Quiet Quitting In Dentistry: The Balance of Work and Life Supported by Quality Leadership

Lately the new term quiet quitting is plastered all over social media. The assignment of the term may be new, but the concept is not. The author of LinkedIn News defines quiet quitting as

“Rejecting the notion that work has to take over one's life and that employees should go above and beyond what their job descriptions entail.”

The definition reflects the importance of work-life balance understood and supported by quality leadership. Do you want a work-life balance? Who doesn’t? One can be passionate about their work and there is nothing wrong with loving what you do for a living. Finding a profession you love is a gift to yourself! Few people can say they are happy about going to work and look forward to going to work. When driving to work Monday morning if you are excited and invigorated (non-caffeine induced!) to see what the day brings, hats off to you, as many people will never experience this level of joy related to work. Even if you LOVE your work, there still needs to be a balance between you as a professional and you as a person. You as a person still need to go home at the end of the day with some level of energy for your personal time. Whether that time is being spent with loved ones, pets, hobbies, sports, Netflix binging, etc. a quality presence is required.

The concept of struggling to find that happy balance between work and life is not new. Talking about it and labelling it as a ‘thing’ is new. If our society strongly advocates mental health, well, struggling to find a work-life balance is a mental health issue, is it not? How happy is a person that cannot find a work-life balance and no matter if they perform at a high level within their job description, it's still not ‘good enough’? The employee that does their job with impeccable skill and therefore can handle more and more tasks and is constantly given more to do. That can be viewed as a compliment up to a certain point. As time was halted with the pandemic, the people in these situations or similar scenarios gained an opportunity to reflect. They got a taste of a better balance and liked it and are talking more openly about it. That is self-reflection! Recognizing the need for change and defining parameters in one’s life is both personal and professional growth. The person who does not have a work-life balance and is running full speed on the hamster wheel is allowing to be defined by their work. We are ALL MUCH more than what we do for a living. A silver lining of halting time is finding yourself.

Quiet quitting places barriers to balance life and work. The barriers prevent the scales from tipping too far in one direction. Establishing such a system of control in one’s life ensures positive mental health. What are some examples of quiet quitting barriers?


Examples Of Quiet Quitting In Dentistry – Setting Healthy Work Boundaries


Declining

Declining projects based on time and interest. If assigned a task and there is no time left ‘that’ day, then the person states it will be completed and offers a reasonable timeline. If assigned a task that is not allocated the proper amount of time is another example. Many people are also declining projects based on their level of interest. If it is not stimulating, hand it to someone else who will find it exciting. A good example in dental offices is the IPAC Officer. If the IPAC Officer job is voluntold to a CDA or RDH that already has a busy day, when is this person expected to perform this additional job? In the case of the IPAC Officer, the job would need to be given scheduled time and monetary renumeration. It also includes sending the IPAC Officer for IPAC continuing education where again the time and compensation are considered. I personally have seen many qualified CDA’s and RDH’s declining the role of the IPAC Officer and/or Health and Safety Representative due to no time and no money being offered. How about declining the addition of an extra client at the end of the day or anywhere in the schedule that is already jammed pack? How about declining the shortening of appointments because it will result in not having a lunch or the one-hour lunch being reduced to 20 mins! There are many examples in dental offices for WHY declining is an element of quiet quitting.


Unplugging

Put away ALL work-related electronics when you are not working and are not at work! Lately, we have all seen many emails being auto-answered stating the person being emailed will respond during their set working hours and will continue to share those working hours/days. Many geographical areas have moved legislation policies forward to protect employees from any repercussions if they do not answer work correspondence on their days off, evenings, holidays, etc. Unplugging does not need a specific dental industry example as it is very self-explanatory. What could be stated along the lines of an example in dental offices is the proper use of staff meetings and morning team huddles to prevent the office manager and/or owner from needing to send an email to the team on an evening or weekend and then be frustrated the team did not read it and respond. Unplugging includes realistic practice management values.


Re-Prioritizing

For longevity in any profession there must be a work-life balance. Re-prioritizing means the possibility of changing jobs even if the pay scale is lower, changing jobs to a different position with less stress, reducing days worked, altering start and stop times, structuring work-from-home days, early retirement, leaving toxic work cultures, etc. In the last few years, there are more discussions about negative vs positive work cultures and how the tolerance for the poor behaviours associated with negative work cultures are simply not being tolerated. The labour shortage is also a great conversation point as perhaps the labour shortage is attached to quiet quitting as an increasing number of people in society are re-prioritizing their work-life to live a better personal life. In dentistry, the labour shortage is at an ultimate high. Dental professionals are 100% re-prioritizing and have elevated their expectations towards optimal leadership and are no longer tolerating mediocre practice management. RDH's are leaving full-time jobs to ‘temp’? Why? If an RDH cannot find their true ‘dental home’ then may as well get out there and search for one. Another reason many RDH's are turning to temping is the increase in wages. If the office they are currently in has tendencies towards a toxic culture and they can walk in as a temp in an office and be appreciated and paid more, then why not! The pros and cons of temping is an article all on its own!


RELATED BLOG: Has this ever happened to You? Quiet Firing Explained


Employer’s Role in Quiet Quitting

So far quiet quitting seems to focus on the employee setting new parameters. What about the employer? What happens if an employee is quiet quitting, but the employer is ‘old school’ and does not believe quiet quitting is a ‘thing.’ Many employers still believe a ‘good’ employee is one that goes above and beyond. Stellar performance and solid work ethics are rightful expectations of any employer. That has not changed and is still expected within the employee’s job description. Quiet quitting is not about work refusals or removing the right of the employer to manage or discipline if required. The employer-employee relationship must still be mutually respected. Quiet quitting cannot be used by the employee to perform to a lesser degree or to take advantage of the employer.


In Conclusion

Quiet quitting is about setting healthy barriers to well-defined job descriptions with supportive leadership from management. From the previous paragraph, the word ‘mutual’ sums up the quiet quitting discussion. When a job description, behaviours, ethics, time management, and compensation have been transparent, well established and mutually agreed upon there is no issue! If the job description changes then back to the drawing board for both the employer and employee and re-define the changes so both parties are happy and respectful. A ‘good leader’ that takes care of their team has already put quiet quitting elements into practice way before it was called quiet quitting. A ‘good leader’ offers strategies for their team to have a work-life balance because they want the team member to be excited while driving to work Monday morning. It's simple really, both the employer and employee deserve a work-life balance which dominos to good performance from the employee and good leadership from the manager. The end result, both are happy driving to work Monday morning!



Resources

  1. LinkedIn News. Yessi Bello Perez, Editor at LinkedIn News. https://www.linkedin.com/news/story/what-is-quiet-quitting-4887785/.
  2. Simon Sinek. Leaders Eat Last. Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t? 2017. Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

Michelle Aubé (Simmonds) RDH, maxill Dental Hygiene Educator

Michelle is a Dental Hygiene Speaker, Consultant and Educator with over 21 years of experience as a RDH and 4 years as a CDA. She has written dental hygiene articles for CDHA’s OH Canada professional publication and continues to practice clinically and teaches both clinical dental hygiene and practice management at Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario. She has served on the Discipline Committee at Algonquin College and held the position of a CDHO Quality Assurance Assessor for 7 years.