Quiet Quitting in Animal Health
Quiet quitting has become the new buzzword among employees who feel overworked, underappreciated, or generally dissatisfied with their jobs. Some managers see it as putting a foot down about work-life balance. Others view it as lazy or even immoral behavior - in effect, stealing from the company. Whatever you think of it, quiet quitting is happening in animal health. How can you deal with it?
Quiet quitting Type 1: Tired Tigers
Are your top performers no longer at your beck and call 24/7? Have team members stopped answering emails on weekends and holidays? In this type of quiet quitting, employees continue giving their best work during office hours, while also living their best lives beyond work. These steady-rolling employees aren’t quitting so much as adjusting the role they want work to play in their lives. We call them Tired Tigers.
Better work-life balance is the top reason veterinarians want to leave the profession, according to the AVMA’s 2021 State of the Profession report.1 And although the results of our 2022 Attitudinal Survey of the animal health industry remained strongly positive, several participants referred to overwork and feelings of exhaustion. This is an animal health issue, not just a veterinary practice issue.
Many people feel that the drive to ‘right-size’ work within their lives is long overdue. In a recent Medscape Commentary2, Margaret Calvery, PhD wrote, “Quiet quitters believe that it is possible to have good boundaries and yet remain productive, engaged and active within the workplace.” She suggests that the pandemic, which put even more strain on healthcare workers and merged other workers’ offices and homes led them all to reconsider the old rules of engagement at work.
“Quiet quitters believe that it is possible to have good boundaries and yet remain productive, engaged and active within the workplace.” Margaret Calvery, PhD
Quiet quitting Type 2: Slothful Slackers
Unfortunately, quiet quitting has a dark side. If your team members are unreachable, if their work is late, incomplete or otherwise substandard, and if you notice an excessive number of mouse-jiggler jokes at the start of video calls, you may have a Sloth problem.
Slothful Slackers have quit their jobs but have not told their employers. They are deeply unhappy and need to be somewhere else. The pandemic didn’t create this problem, though it may have made it more common. As a manager, your reaction hasn’t changed either. Why keep a Slothful Slacker in your team? It’s bad for the rest of your team, for you and for the business. Turn them loose, so they can find a more energizing role somewhere else.
Managing quiet quitting the professional way
While it’s tempting to confront Tigers and Sloths and insist that they go back to overperforming, take a moment to think. Is that really what you want? Force your Tigers to give up their new-found lives and they may look for places that fit their new expectations. If they are giving you their best work, show how much you appreciate them. After all, the days of knowledge workers clocking in and out are long gone. We focus on results, right?
“It’s not the factory era anymore…for office jobs, too many people think about time. It’s about output.” Lewis Maleh, Bentley-Lewis Executive Search
Your Sloths are another story. Confront them the wrong way and they may move even more slowly, dragging out the separation process as long as they can. Tell them that you recognize their dissatisfaction. Then explain that their poor performance is pulling down the team, and it’s best that you go your separate ways. Talk with your HR partner, work within your company guidelines, and make the change as quickly and humanely as possible.
Treat Tigers and Sloths differently
Effective leaders recognize each employee’s unique mix of talents, motivations and behaviors. They look for and respond appropriately to employees’ signals about what is and is not working.
Quiet quitters are sending strong messages. React to them. Respect and honor your Tigers. Set your Sloths free to find a happier home. And as always in animal health industry, be your authentic self.
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- 2021 AVMA Report on the Economic State of the Veterinary Profession. Available at AVMA.org
- Margaret Calvery. Quiet Quitting: Are Physicians Dying Inside Bit by Bit? Or Setting Healthy Boundaries? - Medscape - Sep 16, 2022. Available at https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/980682. Accessed 29 September 2022.