Maybe you’ve heard the term “quiet quitting” in a TikTok video. Maybe you’ve seen it discussed in the news media. Maybe you’ve heard co-workers talking about it.
Or maybe you’re doing it right now.
What is quiet quitting?
Quiet quitting is perhaps not a new phenomenon, but it has recently received some very specific defining characteristics and it has gotten a lot of attention lately.
Quiet quitting is an attitude or approach to one’s employment in which workers reject the following ideas:
-My job is central to my life.
-I should take on work responsibilities even when they’re not part of my job description.
-My job should take precedence over all but the most pressing personal matters.
-I should do extra work even if I’m not compensated.
-My job is my identity.
-I must respond to work matters outside of work times.
-My job is more important than friends and family.
-I must go “above and beyond” for my employer.
As you can see, quiet quitting does not entail actually quitting a job, but it does involve scaling back, limiting the job’s importance and priority, and doing less in a workplace culture that is almost always demanding more, more, more. The concept of quiet quitting may also be referred to as “work-to-rule” (i.e., doing only what the rules of the workplace demand). Quiet quitting has also been associated with collective work actions such as the workplace slowdown, in which workers do not go on strike but limit their efforts in some way to send a message to owners or managers.
Quiet quitting can take many forms, and one can quiet-quit to varying degrees. Here are some of the hallmarks of quiet quitting:
-Maintaining strict work hours—not coming in early and not staying late.
-Flatly refusing duties, projects, or tasks that are not within one’s job description.
-Rejecting work based on personal interests (e.g., “that project does not interest me”).
-Not taking on extra shifts or responsibilities, even when the workplace is shorthanded.
-Always prioritizing family, friends, and personal matters over work.
-Rejecting work requests, calls, and e-mail outside of business hours.
-Skipping meetings, parties, or other work gatherings that are not mandatory.
Why is quiet quitting getting so much attention lately?
According to Wikipedia, the term quiet quitting was coined by economist Mark Boldger at an economics conference held at Texas A&M University in September 2009. The same sources says the term was used early on by acclaimed economist Thomas Sowell and nonfiction writer Nick Adams.
One reason quiet quitting is getting so much press recently could be that more and more people are quiet quitting. In an article by Gallup from September 2022, the organization says their data shows that as much as 50 percent of workers in the United States are currently participating in quiet quitting. Gallup suggests that this could be because the idea of quiet quitting and the articulation of how to go about it recently went viral on social media.
So, is it okay to quiet quit?
Gallup defines a quiet quitter as a worker who is “not engaged” at their job, but the predominant coverage of quiet quitting puts the practice in positive light. An NPR report from September 2022 puts it this way: “Quiet quitting isn’t about people quitting their jobs, it’s about people reevaluating their mindset toward work and how work fits into their lives.” Other sources say that quiet quitting is a great middle-path for those who are experiencing workplace burnout. In an article published by the UK news site Metro, U.S. workplace expert Charlotte Davies of LinkedIn says, “If you are getting to the point in your career where you feel that you’re putting work above everything else—at the expense of other important parts of your life—it can be incredibly demoralizing.”
And so quiet quitting is not an attempt to retaliate, punish your bosses, or refuse to celebrate office birthdays. It’s simply (as Davies says) “an attempt to bring back some balance.”
NPR cautions workers that quiet quitting “might not be for everyone,” and in similar fashion Metro’s article warns, “It might go without saying, but it’s important to consider that by quiet quitting, you likely are shutting yourself off from promotions and pay raises.”