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Blog>Guides>How Burnout Can Result in “Quiet Quitting” & What Employers Can Do to Prevent It

How Burnout Can Result in “Quiet Quitting” & What Employers Can Do to Prevent It

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The world of work has undergone tremendous change following the COVID-19 pandemic, but so has the way employees are dealing with stress and burnout. In the past, employees who felt burned out would simply quit their job and move on to something new. But in challenging economic times, it’s often easier said than done. As a result, many employees are resorting to something known in recent months as “quiet quitting” instead.

Quiet quitting can be costly for employers, as it often leads to lower productivity, reduced staff morale, and diminished profitability. It can also be challenging to detect, as burned-out employees may not show obvious distress signs. But how can you tell if your employees are quiet quitting, and what can you do if it’s happening in your workplace? The following article breaks down everything you need to know about quiet quitting, including the signs to look out for and how to prevent employee burnout.

What is “Quiet Quitting” and Why Should Managers Care?

“Quiet quitting” isn’t what it sounds like, as it doesn’t actually involve an employee walking away from their job. It’s not to be confused with the Great Resignation — also known as the Big Quit or the Great Reshuffle — which is a trend that has seen a huge wave of employees voluntarily resigning from their jobs since early 2021.

Quiet quitting is seen as a reaction to long-term burnout and hustle culture. Rather than outright leaving their respective jobs, employees refuse to go above and beyond the bare minimum at work instead. In essence, they abstain from performing any duties beyond their job description that they’re not compensated for. According to a recent survey we conducted, 48.1% of employers cited burnout as one of the key reasons for employee turnover and decreased productivity.

The popularity of this phenomenon has increased in recent months after a TikTok video about the trend went viral. Having gained prominence amidst Gen Z, “quiet quitting” is now a common subject of conversation among employees in the workplace. This makes it extremely important for employers to recognize what quiet quitting looks like, as it signifies a serious problem within the workplace — whether it’s regarding poor staff retention, minimal efficiency, or a toxic work environment.

Are Your Employees Quiet Quitting?

If an employee is routinely disengaged at work and only does the bare minimum when it comes to their duties, they’re likely quiet quitting at work. Although hard to detect, these forms of employee underperformance significantly impact overall company productivity. It’s important to note that one main reason an employee could resort to quiet quitting is to prevent burnout. It’s your responsibility as an employer to recognize these employee burnout signs and do everything in your power to resolve the issues as soon as they become apparent.

8 Signs an Employee is “Quiet Quitting”

Certain indicators could point to your employees quiet quitting at work. But it’s important to note that while the general profile of quiet quitters can appear similar to one another at first glance, employers must use caution when evaluating the reasons behind the phenomenon. A closer examination of individual employee circumstances can reveal a number of reasons that may explain why workers are losing interest and delivering subpar performance.

With that in mind, here are eight noteworthy signs that a member of your team is possibly quiet quitting on the job:

  • Disengagement. Employees who are “quiet quitting” will appear disengaged from various aspects of work life. This means above and beyond their professional responsibilities, they might become more withdrawn from the rest of the team as well.

  • Doing the bare minimum. If an employee reaches a point where they’re only doing the bare minimum and they express a negative attitude towards work, it’s a sign that they’ve mentally checked out of their job and something must be done to inspire positive change.

  • A big dip in productivity. A significant decrease in work output could signify that your staff is no longer trying their best and possibly doesn’t even care about the consequences, both for themselves and the company.

  • More frequent mistakes. With little to no pride in the quality of the work they deliver, employees who are quiet quitting are more likely not only to make more mistakes, but bigger mistakes that could have a more negative impact on the company as a whole.

  • Uncharacteristic habits. If an employee who has always been reliable suddenly stops meeting deadlines, no longer communicates well, and is generally breaking away from routine, it’s important to try to find the root cause of these issues as they may well be quiet quitting. This particular sign must be addressed in a delicate manner, as these could also be signs of a downturn in overall mental health.

  • Loss of motivation and enthusiasm. Employees who are quiet quitting normally lose the enthusiasm and motivation to put their best foot forward at work every day. It can lead to friction with fellow team members, so it’s something to address as early as possible. Although, similar to employees showing signs of uncharacteristic habits, a loss of motivation and enthusiasm could also correlate to mental health issues, so it’s important to approach your employee with empathy and hear their side of the story before jumping to conclusions.

  • Avoid taking on challenging tasks. This indicates that an employee might be quiet quitting, especially if they’re highly capable based on their skill set. It could also be a sign of employee burnout, which if left to fester, can lead to severe stress and concerns beyond the workplace.

  • Arriving late and leaving early. Sometimes, an employee who is quiet quitting will push the boundaries in a negative way. If they start arriving late and leaving early all the time, it could be an indication that they’re at their wit's end and you must intervene to stop them from going over the edge.

For many of the signs listed above, the first step to mitigating any of these issues is to open up a conversation with your team. At a time that remote work is becoming increasingly popular, it’s always best to over-communicate rather than under-communicate — as long as it is discussed in a respectful way.

10 Signs You May Be Creating a Toxic Work Environment

When asked about their reasoning for quiet quitting at work, many employees cite an unhealthy work environment and inadequate work-life balance as the top reasons. In a healthy workplace, employees feel supported, respected, and valued. But employers can often unknowingly create a toxic work environment, where employees may feel like they’re just another cog in the wheel. It can lead to sentiments of discontent among the team, which could then result in employees choosing to “quiet quit” as a way of reclaiming some semblance of balance in their lives.

If you’re unsure whether your workplace is negatively impacting your employees, here are 10 important signs that you may be fostering a toxic workplace, including the benefits of addressing each one.

1. Employees Are Not Being Respected or Heard

To maximize buy-in from your team, establishing a culture where two-way communication is championed will help to keep your workers engaged, feeling valued, and committed to optimizing their performance for the benefit of your company.

2. Unrealistic Work Expectations

Any time you set objectives, ensuring they are “SMART” goals is a great rule of thumb to keep in mind. That means the work objectives you set should be:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable

  • Realistic

  • Time-Based

3. Major Work-Life Imbalance

One of the best ways to avoid burnout and minimize stress, both inside and outside the workplace, is by ensuring your employees are not being overworked and have a healthy work-life balance. Set up regular check-ins with your team to ensure that their work-life balance is in an optimal place and create a safe space for your employees to be honest about both their personal and professional lives. Doing so can go a long way towards ensuring long-term employee retention.

4. Unclear or Impossible Requirements

If your workers are not meeting your expectations regularly, they could be in a position where they’re guessing what to do most of the time — or they’re constantly being asked to work miracles with little to no direction or the necessary resources to make it happen. This makes it very difficult to do their job. Incorporating the SMART method mentioned above can help mitigate this when delegating tasks to your team.

5. Lack of Recognition

Not only do employees who are recognized for their efforts feel more motivated to go above and beyond in their role, but they are also more likely to stay with the company longer and inspire other team members to elevate their performance as well.

6. Poor Communication

Good communication at work is a great way to uplift team morale, increase engagement, improve staff satisfaction, boost productivity, and ensure that the entire organization is coherently working towards the same unified goal.

7. Insufficient Compensation

It’s hard to argue that your staff salaries are not directly related to how much you value them. When your employees are well-compensated, they’re more motivated to come to work, which helps boost staff retention and performance. We surveyed 1,000 full-time employees and found that the top reason for tenured employees to consider leaving was in search of a better salary (44%). In contrast, the top method employers have used to retain employees is giving them a raise (55%).

When it comes to providing sufficient compensation and granting employee raises, it’s also important to consider the current inflation rate.

8. Not Enough Benefits or Perks

Work benefits or perks include things like health insurance, paid vacation time, retirement options, and work pension. Offering a meaningful benefits package helps to attract top-tier talent, reduce turnover, and increase the quality of work produced.

9. Bad Leadership

When asked why employees left their last jobs, 70% of employees mentioned their boss. As a result, providing strong leadership is critical to getting the most out of your team. Not only do great leaders know how to communicate the company’s mission and vision to employees but also how to stay on track to achieve set goals.

10. Lack of Career Growth or Development

Career progression is very important to workers and should be to you as an employer as well. It helps your staff feel more fulfilled in their work while simultaneously providing financial growth, which positively impacts job satisfaction, retention, and growth for your company as a whole.

How to Create a Healthy Workplace to Prevent Employees From Quiet Quitting

Fostering a healthy workplace environment is essential to the success of any business. With the boom in remote work since COVID-19, it’s important for employers to ensure that both onsite employees and remote workers can reap the same benefits of a healthy work environment. A healthy work environment is one that champions individuality and innovation within a team context. It gives employees responsibilities and trusts them to deliver results while offering the support they need throughout. This type of environment cultivates high-performance teams that raise standards and expectations for the betterment of your company.

Many factors contribute to a healthy workplace, but here are our top eight tips for supporting your employees to prevent quiet quitting.

  1. Understand that someone’s minimum is another one’s maximum. Every employee is different. What appears to be an easy task for some can be more challenging for others. As such, it’s important to recognize and understand the working limits of each employee as an individual to keep them engaged and get the most out of them.

  2. Set realistic and clear expectations. Setting unrealistic goals or impossible parameters will lower morale when expectations are inevitably missed. While ambition is key to growth, ensure you still provide realistic expectations to help staff work towards company objectives effectively and efficiently. If you don’t, you’re just setting them up for failure, which only works against you in the long run.

  3. Improve two-way communication. Allow your employees to communicate their professional opinions in the workplace. Not only is this a great way to inspire new ideas and improvements to processes or products and services, but it also means your staff will feel more valued, which delivers other benefits including better job satisfaction and retention.

  4. Encourage employees to take time off. Holidays are a great way to recharge and refocus. Encourage your employees to take time off, as it helps reduce the possibility of burnout and work-related stress. You’ll be rewarded with a highly motivated workforce that’s committed to delivering a higher level of performance on the job.

  5. Endorse work flexibility. During the pandemic, it became clear that flexible work schedules are highly effective at boosting employee morale, satisfaction, and overall productivity. According to a recent study, 87% of working professionals think flexible work schedules reduce stress levels and employee burnout. Removing the expectation of working the standard 9 to 5 will position you to reap these benefits as well.

  6. Understand that for some people, work is not their life. Now more than ever, a healthy work-life balance is essential to ensure satisfaction in all areas of life. It’s important to understand that your employees’ priorities may differ from yours, and giving them adequate time away from work is essential to maintaining a good balance and ensuring they're operating at peak performance in their respective roles.

  7. Acknowledge good work. Recognizing and appreciating the great work of your employees is one of the best ways to boost engagement and increase job satisfaction. It keeps them motivated to continue delivering excellent work and helps foster an environment where other team members feel motivated to elevate their performance as well.

  8. Identify and reduce overwhelming workloads. Overwhelming workloads can lead to burnout, low employee morale, and a drop in performance. It’s crucial for employers to maintain manageable workloads to protect the mental health of employees, minimize lapses or mistakes, and maximize their productivity on the job.

Establish an Employee-Friendly Work Environment

It’s your responsibility as an employer to create a healthy work environment that helps employees thrive. Understanding the signs of “quiet quitting” and how you can both prevent and address any issues if they do occur will help you attract and retain the best talent and position your company for sustainable success.

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