Silent Quit: How Some Employees Respond to Burnout


To manage burnout and maintain a work-life balance, a trend known as “silent quitting” is seeing workers clock in as scheduled, ignore after-hours emails, and generally forgo overexertion. .

« It’s a new name for an old phenomenon; it’s just been exacerbated by two and a half years of a pandemic, » David Zweig, professor of organizational behavior and human resource management at the University, told of Toronto. by phone on Thursday. « I think the last two and a half years have really brought this idea of ​​work-life balance into conscious awareness for everyone, and we don’t want to go back to what it was before. »

While the idea behind the silent shutdown isn’t new, the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled an unprecedented workplace intrusion into people’s homes, disrupting traditional work hours for many. Meanwhile, widespread staff shortages have led some employers to ask their workers to take on new or additional tasks, sometimes for no more pay.

Seeking a better work-life balance and emboldened by today’s job market, some employees are quietly resisting, not slacking off, but focusing on the essential demands of the job while foregoing the type of extra effort that one could make for recognition or career advancement.

« I recently heard about this term ‘silent shutdown,’ where you don’t quit your job outright, but you give up on the idea of ​​going beyond it, » TikToker Zaid Khan said in a viral video from the July 25 which brought the term widespread attention.

“We saw the walls between work and private life disappear, much worse. We were asked to do more and more, with less and less,” added Zweig. « It’s a response to stupid things like the whole idea of ​​’bustle culture,’ which is just another name for a toxic work culture. »

However, Nadia Halum Arauz, a Toronto-based labor and employment lawyer, warns there are few legal protections for those who choose to respond by quitting quietly.

« An employer can terminate an employee for any reason, as long as that reason is not discriminatory or retaliatory, » Halum Arauz told by phone Thursday. « All the employer needs to provide is a notice that the relationship is coming to an end, or compensation, commonly known as severance pay or severance pay. »

But by talking to your employer about workload issues first and trying to work out clearer work-life boundaries with them, Arauz says you can protect yourself from possible retaliation.

« Having an open conversation is probably the best way to go, » Halum Arauz said. « Mostly because by doing this, to me, you would actually improve your protection, because dismissals cannot be retaliatory. So by bringing something to the attention of your employer, if you are retaliated against in consequence, you know, that’s another story. »

« It’s also important that employers have clearly defined job descriptions, » labor lawyer Samara Belitzky told on Thursday. « It makes it clear to both employer and employee what the expectations are for a particular role and they can avoid future confusion about job duties and other terms of employment. »

Belitzky says you should raise your concerns with your employer immediately if unwanted changes to regular duties or hours are introduced into your job.

« Employees who refuse these things can not only express their refusal and the corresponding reasons to their employers, but must do so, in writing, so that they have a record in case the employer takes further action at the future, » Belitzky explained. . « If an employee works under different conditions, without expressing a refusal, he can be deemed to have accepted the changes and the new conditions can now form part of his working conditions. »

Zweig says employers should also be proactive in starting dialogues and offering supports to employees who might disengage from work due to burnout.

« Once people are exhausted, it’s really hard to recover, » he said. « This is going to require a real commitment from organizations to address issues around burnout, and to re-evaluate how performance is monitored, how it is measured, and to help employees set boundaries so that ‘they don’t feel those effects. »


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