Quiet Quitting 101

Thanks to a tight labor market, some American workers are enjoying a brief moment in the sun during which they can negotiate for a better work life. If this is not your situation, should you consider quiet quitting?

What is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting is a form of boundary setting at work. It is an explicit rejection of hustle culture. You show up on time and leave on time (according to your organization’s stated regular business hours). While at work, you do the bare minimum to address issues and move projects forward. HOWEVER, you do not go above and beyond the basics and you do not sacrifice personal time, health or comfort for the needs of your employer.

This intentional disengagement from work is a common response to overwork. Interestingly, research shows that it can be beneficial for individual employees while actually imposing minimal negative outcomes on their organizations.

According to commentators on Reddit, in too many organizations working harder does not always yield greater rewards. Instead, it results in even more work — often without additional pay. In these cases, disengagement may be a very necessary response to excessive work demands.

Companies pay their employees just enough so they won’t quit, and employees do just enough work to not get fired.

– George Carlin

Why has Quiet Quitting Become “a Thing”?

Quiet quitting is seen as a way of responding to the unfair demands at work that have spawned widespread work-related anxiety and burnout. Anxiety and burnout are symptoms of the way we have structured work. Your workplace is not a level playing field. In the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, all the power generally is in the hands of owners and managers. As a result, there are few limits on what an employer can demand from their employees.

Further, the compounding effect of multiple waves of “right-sizing” and ineffective outsourcing, followed by the Great Resignation and near record-low unemployment rates, means that some of us are doing the work of two, three, or more people. And this has been our reality since the global financial crisis in 2008.

Is it any wonder people want something better?

While your employer may be making some helpful changes regarding “workplace amenities,” in response to the growing economy and tight labor market, not enough employers are fundamentally restructuring work to create a healthier and more equitable situation for their employees. So people take matters into their own hands.

Lisa, if you don’t like your job you don’t strike, you just go in every day and do it really half-assed – that’s the American way.

— Homer Simpson

Is Quiet Quitting an Option for You?

Quiet quitting can be a short-term solution to buy you some time and space to reduce the pressure, reconnect with your personal values, and then job hunt for a new role and organization that align better with your values and needs. The key is to deliberately use the time and energy you gain from quiet quitting to create a better situation for yourself.

When is Quiet Quitting Too Much?

Treat quiet quitting like a ventilator: it’s fine for emergency treatment but, as we’ve discovered during the Covid-19 pandemic, long-term ventilator use can cause significant problems.

As long as you are making meaningful progress toward clarifying your values and finding a better job, there is some utility in quiet quitting. However, once you slip from useful boundary setting into apathy and cynicism, you’ll find you lack the energy and commitment to move and change. Then quiet quitting has gone too far.

What About You?

What’s your experience with quiet quitting? Would you recommend it to others?

Additional Resources

[Photo Credit: Mayar Zidan]

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