Quiet quitting

Mahrukh Khwaja explains how to nurture a culture of engagement and avoid employees resorting to quiet quitting.

‘Quiet quitting’ may not be a term you’re familiar with, but in the post-COVID-19 era, Dr Khwaja says that stress and burnout is increasingly forcing more employees to do the bare minimum they need to get their jobs done rather than simply resigning. 

Dr Khwaja, whose start-up consultancy Mind Ninja is dedicated to helping healthcare professionals improve their mental health and resilience, says toxic work cultures, micro-management styles, a lack of autonomy, overwhelming administrative tasks, imposter syndrome and financial concerns can all be responsible for quiet quitting.

‘Quiet quitters mentally withdraw from their work, resulting in decreased productivity, absenteeism and a lack of commitment to organisational goals,’ Dr Khwaja says, stressing that recognising and addressing quiet quitting should be a priority for practices if they’re to remain happy and efficient places to work – and profitable businesses. 

Recognising the signs

Dr Khwaja uses research-based neuroscience and proven positive psychology techniques to empower individuals and teams to feel and do better, both in their personal lives and their careers. 

She says the first step in addressing quiet quitting is recognising its signs. She points to decreased enthusiasm, a lack of initiative and reduced collaboration amongst team members as typical indicators that something may be wrong. 

However, she cautions against singling out individuals and instead suggests taking a whole team approach by creating an environment of psychological safety. 

Make time to have conversations with team members you feel may be experiencing a lack of motivation. 

Listen with an attitude of kindness, curiosity and support, suggests Dr Khwaja, adding: ‘Allowing for openness and authenticity of feelings and emotions helps to create psychological safety.’

Adjusting styles

Drawing from psychology’s well researched self-determination theory, Dr Khwaja also highlights the importance of autonomy, mastery and social connectedness as fundamental psychological needs. 

‘As a compassionate leader, you can help determine how to increase these needs at work through conversations,’ she emphasises. This might involve adjusting management styles, better aligning job roles to employees’ strengths, or offering more opportunities for skills development.

Dr Khwaja also stresses the role of organisational culture in preventing disengagement and quiet quitting. ‘Fear-based cultures are centred on spotlighting mistakes and are often very anxious places to work,’ she warns. 

Instead, she encourages dental practices to aim for a ‘hope-based’ culture that invites curiosity, optimism and positive emotions. ‘We can create this through fostering a supportive and inclusive environment by promoting teamwork, collaboration and mutual respect. Encourage a healthy work-life balance… celebrate achievements and hold regular team-building exercises.’

Dr Khwaja continues: ‘Shared values are also the foundation of a strong and cohesive team. Managers should clearly define the core values of the practice and involve their staff in the process. 

‘When team members feel a sense of ownership over the values and believe in their importance, they are more likely to be motivated and committed.’

Building on strengths

Another effective strategy to combat disengagement is strengths-based role crafting. This approach involves aligning employees’ skills, interests and passions with their job responsibilities, while ‘flow moments’ – when employees are fully immersed in, and enjoying, their work – help to foster engagement. 

‘Practices can offer opportunities for professional growth and skill development, which helps to foster a sense of purpose and fulfilment, reducing the risk of disengagement,’ says Dr Khwaja.

Building a culture of gratitude and kindness can help to foster positive relationships at work. She suggests sharing gratitude points, celebrating successes and practising kindness through small acts.

Mindful check-in

Dental health professionals can also recognise the early signs and symptoms of quiet quitting in themselves via regular ‘mindful check-ins’, says Dr Khwaja. ‘If you notice these symptoms, see if you can address them. 

‘Do you need to craft your job role, speak to management about the type of jobs you have or perhaps upskill? If you feel there is a cultural misfit, consider looking for a new job or a role that fits you better.’

Dr Khwaja concludes: ‘In the face of uncertainty, our greatest strength lies in our ability to connect, inspire and support each other, which will ensure dental practices can continue to flourish.’ 


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