Quiet quitting is a recent work culture buzzword that has taken the internet by storm and is going viral on TikTok. It has caused quite a commotion between millennials and Gen Z alike with each one having their own interpretation of the term. While some believe it’s a measure to protect their mental health, others strongly oppose it saying it negates the essence of work culture as we know it.
What is quiet quitting?
Contrary to what the term sounds like, quiet quitting does not mean quitting your job. It means quitting the hustle culture of going beyond your job description and instead, strictly sticking to the responsibilities assigned to your title. Quiet quitting employees tend to refuse to take up additional tasks, choose not to reply to work emails/calls outside work hours, reduce their contribution to team projects, show less enthusiasm at work, and clock in fewer hours at the office.
How did the quiet quitting concept begin?
In July 2022, an engineer named Zaid Khan posted a video about “quiet quitting” on TikTok, which started quite an uproar as many influencers followed the trend making it go viral with hashtags like #quietquitting, #quitting, and #quietting. Quiet quitting was also adapted in China in April 2021, and was termed “Tang Ping” which translates to lying flat and represents their silent protest to overwork. Even though the trend became viral this year, quiet quitting work has existed for several decades. The term is believed to have been coined in the year 2009 by economist Mark Boldger and has continued to be in use by others since. Quiet quitting your job used to be termed as coasting or work-to-rule earlier than that, where employees would not go beyond the tasks mentioned in the contracts and refuse to do any other work beyond it.
While there are mixed interpretations and opinions about quietly quitting your job, the trend throws light on how quiet quitting is a call for workplace change.
The re-emergence of quiet quitting is mainly associated with the changes that COVID-19 has brought about. The pandemic has had a tremendous impact on work culture as we know it. With options like work from home and hybrid working, people have started to spend more time with their families or on their interests and have redefined their work-life balance. On the other hand, employees are also facing burnout due to reduced team sizes and increased responsibilities. The quiet quitting boundaries are meant to be a solution to avoid burnout, which in turn has an impact on the mental health as well as the physical health of employees.
The Great Resignation
According to the US Labor Department, nearly 4.5 billion people quit their jobs in the month of November 2021 and a total of 75.5 billion people quit their jobs during the entire year. The rate of resignation had already dropped drastically in the year 2020, during the pandemic due to coronavirus scares. The dramatic downfall is a result of several influencing factors like the adaptation to changes in working styles during the pandemic, lack of organizational support and reorganization, failure in recognizing good employees, burnout, and volatile changes in the workflow that could make the work environment toxic. Organizations are still learning to recover from the Great Resignation through precautionary measures like strengthening work relationships, offering employee benefits and flexibility, and showing progress and growth in the organization. People with financial stability or better opportunities who could risk quitting their jobs quit during the Great Resignation. Those who couldn’t, faced severe dissatisfaction and burnout and ended up quiet quitting their jobs. With quiet quitting and burnout going hand-in-hand, experts believe that quiet quitting is the second phase of the Great Resignation.
Difference in generations
The rates of quiet quitting engagement are noticeably higher among millennials as they are bringing in a culture shift that revolves around them with their jobs being just an aspect of life. Gen X and Gen Z however, still believe in hustle culture and a major chunk of their lives revolves around their work. This generational difference gives rise to two trains of thought. The quiet quitting generation believes that the silent rebellion of quietly quitting their work is a strategy that protects them from burnout and allows them to focus on other more important aspects of life like health, family, additional skills, interests, and more. The older generation who believes in going above and beyond their work believes that quiet quitting is a lazy approach to work, prevents employees from improving their skillset, and encourages underperformance at work.
How can businesses deal with quiet quitting?
Employees silently revolting can easily be identified through signs like not responding outside office hours, reduced productivity, absenteeism in meetings, unpunctuality, and minimal contribution to ideation and teamwork. Quiet quitting can be dealt with through simple measures that emphasize individual employee welfare:
- Improve employer-employee relationships
- Provide emotional and mental health support to employees
- Offer a reasonable hike in salary to deserving employees
- Accommodate flexible timings and remote or hybrid working options
- Offer some relief to quiet quitting burned-out workers in the form of rewards, awards, or a vacation
Quiet quitting has a balance of both pros and cons. While it allows you to reap benefits like balancing family life with work, giving free time to pursue what you actually like doing, and improving your mental health, you also have to face the downside that you may find your work less challenging and boring and lose the opportunity to learn newer things. So while quiet quitting may seem like a good idea for a brief period of burnout, it may not be as beneficial in the long run.