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The link between quiet quitting and toxic positivity

The approach to modern work is changing, with new hybrid working patterns blurring the boundaries between work and home. This has led to the rise of the term quiet quitting – and toxic positivity could be contributing to it.

Quiet quitting is essentially mentally checking out from a role and can include saying no to extra projects, not going above and beyond and only doing the required basic work. This is of concern for businesses, as it is more difficult to spot when an employee is no longer enjoying their job and could therefore lead to a loss of talent.

Toxic positivity in the workplace can be a contributor to quiet quitting, with employers thinking they are generating a healthy culture but having the opposite effect.

The rise of quiet quitting:

Anti-hustle culture: why employees are prioritising lifestyle over ambitions

Quiet firing trend suggests disengaged UK workers

How to solve employee disengagement in the virtual workplace

Companies may think they have a positive culture, however, in reality they might be ignoring what workers are telling them and masking any issues within the workplace all while expecting employees to maintain a positive face.

This culture of toxic positivity can leave employees feeling alone and frustrated, pushing them towards quiet quitting.

Although it may be impossible to pinpoint when an employee is quiet quitting, what steps can companies take to try to prevent burnout in the workforce, avoid generating a culture of toxic positivity and therefore reduce the chance of employees quietly quitting?


Creating a healthy culture

There has been a shift in working, moving away from the concept of hustle culture and towards a more balanced, sustainable working life. Many workers may feel quiet quitting is an attempt to create healthy boundaries at work, rather than a malicious phase before quitting a role. This highlights the importance of workplace culture. 

To create a healthy culture, employers should ensure healthy boundaries are in place. For example, flexible working arrangements can ensure employees can fit in life around their work, particularly important for those juggling childcare.

Introducing specific meeting times can reduce the stress of employees working flexible hours who may feel pressure on their schedule to adapt to meeting times. Flexible working gives employees an element of control over their role that can help prevent burnout and reduce the chances of quiet quitting.

Employers should also remember that culture is more than just flexibility, and includes shared values, daily interactions and organisational traditions.

With some workplaces expecting employees to maintain a positive outlook no matter the situation, this can generate a fake atmosphere of positivity which is in fact toxic to the workforce.

Instead, employers should aim to develop an open culture that encourages the compassionate communication of all emotions is welcoming of differing opinions. Not only does this strengthen relationships within teams, but also prevents the detriment of toxic positivity on personal wellbeing, which can lead to quiet quitting.


Review your benefits

Providing strong benefits to employees has the potential to increase their job satisfaction, reducing quiet quitting and therefore increasing talent retention.

Employers should also consider their wellbeing provision – our research found 66% of employees wanting more wellbeing support from their employer – now is the time to consider how to provide further support for the workforce. 

If wellbeing support is a benefit provided to employees, this should be communicated in an effective way to ensure employees do not see this as a tick-box exercise, which could contribute to a culture of toxic positivity.

Effective communication ensures employees feel the value of wellbeing provisions, having positive impacts on both the employees and the business.


Encourage regular communication

Quiet quitting is likely to occur over an extended period but can be prevented if action is taken early on. Following on from the creation of a healthy culture mentioned above, there should also be appropriate avenues for staff to voice their concerns and find confidential support, such as mental health first aiders.

Providing trained staff for employees ensures wellbeing provision is a positive contributor to the workplace, rather than being a potential contributor to toxic positivity in that benefits are offered but not delivered in an effective way.

Being able to communicate concerns before they become a deeper issue could not only reduce quiet quitting but would help to improve culture within the workplace. Westfield Health research found that 85% of employees linked their wellbeing to workplace culture, so, working on improving culture through effective communication is also likely to help improve employee engagement.


Vicky Walker is group director of people at Westfield Health