Present, but not really there: Those who resign inwardly only do what is really necessary in their working life. But that doesn't really make it any happier. Is there a way out?
What has been trending in social media for a few months as a call for "quiet quitting" is known in Germany as "working to rule" or "internal termination". Instead of giving everything for the employer, employees only do what is absolutely necessary. Julia Hapkemeyer, psychologist and managing partner at the EO Institute, describes the inner resignation as "a work attitude in which I have consciously decided that I will take my commitment back".
The condition is usually preceded by a period of demonstrating readiness and commitment. But then there is a quasi breach of contract regarding the expectations of the employee and employer of the working relationship.
According to Hapkemeyer, if the commitment of an employee is not appreciated, this results in internal dismissal. This is often accompanied by withdrawing from colleagues. "If my unspoken expectations of my employer aren't being met, I want to make justice by working to the rule."
According to Jannike Stöhr, possible triggers include disappointments - such as not being promoted or being transferred despite good performance. The former human resources manager, who now works as a careers consultant, gives another example: You come back after parental leave and are no longer given adequate tasks. "People want to do a good job, but if it is always thwarted, it can lead to internal resignation."
Structural reasons can also play a role. "Reductions in staff, a limited area of responsibility, permanently unclear structures and areas of responsibility, constant under- or overstraining," enumerates Hapkemeyer.
In the same way, the state of "too much to do but not enough room for decision-making" can trigger the inner rupture. "If my manager then doesn't take me seriously in a personal conversation, for example, this can lead to a state of inner resignation," says the organizational consultant. The problem with the internal resignation: The dissatisfaction usually remains.
Your own constitution also suffers. "When I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, I don't feel any joy or even anger anymore. Beforehand, my own energy dwindles," says Jannike Stöhr, describing the effects.
But is there a way that leads back from the emptiness inside? Hapkemeyer proposes a new approach to work. "A cognitive reassessment can help me accept how it is and decide to stay." Anyone who experiences permanent stress or dissatisfaction can also go to an external contact point for advice.
Stöhr advises questioning your own patterns and becoming clear about how you can influence the situation to improve. Answering the questions "Why am I here? What's good about it? What do I want?" can continue. An "awareness of one's own path" usually has a positive effect.
The supervisor can offer the best support in finding a way out of the situation. However, since the troubled relationship with the boss is often the trigger of the crisis, it is also possible to go to the HR department or the works council.
According to Stöhr, mediation can also lead to improvement. "If necessary, a change of department or a new task can also help the individual person," says Hapkemeyer. If the state of internal resignation persists, employees will eventually have to explore their own options. "Changing jobs isn't always the best option. If it's just aspects that bother me, it makes sense to start a conversation and make it clear how urgent it is to change something," says Stöhr.
According to Hapkemeyer, the question of one's own health is also important: Where depressive moods are already appearing, a job change or external advice should be considered if possible. Basically, it is otherwise difficult to return to full motivation from the state of inner resignation. "Maybe you can compare it to a relationship that you've already checked off internally," says Stöhr. It might still be possible to fix that, but it's still difficult.
(This article was first published on Sunday, November 27, 2022.)