“Quiet quitting” is a concept that’s existed for years, but recently gone viral on TikTok. “I wish it was called something different because you’re not quitting, you’re taking care of yourself,” career coach Allison Peck tells 11Alive. “People aren’t going above and beyond,” she says in regards to the viral “quiet quitting” phenomenon. “They’re not bending over backward for their employers anymore and sacrificing their mental and physical health—they’re doing what they’re getting paid for, they’re doing what’s required.”
- Quiet quitting and actually quitting are two different things.
- Quiet quitting is a direct response to hustle culture.
- This mindset influences employees under 35 the most.
- 18% of U.S. employees are actively disengaged; most are managers.
- Quiet firing is not the solution to quiet quitting.
According to a Gallup study, an estimated 50% of the U.S. workforce is quiet quitting. Gen Z and millennial employees have been amongst the most vocal about their quiet quitting. According to Gallup, employees under 35 have dropped the most in engagement between 2019 and today. Of those employees, managers experienced the greatest decline in engagement.
Senior U.S. economist Jonathan Millar shares: “We do think that quiet quitting is part of the Great Resignation story. So it fits into the general story of having a high level of quits . . . and certainly a very tight labor market . . . it makes a lot of sense that workers may not be willing to work as hard as they have in the past because it’s very easy to get alternative employment.”
Some believe quiet quitting is simply enjoying life to the fullest and not letting work consume more time than necessary. Others think it’s an off-shoot component of the Great Resignation. It could be a mix of both. Or could it be symptomatic of a larger negative shift within the workplace hinting at an eroded connection between employees and their employers?
Keep reading to learn more about what quiet quitting is, why it occurs, and what to do about it.
What Is “Quiet Quitting”?
Quiet quitting describes when an employee stops performing duties outside their job description or day-to-day expectations. To achieve optimal work-life balance, quiet quitters set firm boundaries and quit doing any tasks or efforts they’re not paid to do. Contrary to what the name implies, quiet quitting does not involve quitting one’s job. Additionally, it requires no formal notice or letter unlike what is standard for formally quitting a job.
Zaid Khan, known as “Zaidleppelin” on TikTok, explains: “You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is, it’s not. And your worth as a person is not defined by your labor.”
Cari Anne Cashon, a self-proclaimed burnt-out millennial and creator of the I Cry at Work podcast, shares her view on quiet quitting. “Someone, somewhere, decided to come up with the term ‘quiet quitting’ to describe someone doing the job they’re paid to do. If this is confusing to you, welcome to the club,” she says, revealing one of the sources behind quiet quitting.
What Quiet Quitting Is vs. What It Is Not
“I didn’t volunteer for committees. I didn’t stay late and do extra. I just taught my classes, and I was a good teacher.”maggie perkins
At first, quiet quitting may look like a passive-aggressive response to work burnout or general job dissatisfaction. However, while some quiet quitting employees may be expressly burnt out or dissatisfied, others may not be. Some quiet quitters may be content with their jobs—they’re just not willing to give more time and energy to their work than what is required.
While the viewpoint can vary, depending on who is asked, there are a few generally shared agreements on what quiet quitting is and what it is not.
Signs of Quiet Quitting
- Not responding to calls or messages after work hours
- Leaving work or signing off precisely when your shift is over
- Withdrawing from a team or self-isolating
- Withholding input, ideas, and feedback
- Communicating with team members and leadership only when required
- Showing low motivation and drive at work
What Quiet Quitting Isn’t
- Actually quitting
- Non-compliance with one’s stated role
- Failing to show up at work
- Refusal to work at all
Why Are Employees Quiet Quitting?
“Covid was the ultimate reset. Covid was that moment where people started to ask a bigger question, ‘What do I want from my life? Do I want to continue working the way that I have?’ […] So I think all of these things are coming in stages. And I think quiet quitting is just the trend that’s come as a result of the ultimate reset, which is Covid,” shares Jason Greer, CEO of Greer Consulting.
After the pandemic, the number of people leaving their jobs in search of new ones grew to record levels. This phenomenon known as the Great Resignation continues. For example, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) 4.2 million workers quit their jobs this past June alone.
Yet, fully quitting isn’t an option for everyone. As the pandemic implored many to reevaluate their passions, interests, and priorities, it doesn’t mean that everyone has had an equal opportunity to pursue those things. “Quiet quitting” is a solution for those idling in that in-between stage.
Julia Pollak, a chief economist at ZipRecruiter, also explains in an NPR article that layoffs are now at a record low, so employees’ sense of job security is greater than ever. Therefore, she says:
“The consequences of being found to shirk have become much smaller. One, because companies can’t afford to fire people. And two, because there are so many alternatives out there, if you do lose your job.”
Jaya Dass, a managing director for Randstad, offers another point of view. In an interview with CNBC, Dass shares that quiet quitting “could come from this general sense of hopelessness . . . with what’s happening with inflation or the cost of living [.]”
What’s the Goal of Quiet Quitting?
For many employers, the days of employees voluntarily working long hours or putting in extra may be numbered. As more employees are embracing some of the freedoms, activities, and passions they discovered during the pandemic, maintaining work-life balance is now a top priority.
“People are tired, and they’re really just realizing that they can do their job, do it competently, work 9 to 5, or whatever their boss asks them to do, and no more,” explains CNN’s Allison Morrow. “At the end of the day, it’s kind of just work-life balance. Setting up boundaries and saying I’m going to work these hours, I’m gonna do this amount of work, and then I’m done.”
Top Things Quiet Quitters Desire
- More time with their friends and family
- More time to focus on non-work activities
- Fair expectations to do what they were hired to do
- An employer who respects and encourages work-life balance
- Raises or bonuses for additional work outside the duties in their work contract
What Are the Cons of Long-Term Quiet Quitting?
“Quiet quitting removes any emotional investment you might have from your work.”Kelsey wat
Most employees spend at least 30–40 hours each week mentally or physically at work. That’s a lot of time, especially if you’re spending most of that time wishing you were doing something else or not celebrating your efforts’ success. With this mentality, your overall satisfaction with life will suffer.
Former President of the American Psychological Association Dr. Martin Seligman highlighted five key components, called the PERMA model, for fostering happiness.
These components directly correlate with one’s health, vitality, job satisfaction, and life satisfaction:
- Positive emotion
Dr. Seligman shares that “Positive psychology is not a happy-ology; it’s about engagement as well . . . flow occurs, learning occurs, in the classroom and elsewhere when your highest strengths are just matched the highest challenges that come your way.”
When you’re not being challenged or exercising new strengths, you don’t achieve a flow state, which is necessary for feeling generally satisfied, connected, and purposeful.
Other Potential Downsides of Long-Term Quiet Quitting
- Growing inability to work with others
- Underdevelopment of professional skills
- Total emotional disengagement from one’s work
- Getting fired or “quiet fired” before having a backup plan
- Encouraging a lack of communication, which leads to other issues
- Conflicting with employees for feelings of not “pulling your weight”
5 Things Employees Can Do Instead of Quiet Quitting
1. Directly Address Problems With Your Boss
A good way to maintain work-life balance and cultivate a healthy team culture is by practicing assertive communication. Assertive communication is when you address any problems or concerns that you have with your boss directly before letting them fester into bigger issues. Communicating assertively doesn’t mean being rude or abrasive, either. Approach your manager kindly and openly, and express your expectations.
Five tips for communicating assertively:
- Communicate expectations and boundaries upfront, don’t wait until a problem arises.
- Be aware of your tone and body language.
- Give thought to what you want to say before you say it.
- Focus on first-person communication, using “I” terms instead of “you.”
- Ask questions, and don’t assume.
2. Set and Communicate Clear Boundaries
Being assertive and upfront with personal boundaries is another strong alternative to quiet quitting, both for managers and for employees. Setting boundaries not only reduces the potential for confusion or frustration but also allows for optimal team efficiency. This is because when we understand where someone stands, we’re better able to pivot and optimize our own efforts.
In Set Boundaries, Find Peace, author Nedra Glover Tawwab explains, “The hardest thing about implementing boundaries is accepting that some people won’t like, understand, or agree with yours. Once you grow beyond pleasing others, setting your standards becomes easier. Not being liked by everyone is a small consequence when you consider the overall reward of healthier relationships.”
Tips from Dr. Vara Saripalli at PsychCentral for setting healthy work boundaries:
- Use your actions and behaviors to establish your reputation at work.
- Avoid making assumptions and be direct about your needs.
- Have a plan for when boundaries are crossed.
- Demonstrate confidence by responding to communication in a timely manner.
If the concept of setting and communicating boundaries to foster healthier relationships causes feelings of uneasiness, consider reading “Perfectionism: Why You Have It (And How to Fix It).“
3. Use Quiet Quitting Short-Term to Evaluate Issues or Find Purpose
If you’re trying to figure out your next move and you need a little extra time to do so, quiet quitting can be an effective strategy. This strategy only becomes a problem when it’s a long-term solution for simply getting by. Instead of quiet quitting long-term, it’s better to use this time to find your purpose or your ikigai.
Questions to ask yourself to help find your purpose:
- “What do I love?”
- “What am I good at?”
- “What does the world need?”
- “What can I be paid for?”
4. Give Yourself a Deadline for Positive Change
If you’ve used assertive communication and set clear boundaries at work, and you still don’t see any positive changes, it may be time to find a new job. Give yourself a deadline representing the amount of time you’re willing to wait for change to happen. If change doesn’t happen by that deadline, honor yourself and your boundaries by looking elsewhere.
5. Quit Entirely and Find a New Job
When levels of job dissatisfaction have become irreparable, employees may choose to formally quit their job and dissolve all expectations with the employer. A 2021 Pew Research Center study found that feelings of disrespect, low pay, and a lack of advancement opportunities were among the chief reasons many quit their jobs last year.
If your team or leadership has dismissed your needs, or your personal goals are no longer in alignment with your company’s goals, it’s time to quit fully and find a new job. This is a better option than becoming a “loud quitter.” Jim Harter with Gallup describes loud quitters as “actively disengaged employees” who “tend to have most of their workplace needs unmet and spread their dissatisfaction.” Loud quitters make up 18% of the U.S. workforce and have been “the most vocal in TikTok posts,” says Harter. Nevertheless, quitting a job is something a person should consider carefully.
Flexjobs offers some questions to ask yourself before formally quitting:
- “What is my biggest concern with my current employer or job?”
- “Will I be content doing the same job for a different employer?”
- “How long have I felt this way?”
- “Am I at the wrong company or in the wrong career?”
If another job is lined up, and the benefits of leaving outweigh the benefits of staying, then an employee should offer their two weeks’ notice to the employer.
For more signs that it’s time prepare for finding a new job, read “Should I Quit My Job? 7 Reasons to Start Looking for a New Role.”
How to Prevent Quiet Quitting
“The overall decline was especially related to clarity of expectations, opportunities to learn and grow, feeling cared about, and a connection to the organization’s mission or purpose.”Jim Harter
Quiet quitting is a call for work reform and reconnection, which starts at the top. Senior leadership must reassess how to manage in this new era. For example, this looks like learning how to detect quiet quitting once it starts, training managers to identify and mitigate it, and recognizing that poor corporate culture is often to blame.
To handle quiet quitting, Gallup suggests:
- Re-skilling managers to be able to connect and communicate effectively with employees.
- Implementing 15- to 30-minute weekly conversations between managers and employees.
- Communicating to employees how their work contributes to the company mission.
- Creating a process of accountability for individual and team performance.
If quiet quitting is occurring in your workplace, continue exploring how to strengthen your team connection by reading “Does Your Business Have the Right Organizational Culture?”
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