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The Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting: Signs of Values Misalignment in the Workplace

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

The Great Resignation Peaked in 2021—But Workers Are Still Quitting in Droves

The Great Resignation peaked in 2021—an average of 4 million people left their jobs every month. While many point to the pandemic as a reason folks quit their jobs in such high numbers, others have theorized that the stress of the pandemic was the last straw, and that the rate at which people quit their jobs has been trending upwards for over a decade.

According to the BBC, several factors have led workers to leave their jobs:

  • Re-evaluating their values

  • Wanting to avoid high-risk jobs with low pay or no support, as such service or healthcare fields

  • Burnout

  • Lack of childcare

  • Shifts in supply and demand for the labor market

  • Low pay

  • Wanting to change careers

Many of these factors are still at play in most jobs across the country and the globe, which could explain why the rate at which people are quitting hasn’t let up. If we are to believe that the pandemic was the last straw in addition to these factors, given that the stress of the pandemic arguably hasn’t lessened much, explains why folks are still quitting far more than they were before the pandemic. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

The Role of Work in Our Lives Has Shifted

Not only have many people shifted from working in offices to working from home, but people are wanting more meaning out of their roles and their careers. Many people fuse their identity with the work they do. Because the pandemic was so stressful and even traumatic for many of us, it caused deep reflection on the way we spend our time—which means it caused reflection on what we do for work.

The trauma of the pandemic caused deep reflection on how we spend our time—especially on what we do for work.

The threat of COVID-19 has prompted many of us to think more deeply about our individual contribution to our company or organization, as well as about the role of work and our jobs in life.

What Is “Quiet Quitting,” and Could It Be Another Symptom of Burnout?

With the onset of the pandemic, you could argue that we’re also experiencing a pandemic of burnout. In a 2021 survey by McKinsey & Company, 49% of employees globally reported feeling at least somewhat burned out. But many signs were pointing to employees feeling burned out even before the pandemic, and the Great Resignation could simply be an indicator that the pandemic was the last straw.

In August/September of 2022, the concept of “quiet quitting” exploded on TikTok and across the internet. If you haven’t heard of this craze yet, “quiet quitting” is essentially the concept of doing the bare minimum at work. Questions arose about how we show up to work, and what doing the “bare minimum at work” means for employees.

Quiet Quitting: Reactions Across the Board

Some have reacted to this concept by saying that quiet quitting is simply drawing healthy boundaries with your job, and having a good work-life balance. Others say that quiet quitting indicates that an employee isn’t dedicated to their job in a meaningful way.

In the midst of the pandemic where many of us experienced burnout, questions about our relationship to work and how it informs our sense of identity came up. We started asking whether it was simply just fatigue for having lived through a pandemic. We at Akili Well are less interested in how “productive” employees are at work, and more interested in how employees and teams feel about going to work every day—and about how they feel in their working lives in general.

Quiet quitting could be another way of saying that someone doesn’t feel good about going to work every day. If that is the case, we believe that needs to change. We do our best work when we feel connected to the work we do, and we are clear about the good we’re doing by contributing and being on a team.

We at Akili Well are less interested in how "productive" employees are at work, and more interested in how they feel about going to work every day.

How Can Organizations Help Their Teams Feel Good at Work?

We do our best work when we know what we’re doing, why we’re doing, and when we trust the people who we’re doing it with.

Because burnout is at an all-time high among nearly all industries in the last couple of years, too many of us are operating from a place of chronic stress, irritability, and disconnection from each other. We are also disconnected with our reasons for why we do the work we do—which makes it more difficult to show up and do our personal best every day.

In his very popular TED talk, leadership expert Simon Sinek explains the importance of feeling connected to an organization’s purpose, or why. In essence, organizations that invest in clearly communicating their why, and then provide opportunities for contributors and employees who share the same values connected to that purpose, are the ones that are most successful.

Leading at Work with Values

Many organizations have a strong set of values, but struggle to incorporate and live these values in their daily lives at work. Josie Santiago (founder of Akili Well) and Brenda Boyle (founder of Fireheart Coaching & Consulting) have teamed up to form a Wellness and Leadership Workshop and coaching series for teams. This system of quarterly workshops followed up by ongoing group and individual coaching helps teams:

  • Reconnect with their teammates

  • Redefine and realign their values

  • Ground themselves in their own personal why

Many organizations have a strong set of values, but struggle to incorporate and live these values in their daily lives at work.

Giving Teams and Individuals Tools to Succeed

We give tools to teams to help reground teams in what their values are, and how those values translate into behaviors that can be measured across the week, month, and year to hold teams and leaders accountable for staying true to the organization’s mission and vision.

By having opportunities to reconnect with their why, teams and companies can rebuild their sense of morale after having survived the pandemic with a renewed sense of purpose. We also empower individuals and teams with somatic tools to ground themselves and ease stress so everyone can feel their best at work.

We also empower individuals and teams with somatic tools to ground themselves and ease stress so everyone can feel their best at work.

A 5-Minute Grounding Tool for Any Employee

The following is an easy grounding tool that you can do in 5-10 minutes. This exercise can be done in your chair at work, a break room, or on a lunch break outside. Making this exercise a daily practice can help ease feelings of overwork, anxiety, or frustration—even if only by 5%.

Sometimes the best we can do is make progress and go from there.

Grounding Exercise: 4 Steps

  1. Slow down and connect to your body. Bring your attention to the bottom of your feet, your sit bones, and feel your body supported by the earth beneath you. Place one hand on your heart and one on your belly. Breathe into your belly. Feel the belly move as you inhale and exhale through the nose for three full breaths.

  2. Bring your attention around you. Notice five items in your space and then notice something comforting or pleasant around you.

  3. Connect back to what you care about. What matters most to you?

  4. Ask yourself: What am I willing to say yes to today? Saying yes to even the smallest of things can create momentum.


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