Are Clinicians Dying Inside Bit by Bit?

In recent months, “quietly quit” has gained increasing traction on social media platforms. My morning review of social media revealed thousands of posts ranging from “Why doing less at work could be good for you and your employer” to “After ‘quietly quit’ here comes ‘quietly firing’.”

But giving up quietly is neither shut up nor giving up.

Giving up quietly is a misnomer. People are not quitting their jobs; rather, they are abandoning the idea of ​​constantly going “over and above” in the workplace as normal and necessary. In addition, people who quit quietly are more assertive about their boundaries, don’t accept work beyond clearly stated expectations, don’t respond after hours, and don’t feel like they’re “not doing their job” when they’re not immediately available.

People who “quietly quit” continue to meet the demands of their job but reject the busy culture mindset that they should always be available for more work and, more importantly, that their worth and self-worth are undefined nor determined by your work. Quiet quitters believe that it is possible to have good boundaries and yet still be productive, engaged, and active in the workplace.

Earlier this month, NPR’s tutorial on how to set better boundaries at work garnered 491,000 views, reflecting the struggles employees have to communicate their needs, thoughts and availability to their employers. Quietly resigning refers not only to rejecting the idea of ​​going above and beyond in the workplace, but also to feel confident that there will be no negative ramifications for consistently not working beyond the expected requirements.

Traditional employers rarely address or emphasize a focus on balance, life, love and family; employees have little ability to address boundaries and clarify their value and availability. For decades, “needing” flexibility of any kind or valuing activities as much as their work were considered negative attributes, making such people less desirable employees.

The data supports the trend of quitting quietly. Gallup data reveals that employee engagement has fallen for two consecutive years in the US workforce. During the first quarter of 2022, Gen Z and millennials report the lowest engagement among populations at 31%. More than half of this cohort, 54%, were classified as “disengaged” at their workplace.

Why is silent abandonment gaining prominence now? COVID may play a role.

Many suggest that self-assessment and firmer boundary setting is a logical response to the emotional fallout caused by COVID. The quiet abandonment appears to have been fueled by the pandemic. Employees were forced into crisis mode by COVID; the lines between work, life, and home evaporated, allowing or forcing workers to assess their effectiveness and satisfaction. With the structural impact of COVID lessening and a return to more standard work practices, “rule” work once held as truths is expected to come under evaluation and scrutiny.

Perhaps COVID has forced us and provided another opportunity for us to take a close look at our routines and habits and take stock of what really matters. Generations are expected to differ in their values ​​and definitions of success. COVID has set previously established rules ablaze, forcing patterns and expectations that were neither expected nor desired, in the context of a global health crisis. In this context, should we really believe that our work determines our value?

The truth is that we are still grieving what we lost during COVID and hopefully we have not assimilated into “the new normal”. Psychology has long recognized that losing structures and supports, routines and habits, causes symptoms of significant distress.

The idea that we would go back to previous job expectations is naïve. The idea that “we would return to life as it was” is naive. It seems expected, then, that both employers and employees will assess their goals and communicate more openly how each can be met.

It is up to employers to set clear guidelines regarding expectations, including rewards for performance and expectations for time, both in and out of working hours. Employers must recognize the symptoms of detachment in their employees and engage in the process of continually clarifying roles and expectations, while providing the necessities for employees to succeed at their highest level. Employees, in turn, must self-examine their goals, communicate their needs, fully fulfill their responsibilities, and take on the challenge of determining their own definition of balance.

Perhaps instead of quietly giving up, we should call this new movement “self-awareness, growth and evolution.” Hmmm, there is an intriguing thought.

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