Canadian Underwriter

‘Quiet quitting.’ Are your brokers at risk?

August 9, 2022   by Jason Contant

A young businesswoman using a laptop and looking stressed out

Print this page Share

High stress is one reason a broker might choose to leave the industry, but employers should be aware of another phenomenon affecting the broader working community today – ‘quiet quitting.’

Quiet quitting is silent withdrawal from the overbearing pressure of work, a worldwide individual response to burnout, career transition coach and job search mentor Elizabeth Houghton wrote in a LinkedIn post Monday.

With more people facing burnout in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, due in part to blurred lines between work and home, quiet quitting involves only doing as much as is required – not less, not more – in an attempt to restore work-life balance.

“Your withdrawal might be the outcome of your disinterest in the job, in which case, you need to quit your current job and look for one you enjoy doing,” Houghton wrote. “If not, let your manager know what is going on for you. Find a workaround.”

Work stress is nothing new for Canadian P&C brokers, with high stress cited as one reason a broker may decide to leave the industry, according to Canadian Underwriter’s 2022 National Broker Survey. The survey found 24% of respondents were likely or highly likely to leave the industry in the next three years, compared to 61% who said they were unlikely or highly unlikely to change careers. The remaining 15% were neutral.

Of those who indicated they’d be likely to leave the industry, some verbatim responses from brokers in the National Broker Survey included:

  • “Too much stress.”
  • “Very stressful job in this hard market.”
  • “Not enough protection for the broker against the public. Insurance is thought of worse than lawyers now. More and more, I think about what this does to my mental health and wonder if it’s worth it.”
  • “The added work of processing all changes and the inflexibility in the markets, combined with the increasing upset from clients due to COVID stresses, has greatly decreased my engagement in the industry.”
Businessman working late at night

Houghton’s LinkedIn post referenced a July 29 article on quiet quitting. In practice, the article said, quiet quitting could be saying no to projects that aren’t part of your job description or that you don’t want to do, leaving work on time, or refusing to answer emails outside of working hours.

It could even be as simple a mindset shift that’s not noticeable to anyone around you, but allows you to feel less mentally and emotionally invested in the job, wrote lifestyle and weekend editor Ellen Scott.

While quiet quitting may seem like a good way to treat burnout, if you’re at that point, it might already be too late. “It’s all too easy for burnout to creep up on you,” Scott wrote. “Once that threshold has been crossed, you will need proper mental health support and time off – put simply, at this point, quiet quitting might not be enough to help you heal.”

You may also shut yourself off from promotions and pay raises, particularly if colleagues are going above and beyond to exceed employer expectations, Scott noted in the article. And if you’ve always gone above and beyond, suddenly setting a boundary may provoke a surprise or a negative reaction from managers and colleagues.

One commenter in the LinkedIn post said he believes companies are starting to realize that empowering employees with a good work-life balance immediately benefits their productivity. “A short commute paired with a company that understands that you have a personal life and doesn’t treat you like a child when you need flexibility is THE formula for success.”

Some pointed to the struggle to achieve work-life balance, while others said they quit to escape a toxic work environment. Another said the phenomenon “sounds more like the natural lifecycle of most jobs I’ve had.”

Burnout “is literally PTSD/trauma from overwork and being powerless,” wrote another commenter. “Calling it burnout minimizes just how disruptive and damaging it is.

“We are not robots,” she wrote. “We need rest and laughter and to see how our work helps people. We need power structures that don’t grind us down as cogs in a never-ending productivity machine.”


Feature image by Yuno