There has been a lot of chatter around the trend “quiet quitting,” and I hesitated to contribute to the noise until I realized that everything being written had negative connotations. They are saying “quiet quitters” are unmotivated slackers who do the bare minimum; they only want to do what they are paid to do and won’t go “above and beyond.”

But if you ask the employees, their response, according to a Monster survey, is that 61% are just burned out. And 72% of those burned out say the reason is their company is short-staffed. Surprisingly, although the buzz is everywhere, it seems that human resources haven’t caught up yet. SHRM recently reported that only 36% of HR professionals are aware of the term “quiet quitters,” and only half of those are concerned about the trend. So where is the disconnect?

Through this so-called “quiet quitting,” employees are actually screaming that enough is enough. In speaking with professionals across the industry, I’ve found the general consensus is that working 50-plus hours a week was affecting their mental health. Most had been trying to do their primary job for the first 40 hours and then trying to pick up any additional work for those who had been termed but not replaced during the next 10-20 hours. Weekends blended into the workweek because they needed time to catch up and prepare for the week ahead in order to combat the constant feeling of being behind on deadlines. Now, having scaled back for self-preservation — and being called out for doing so — those employees are wondering how “going above and beyond” became an expectation rather than an occasional service.

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But what are the solutions? Some experts say to pay employees more and they will be OK with working more. Some say provide recognition and employees will be happy to work more. Some say just communicate with employees, tell them why they have to work more and hope they will agree to do it. Meanwhile, the workers are begging employers to realize that it goes deeper than that. They need a workload balance, job sharing opportunities or updated processes that will enable them to be more efficient in performing their job. In order to accomplish this, they also need support from management and realistic deadlines.

From an employer perspective, I believe it’s an internal challenge. Maybe budgets are being cut, people are actually quitting, and talent is hard to find. It is true, according to SIA research, that there are more jobs posted than people available to work, even if every person in the US were employed. This means hiring more help isn’t always an option. So what else can companies do to lighten the load? If your culture is company-centric, then your challenge is going to be to understand the “quiet quitters” and find ways to improve processes so that the work still gets done without extra hours being expected.

If your company is employee-centric, then your challenge is going to be to listen to the “quiet quitters” and create an employee resource group think tank to help solve the root issues causing burnout. Employees will tell you which activities could be centralized and/or off-loaded. They know how to divide and conquer work among their teams. They know when to say no to customer requests. And they know which work efforts have already been tried and failed.

So, before you judge some of those employees who are starting to limit their work hours as “slackers” or call them “unmotivated,” look in the mirror and ask yourself what your organization can do to help get work done efficiently while retaining your valuable workforce.

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