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While American workers are “quiet quitting” in droves, research suggests a majority of Canadians are going above and beyond at work, even as many are showing early signs of burnout.

In recent months, the term – which describes workers who refuse to do more than the bare minimum to keep their job but won’t resign – has received a lot of attention on social media.

According to Gallup Research, these “quiet quitters” make up at least half of the American work force, and possibly more.

Such is not the case on this side of the border, however, where a recent survey conducted by human resources consulting firm Robert Half Canada found that only 5 per cent of Canadian workers are doing the bare minimum. In fact, 59 per cent of workers are going above and beyond their job requirements, and 85 per cent are putting in the same or more effort as compared with two years ago.

“Despite some of the splashy headlines that we’ve seen across North America, ‘quiet quitting’ is not happening in a meaningful way in the Canadian work force,” said Mike Shekhtman, a senior regional director for Robert Half Canada.

He says that after a tumultuous couple of years in the job market, he suspects many Canadians are finally getting their careers back on track.

“Before we went through this ‘quiet quitting’ phenomenon, there was a shift with people switching jobs – a bit of reshuffle that was happening through 2021 and into the beginning of the year,” he said. “I think people may have finally settled into positions they’re engaged in and are enjoying.”

But just because Canadians are going above and beyond doesn’t mean they’re fully engaged in their work. While engagement is the primary motivator for 37 per cent of those who are putting in the same or more effort as in the past, 21 per cent are pushing themselves harder because they feel pressure to keep up with co-workers, according to the Robert Half survey.

“The next one was concern about job security, which was felt by 16 per cent, and 14 per cent were seeking a promotion or raise,” Mr. Shekhtman said. “Employers should be delighted by the fact that people are going above and beyond, but there are things you don’t want to take for granted.”

Mr. Shekhtman warns that if Canadians are working harder as a result of external pressure, their level of productivity likely isn’t sustainable, and research suggests many are starting to feel burnt out.

According to a study conducted by Achievers, a Toronto-based provider of employee-recognition software, 43 per cent of Canadian workers are at least somewhat burnt out by their work.

“We have lots of data to support the fact that people in the work world are doing more with fewer resources around them, often not for more pay, and the level of burnout is off the charts,” says Dr. Natalie Baumgartner, the chief work force scientist at the Achievers Workforce Institute.

According to Achievers, employee engagement dipped on both sides of the border during the early days of the pandemic, however Canadian workers experienced a faster recovery. Their research found 71 per cent of workers were very or somewhat engaged in the third quarter of 2022, compared with 67 per cent a year earlier. On the other side of the border, the proportion of workers who were at least somewhat engaged dropped to 72 per cent from 80 per cent during the past year.

“This phenomenon known as ‘quiet quitting’ could be a sign that some employees are disengaged and are shifting their focus to find fulfilment outside of their work,” said Dr. Baumgartner. “Canadian organizations should be asking their employees what they need and how they need it delivered.”

While employee engagement levels are largely holding steady among Canada’s work force, the mental health challenges of the pandemic are still bubbling just below the surface, according to psychologist and author Dr. Jody Carrington.

“The fundamental issue that we’re talking about is appreciation or acknowledgment,” she said. “When you are appreciated, when you are valued, you will be able to provide an unbelievable output; that is not matched when you don’t feel witnessed or valued or seen.”

Dr. Carrington said that Canadians have a lot of reasons to feel exhausted by recent events, and when people are tired they are less aware of the contributions of those around them, resulting in fewer acts of acknowledgment and appreciation. She explains that a generic gift or a companywide employee appreciation event will never be as effective as small but personal expressions of gratitude. That, she believes, is an organization’s greatest weapon against disengagement, and the “quiet quitting” trend.

“Acknowledgment must be one thing and it isn’t two things,” she said. “It is not an apology, it’s never a one-shot deal – it has to be ongoing – and it must be genuine.”

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