Social Media is ablaze with the term, blogs posts are being written about it by respected institutions and the news media is awash with stories around it. But what exactly is Quiet Quitting? And what does it mean for you as a person, and your career in general? Today we take a look at the TikTok trend – turned – wellbeing motif and try to separate what’s helpful, and what’s not.
What is Quiet Quitting?
Quite simply, Quiet Quitting is performing only your required work duties and no more, rather than going above and beyond, taking on extra work and staying at the office longer or working outside of your core hours and answering emails at the weekends.
Or as the World Economic Forum puts it:
‘Quiet quitting doesn’t mean actually quitting your job. It just means doing what’s required and then getting on with your life – having more work-life balance.’
The term is mostly associated with Gen-Z workers, who seem to be most impacted, but actually has a lot of buy-in from both Gen-X and Gen-Y employees – many of whom have children to care for. And in real terms, it simply means sticking to your core hours.
Why is it trending?
According to a new survey by Gallup, Quiet Quitters currently make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce, and they suspect this is a conservative figure.
‘The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is now 1.8 to 1, the lowest in almost a decade.’
Gallup says the downward trend in engagement started in the second half of 2021 and aligned with job resignations, especially at the manager level. Further analysis, they say, identified the root cause as a lack of connection between what employers expect and what employees are looking for in their jobs – clear role expectations, development, a clear mission/vision and employee wellbeing initiatives.
Related to the Great Resignation, we can see pandemic burnout and poor management at the heart of the issue. According to research conducted by the Harvard Business Review, three out of four cases of Quiet Quitting happened in companies with inefficient management, while 62% of employees were willing to go the extra mile for managers managed balanced work outcomes with employee relationships.
Are there benefits?
According to the (generally liberal-leaning) news media, with titles such as How quiet quitters gain from doing just enough work and …quiet quitting helped her choose a more fulfilling path, you could easily assume this is a new, self-driven wellbeing trend we should all be following.
It’s certainly true that imposing boundaries on your workday can be beneficial in reducing stress, helping to separate your work and personal time, allowing you more time for side projects and in improving overall mental wellbeing – something that, traditionally, workers and managers in Malaysia and Singapore have not been good at.
The fact that it has become a trend points to that a culture where you are expected to do much more than your job description, with cynical managers taking advantage of junior employees who want to climb the company ladder.
Maria Kordowicz, PhD, associate professor in organisational behaviour at the University of Nottingham, argues in VeryWellMind that Quiet Quitting is a conscious effort by employees to uphold their wellbeing in the way they work, become more boundaried and to understand developmental needs rather than risk burnout through working long hours or defining themselves simply through work.
So, this can be seen as a move away from accepting management’s abuse of time and instead working towards better, stricter time management and realistic expectations.
However, if you look at any of these case studies from people who successfully Quiet-Quit, then you’ll see they all changed their jobs, or took on more work as a side project.
So, it can be seen as simply quitting your job, just over a more carefully managed, longer period. All of these anecdotes feature someone with a desire to do something different.
“I want to do a job that I don't mind waking up to,” says Elaine Lee, in a very long-titled Business Insider article. In other words, she wanted a new job.
“It felt like I was giving the power back to myself,” says Georgina, in a BBC piece. ‘Georgia eventually left her job’.
Emma, in the same article, says "I felt empowered and motivated because I had mentally checked out of that job a few weeks before." And again, ‘Emma quiet quit her job for a year before recently deciding to move on’.
This has led some commentators, such as Derek Thopmson writing for The Atlantic, so declare Quiet Quitting as fake trend:
‘What people are now calling “quiet quitting” was, in previous decades, simply known as “having a job.”’
Are you actually being fired?
There’s a counter-argument that what many people see as proactively quiet-quitting is actually a passive, and desired, response to what some have termed Quiet Firing.
According to Johnathan Small, writing in Entrepreneur magazine, Quiet Firing is when employers intentionally treat you badly so that you will leave. They want you to exit but don’t have the courage to do it themselves, or don’t want all the hassle that comes along with terminating an employee.
Examples of Quiet Firing tactics can include going years without a raise or promotion, shifting you onto tasks that require less experience, or a deliberate withdrawal of development and leadership opportunities. And of course, these tactics have been used by employers for many years now, it’s not a new phenomenon and has undoubtedly grown in tandem with the increased legislation and legal hoops around letting employees go.
While Quiet Quitting may help you to organise you work/life balance better, that are many pitfalls that can impact your career. Problems arise because most jobs today require some level of extra effort to collaborate with co-workers and meet customer needs. And, for many companies, a workforce that is willing to go above and beyond is a critical competitive advantage.
If Quiet Quitting leads to disengagement, those employees can easily become complacent and not work hard to advance careers or develop skills. A lack of motivation and willingness to be flexible can negatively impact their teams. As HBR’s Anthony Klotz and Mark Bolina point out:
‘…It’s hardly surprising that many leaders have reacted quite negatively to the quiet quitting trend. Indeed, many leaders we’ve spoken with have argued that losing employees who want to leave is difficult, but having them not quit is even worse, as their unwillingness to go the extra mile often increases the burden on their colleagues to take on extra work instead.’
And on a personal level, rather than giving you the time and motivation to pursue your passions, Quiet Quitting can instead lead to dissatisfaction, stripping away your emotional investment in your place of work and cause you to miss learning and development opportunities. And who’s to say that your side projects are going to work out?
Should you Quiet Quit?
Our advice is actually pretty simple. By all means set boundaries and organise your work/life balance better – but look at ways to work smarter instead of harder. There’s usually no reason you can’t excel in your job in the given working hours. This is a matter of self-discipline and focus. Seek time management training, for example.
If you’re being over-stretched in your job, raise this with managers and colleagues so that action can be taken to solve those issues.
And if all else fails, then look at ways to move on. Don’t just drag yourself and your colleagues down with your disengagement. Instead, pick up the phone and chat to one of us here at Ellwood Consulting to discuss what options you might have. We’re always here to help.