Talent Published Date, 2022

“Quiet Quitting”: How Nonprofits Can Support Employees Experiencing Burnout

Created By: Jessica Shatzel
October 6, 2022

In response to pandemic-induced burnout, coupled with the power of TikTok’s influence, more and more employees are saying they are tired of being overworked and stressed out—and are instead opting for a more balanced life between professional obligations and personal pursuits. And it’s happening across a range of workplaces, including at nonprofits, where employees are fulfilling their job descriptions and, at the same time, setting boundaries for themselves. The popular term for this now is “quiet quitting”.

Higher rates of “quiet quitting” can be found among employees who have consistently gone above and beyond but are now not only re-evaluating their relationship to work, but evaluating whether that extra effort is being recognized by their employers. After extreme burnout as a result of the pandemic, many employees are trying to figure out the right balance between their work lives and their personal lives. For some, going the extra yard in hopes of a promotion or pay raise no longer takes precedence over unplugging from the daily grind and pursuing interests and activities they enjoy.

Employees in the nonprofit sector may be even more susceptible to “quiet quitting” when compared to their peers in other industries. Nonprofit employees are often extremely passionate about their jobs and their organization’s cause, investing a lot of themselves - in the form of time and emotional labor - into their work which can be a key driver in the kind of burnout that results in “quiet quitting.”

Inequities in the workplace can also be a factor. Some “quiet quitters” might prefer to resign from their jobs. However, resigning is often not an option for individuals from marginalized communities, many of whom confront inequities or even outright discrimination when pursuing new job opportunities and higher pay.

"Quiet quitters" make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce – probably more, according to a Gallup poll conducted this past June. The pandemic and the many ways in which it changed work and the workplace has helped to reignite “quiet quitting.” Having their homes transformed into their workplace overnight, it's become harder for employees to disconnect from the job—and many are realizing how problematic that can be. In this era of “quiet quitting”, employees are realizing they are not obligated to overextend themselves to the brink of burnout and are reevaluating their participation in the hustle culture and how work fits into their lives.

“Since the pandemic, people’s relationship with work has been studied in many ways, and the literature typically, across the professions, would argue that, yes, people’s way of relating to their work has changed,” Maria Kordowicz, an associate professor in organizational behavior at the University of Nottingham and director of its center for interprofessional education and learning, told The Guardian.

Some see a downside to the new catchphrase. Calling the phenomenon any variety of “quitting,” they assert, implies employees are not doing their jobs. They see “quiet quitting” as having the potential to be used against employees.

In many instances, “quiet quitting” is a response to challenges existing within organizational culture and leadership. As the outlook on work and the workplace evolve, the industry must take a solutions-based approach to engaging the workforce. Here are 5 steps your nonprofit can take in response to “quiet quitting".

1. Take time to listen to your employees. Get to know their personal situations and what they want and need from their workplace. These conversations can help reduce employee disengagement and craft mutually beneficial working arrangements.

2. Team-building should be an essential aspect of your workplace culture. This helps employees feel more connected to your organization and helps them see collaboration as a core value that benefits them individually.

3. Foster an environment that promotes genuine engagement. Employees should feel that their ideas and initiatives are taken seriously and that their contributions are considered essential to the organization’s overall success. Experiencing a sense of psychological safety and belonging at work leads to genuine engagement.

4. Build methods of recognition and reward into your organizational culture. Transparently communicate measures of success and the subsequent ways in which employees can expect their contributions and impact to be acknowledged.

5. Create climates for inclusivity and demonstrate a commitment to diversity, encouraging diverse voices and opinions as a value-added aspect of the organization’s work. Managers should not shy away from addressing concerns about the need for diversity both within the organization’s staffing and in its decision-making process and should lean into such conversations. Encourage diverse voices and opinions as a value-added aspect of the organization’s work and make sure that all employees feel they have a voice in workplace decisions, especially those that directly affect them, such as onsite and remote work schedules. Every organization needs a culture in which people feel like their opinion matters.

Whether you believe “quit quitting” is a positive way to set healthy boundaries at work or a reenergized phenomenon that can negatively impact your nonprofit, leaders must be prepared to have solutions and strategies in place that ensure that every one of their employees feels valued and appreciated.

Looking to attract and retain great talent at your organization? Get in touch with Orr Group today to understand how we can help you drive and maintain strong work cultures.

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