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We’ve been reflecting on this supposedly 'new' phenomenon of quiet quitting, lately defined as 'just doing your job,' or working within defined hours and/or doing 'what your job requires and nothing more.' 

Regardless of specific definition, Harvard Business Review states, 'Our data indicates that quiet quitting is usually less about an employee’s willingness to work harder and more creatively, and more about a manager’s ability to build a relationship with their employees where they are not counting the minutes until quitting time.'

employee burnout

For HR leaders who want to support their employees, those perceived to be 'quiet quitting' (a phrase that incites a massive eye roll from me, if I’m being honest) are likely on the road to an even more troubling problem that deserves more attention: Employee burnout. 

We’ve seen employee burnout present itself in many ways, including emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and outright detachment from one’s work. But this is past the realm of 'quiet quitting,' this is a cry for help for employers to take action.

Somewhere along the way, this phenomenon of quiet quitting became the employee’s fault, rather than a conversation between the employee and employer to create an environment that supports engagement and trust.

happy vs. unhappy employeeInstead of pinpointing your 'quiet quitters' and putting a target on their backs for not doing enough or doing something like setting healthy boundaries between work and personal life, employers should look at the road that leads to and from quiet quitting – only doing what’s required, and nothing more – and how they can take steps to move their people away from 'quiet quitting' into actively engaging. 

To further understand this concept, let’s look at why employees quietly quit, or, as we like to think of it, become disengaged from the business to the point of potential burnout. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes for a moment, and understand their internal monologue.

Your employee may be feeling…

  • Underappreciated: Why bother doing the work, if there’s no appreciation or positive feedback shown for it? They may be asking themselves: Does anyone even care what I do around here?
  • Undervalued: Employees may feel undervalued when they’re not being compensated for what their job has become, so why should they put in any extra effort? These may be employees who have recently been passed over for a promotion, or whose job has become repetitive and mundane.
  • Disconnected: Your employees may feel like a cog in a wheel. How does what they do contribute to the business? They may feel like any work they do hardly even matters anymore.
  • Ignored: These employees may have recently tried to speak up for a promotion/raise/new way of doing things, and don’t feel heard or respected by their boss or leadership team. These employees may become resentful and unwilling to put in discretionary effort to help their leaders succeed, positioning it as a 'me vs. them' versus looking at the business as a whole.
  • Isolated: New work environments may have left your people feeling disconnected and especially detached from their office work buddies. With little to no collaboration or crossover, they may be feeling detached from the day-to-day. In short: It’s more difficult to get excited about working harder when they feel alone.

manager and employee one to oneThe impact of burnout is significant and has hit organisations right where it hurts the most: retention and productivity. Burned-out employees are at higher risk of moving jobs or simply quitting (yes, actually quitting), compounding companies’ existing challenges around recruitment and retention. If and when quiet quitters actually quit, those who do stay can then experience a significant drop in their own productivity, hurting the company’s bottom line, causing more work to pile up for other employees and creating the risk of a burnout domino effect. 

Simply put, employers have a clear responsibility – and opportunity – to get ahead of burnout.


Join us for our upcoming webinar on 26th October at 1pm BST to uncover how HR leaders can be more strategic and intentional in building connections, communication and employee support initiatives in their day-to-day to tackle employee burnout.

Register now »

Chloe Thompson

Chloe is the Head of Global Content Strategy and Thought Leadership at Reward Gateway. She has a strong penchant for great food, better wine (especially if it sits alongside a cheese plate) and dancing around her kitchen to musical theatre tunes.

Head of Global Content Strategy and Thought Leadership

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