Is quiet quitting burnout with a new name?

2019 09 24 21 39 2685 Anderson James 400

A trend is taking hold in the post-pandemic workforce called quiet quitting. At first, I thought the term referred to an employee who didn't show up for work or provide their two weeks' notice. But it refers to a staff member who is there physically but is mentally disengaged, doing the least to get by, even working below the job description. Is quiet quitting a new term for an old problem: burnout?

Job dissatisfaction has been a top reason why many dental staff leave their positions, along with a lack of job growth and lack of appreciation. These reasons are not new, but the opportunities for dental staff looking for a new job are different than before the pandemic.

Dr. James V. AndersonDr. James V. Anderson

Most people are in the workforce to earn money to pay for living essentials, and statistics show that if they leave one job, they look for another and don't stay unemployed for long. In the post-pandemic environment, working from home has opened up opportunities for dental staff that weren't previously there. There may also be a paradigm shift for dental staff to consider new work opportunities without risking exposure to COVID-19, its variants, and any other virus that comes along.

While staffing shortages started before the COVID-19 pandemic, they're more prevalent now. And a lack of trained, experienced dental workers puts pressure on your best employees who have a strong work ethic because they are asked to do more.

These are the employees to watch for quiet quitting.

How to prevent the quiet quitter

People leaving their jobs, either physically or mentally, is serious business. Though some attrition is normal, it is always vital to know why and if it could have been prevented by proactive intervention.

Quiet quitting happens because people are burned out, so leaders must spot the signs and take preventive measures. As a leader, I know that I am responsible for my dental practice's culture and operational success. I can't pass the buck to anyone else.

Below are five ways to spot and manage employee burnout.

1. Be proactive

As soon as you get the slightest hint that something is wrong within the team, it is time to talk to your people. Don't wait for a blow-up and a valued team member who walks out to come to your senses.

2. Communicate

Talk to your team in meetings frequently and arrange a one-on-one meeting with each employee every six months. Have an open communication policy in which you are available to discuss issues. To eliminate gossip, ask anyone wishing to talk with you to present the problem and resolution in writing.

3. Offer training

Training courses, whether they are through online or in-person sources, can improve an employee's skills and prevent criticism for making the same mistakes. Show appreciation when one of your team members improves their skills. Software training and the use of new technology are two major areas where there is a need for team training.

4. Show respect

Show respect for the time your team spends on the job. Overloading team members with more tasks because they complete their work efficiently punishes them for doing good work. Don't overtask the good employees to compensate for the lack of performance from other employees.

5. Invest in your team

Invest in retaining your valuable team. Find out what each person needs to feel valued. Financial rewards, bonuses, and recognition with a special gift show your gratitude and that you care about them. Sometimes it's not about the money, it's about being heard.

What about the noisy quitter?

In some situations, actively disengaged employees can be thought of as "noisy quitters" in that they verbally spread their dissatisfaction. Complaining, causing unnecessary drama, bullying, or refusing to do job duties undermines the entire practice. This scenario is problematic for the dental environment because collaboration is necessary to meet the needs of patients. Staffing shortages are no reason to keep a poor-performing and toxic employee.

It's essential to address staffing drama quickly and professionally. There could be legal ramifications, such as discrimination or harassment claims by a toxic employee. It is wise to have an employment attorney's advice in these situations.

Complying with employment law and having a legally compliant employee policy manual can prevent many issues involving work performance, behavior, discrimination, and harassment.

Most dentists deal with a variety of staffing complaints, and while these must be addressed, it is also wise to look at who is making complaints and whether they are part of the problem or the solution.

If the complainer is a high-performing, productive, and professional employee, you may want to listen more carefully. If someone is a quiet quitter or a noisy quitter, perhaps now is the time to talk with this person.

Dr. James Anderson is a practicing dentist in Syracuse, UT, and is the CEO and founder of eAssist Dental Solutions. He can be reached via email.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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