me, filling their off time with volunteer roles and second jobs.

The Gen Zers on my team crave the work/life balance we all hear about in the news. Rather than throwing themselves headfirst into grind culture, they want to make sure that they have time for their life outside of the office. If they are going to show up early and work late, they want to know that it's for a purpose they believe in and it’s directly related to accelerating their career growth and increase their salaries.

Reaching an Understanding

When I look around my office (and by office, I mean Zoom tiles), I think about how a lot of offices around the world look similar to mine. The workforce will always be a blend of people from different generations, each shaped by their own experience. We’re all adjusting to new styles of work. No matter what generation you come from, or what generation you’re managing, you’ll get stronger results from your team if you set clear expectations, check your generational bias, and understand the perspective of others.

What does this look like in action?

Here are three steps you can take to encourage and inspire your team to put their hearts into what they do:

1. Show appreciation for your team.

If an employee is making $50,000, explain that value back to them. What does their work mean to the overall organization? How does their wage and work contribute to the vision and overall goals of the company? By showing your team their value and reminding them that what they do has a purpose, you can inspire each team member to stay engaged in their work.

2. Embrace flexible work schedules and trust your team.

Let Gen Z innovate, do their thing and find their own way of getting work done. At the same time, communicate: outline clear KPIs, let them know what you expect, and give feedback along the way. Remember, part of an employee feeling a sense of purpose in their job is knowing that they are learning and growing. The more engaged you are in their development and show respect for their time, the more engaged your team will be in following through. And if they don’t meet expectations, have an open, honest conversation with them while still embracing their preferred work style.

3. Help your employees better prioritize their work.

Leverage available tools and resources to find efficiencies while you’re developing your team. Make sure that your processes are well-documented and easy to understand, and encourage the team to contribute ideas and better tools if they have them. Remind them that there’s an open door if they have any questions.

At the end of the day, our job as leaders in an organization is to keep our teams boldly engaged. By helping our employees find purpose in their work, we can build stronger teams that are less likely to be swayed by the latest trend, and more likely to stay focused on their jobs because they care.

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Allie Danziger is the co-founder of Ampersand, an online training platform for businesses and professionals looking to level up their talent.

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Building Houston

 
 

Ty Audronis founded Tempest Droneworx to put drone data to work. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

Ty Audronis quite literally grew up in Paradise. But the Northern California town was destroyed by wildfire in 2018, including Audronis’ childhood home.

“That’s why it’s called the Campfire Region,” says the founder, who explains that the flames were started by a spark off a 97-year-old transmission line.

But Audronis, who has literally written the book on designing purpose-built drones — actually, more than one — wasn’t going to sit back and let it happen again. Currently, wildfire prevention is limited to the “medieval technology” of using towers miles apart to check for smoke signals.

“By the time you see smoke signals, you’ve already got a big problem,” Audronis says.

His idea? To replace that system with real-time, three-dimensional, multi-spectral mapping, which exactly where his company, Tempest Droneworx, comes in.

When asked how he connected with co-founder Dana Abramowitz, Audronis admits that it was Match.com — the pair not only share duties at Tempest, they are engaged to be married. It was a 2021 pre-SXSW brainstorming session at their home that inspired the pair to start Tempest.

When Audronis mentioned his vision of drone battalions, where each is doing a specialized task, Abramowitz, a serial entrepreneur and founder who prefers to leave the spotlight to her partner, told him that he shouldn’t give the idea away at a conference, they should start a company. After all, Audronis is a pioneer in the drone industry.

“Since 1997, I’ve been building multicopters,” he says.

Besides publishing industry-standard tomes, he took his expertise to the film business. But despite its name, Tempest is a software company and does not make drones.

That software is called Harbinger. Audronis explains that the real-time management and visualization solution is viewable on practically any device, including mobile or augmented reality. The system uses a video game engine for viewing, but as Audronis puts it, “the magic happens” on the back end.

Harbinger is not just drone-agnostic, but can use crowd-sourced data as well as static sensors. With the example of wildfires in mind, battalions can swarm an affected area to inform officials, stopping a fire before it gets out of hand. But fires are far from Harbinger’s only intended use.

The civilian version of Harbinger will be available for sale at the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024. For military use, Navy vet Audronis says that the product just entered Technical Readiness Level (TRL) 5, which means that they are about 18 months away from a full demo. The latest news for Tempest is that earlier this month, it was awarded a “Direct to Phase II” SBIR (Government Small Business Innovation Research) contract with the United States Department of the Air Force.

Not bad for a company that was, until recently, fully bootstrapped. He credits his time with the Houston Founder Institute, from which he graduated last February, and for which he now mentors, with many of the connections he’s made, including SBIR Advisors, who helped handle the complex process of getting their SBIR contract.

And he and Abramowitz have no plans to end their collaborations now that they’re seeing growth.

“Our philosophy behind [our business] isn’t keeping our cards close to our vest,” says Audronis. “Any potential competitors, we want to become partners.”

The company was just the two founders until five weeks ago, when Tempest’s size doubled, including a full-time developer. Once Tempest receives its SIBR check, the team will grow again to include more developers. They are currently looking for offices in the city. As Audronis says, Tempest Droneworx is “100-percent made in Houston.” Paradise may have been lost, but with Harbinger soon to be available, such a disaster need never happen again.

Dana Abramowitz and Ty Audronis co-founded Tempest Droneworks. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

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