As the Great Resignation swept across the labour market in 2022, it brought with it a trend - the emergence of quiet quitters. In this article, we will discuss: why people quit silently, what causes it, and share 6 strategies to prevent quiet quitting.
Should you be worried about quiet quitting?
Amanda Gorman, WSPS Mental Health Consultant, offers valuable insight: "Don't be concerned if employees are meeting expectations but not going beyond to achieve better work-life balance." However, she cautions, "If an overachiever in your workplace suddenly dials back their efforts, you need to pay attention. Employees may quietly quit because they are experiencing too much psychological stress related to workplace issues."
Causes of the quiet quitting trend:
These factors range from recognition and rewards to job dissatisfaction,[i] and even the impact of workplace changes. For instance, sudden shifts in management or job roles can create significant disruptions in an employee's professional life, potentially leading to quiet quitting. Poor workplace interactions, such as unfair treatment or bullying, are equally influential factors that cannot be overlooked.
How workplace factors contribute to quiet quitting
Why do overperformers suddenly stop being engaged at work and start doing the bare minimum? Amanda notes that quiet quitting can be tied to:
Recognition & rewards
- "Do your employees feel they are not being recognized for their efforts?" Rewarding and recognizing employees is essential for employee engagement, retention and creating a positive work environment.
Many quiet quitters feel they aren't recognized for their extra work, contributing to disengagement.
The hustle culture mentality – where employees are praised for long hours and time off and breaks are frowned upon - leads to employees doing more than their job description but not feeling rewarded for it.
- Is the person frustrated because of never-ending obstacles? Is the job varied or challenging enough?
- "Has the person’s manager, job or workload changed to create the change in their performance?
Sudden changes in job roles or workload can leave employees feeling disconnected, leading to quiet quitting.
Management decisions can exacerbate these changes and cause further disengagement.
Lack of empowerment
- "It's demotivating if you are not able to offer any opinion or creative thought on what you do." Depending on the environment, employees may find it difficult to set boundaries and offer creative input, contributing to a sense of disempowerment.
Lack of Promotion
- "How long is too long to hold someone in line for promotion?"
Poor workplace interactions
- Examples include unfair treatment, bullying, and belittling, among other forms of mistreatment.
6 strategies to prevent quiet quitting and bolster psychological health
1) Re-assess your workplace culture
- "Is it characterized by trust, honesty, fairness, tolerance and mutual respect? Does it support employees’ psychological concerns and personal growth?"
- Foster a positive culture that empowers employees to set boundaries to maintain work-life balance.
2) Upskill supervisors and managers
- To build trust with employees, managers and supervisors require emotional intelligence, empathy, vulnerability, and listening skills - traits that can be learned.
Consider training programs to help managers and supervisors get started:
Workplace Mental Health: How Managers Should Respond (1/2 day, classroom or virtual delivery)
Reducing Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace (30-minute eCourse, FREE)
3) Foster open communication
- Have an open-door policy and more one-on-one meetings where employees can ask questions and express concerns without fear of reprisal.
4) Discover what motivates employees
- "Use a survey to engage employees. Ask questions about their opinions on what an ideal workplace looks like. Additional questions such as, 'What inspires you to work with full attention and enjoyment?' and 'What do you believe are the top three attributes of a good manager?' can also provide valuable insights."
5) Guard against burnout
- Are workloads, deadlines and expectations reasonable and achievable? Do you have a policy in place that allows employees to disconnect from work during their off hours without penalty? (See 6 tips to launch a "disconnect" policy now.)
6) Empower, recognize and reward employees
- Provide career advancement opportunities.
- Welcome ideas that challenge the status quo - Is there a better way to do the job? What are your opinions on the company’s direction or activities?
- Provide extra training so high performing employees can take on responsibilities to help engage them.
- Offer payment for overtime work. Read more at Ontario.ca for your guide to overtime pay.
- Continually acknowledge and recognize employees' contributions when they happen.
Quiet quitting is a growing concern that can negatively impact your workforce's engagement and productivity. By addressing its root causes, and implementing proactive strategies, you can create a workplace where employees feel valued, engaged, and motivated. Prevention starts with understanding the issues and taking action to foster a healthy, boundary-respecting environment.
How WSPS can help
- Explore the Mental Health Prevention Roadmap. to help you develop a psychologically safe workplace.
- ThinkMentalHealth.ca, a website created by Ontario's health and safety system partners that provides access to reputable and tested mental health tools, models and frameworks.
If it’s one-on-one personalized support you’re looking for, check out our healthy workplace experts and consulting services.
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- Psychological Safety Blog: What you can learn from the quiet quitting phenomenon
Guides and Brochures
- What to consider when implementing a Mental Health and Safety Program in your workplace (guide)
- Our definition of health & safety includes mental harm prevention. Does yours? (brochure)
- Mental Health in the Workplace Poster
Check out our Resource Hub for additional articles, tools and downloads.
[i] Learn more about psychosocial workplace factors that influence mental or psychological health at Guarding Minds@Work, a website developed by researchers from the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addictions within Simon Fraser University's Faculty of Health Sciences.
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.