What To Know About The Quiet Quitting Phenomenon

In the wake of COVID-19 and the Great Resignation, job markets have been in upheaval. For instance, March 2022 saw record-breaking job postings and employee movement as workers sought greener pastures (via The Washington Post). Meanwhile, businesses face widespread staff shortages and are putting increased pressure and workload on workers. Even as many people extoll the importance of work-life balance, others are struggling to keep their sanity in the midst of overwhelming job responsibilities.

This can't all be blamed on the pandemic. A culture of overwork has been a long time in the making, and workers' rights proponents have been suggesting solutions for decades. One popular suggestion to switch from a five-day to four-day workweek has even spawned an international movement called 4 Day Week Global. But while the landmark test of a four-day workweek in Iceland was heralded as a success and showed no dip in overall productivity (via CNN), most employers aren't leaping at the chance to follow suit. Instead, workers report an average of 9.2 hours of unpaid overtime a week, with one in 10 reporting over 20 unpaid hours (via the BBC).

So, what's an employee to do when facing workplace stress and burnout, other than find a new job or grin and bear it? Now, a third option known as quiet quitting has captured international attention. As this trend gathers steam, here's what you need to know about the quiet quitting phenomenon.

What is quiet quitting?

Don't be fooled by the name; quiet quitting isn't about actually leaving your job. On the contrary, it's being touted as a way to set boundaries and protect your mental health in the position you already have. The idea? Stop overachieving. Don't stay late, take on responsibilities outside your job description, or attend extracurricular work events. Simply do the job you're paid for and then leave (via NPR). It's not exactly a new trend — there have always been employees skating by doing the bare minimum — but it is taking on a new life in the current work climate.

The actual term "quiet quitting" seems to have been popularized thanks to TikTok content, particularly in a viral video by user @zaidleppelin (previously @zkchillin). In the video, his voiceover explains, "You're not outright quitting your job, but you're quitting the idea of going above and beyond. 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." This sentiment seems to resonate with current employee disengagement and dissatisfaction. In fact, at the time of this writing, the original TikTok video has over 41,000 shares. But what exactly makes quiet quitting such an attractive approach for employees, especially right now?

Why quiet quitting is catching fire

A survey conducted by Asana found that 82% of respondents felt overworked (via Small Business Trends). And while it's true that many companies are struggling with thin staffing, some critics point the blame directly at leadership. "I don't think quiet quitting would be a phrase or something that we're talking about if we didn't have a widespread problem with corporate cultures of overwork, underappreciation, and frankly distant or ineffective managers and leaders," Liz Gross, founder and CEO of Campus Sonar, tells Insider.

Some quiet quitters are also frustrated that they have increased responsibilities without increased pay, or that they've been offered no chance for advancement despite good work performance. After all, if there's no reward for going the extra mile, why should employees care? "A lot of talk about 'quiet quitting' but very little talk about 'quiet firing,' which is when you don't give someone a raise in five years even though they keep doing everything you ask them to," software developer Randy Miller addresses the point in a comment on Twitter (via NewsNation).

But there may be downsides to quiet quitting, depending on your work situation. As career coach Kelsey Wat says to CNBC, "Quiet quitting removes any emotional investment you might have from your work, which is sad given the fact that most of us spend so much of our time at work. Most of us want to be proud of the work we do and the contributions we make. We want to see our impact and feel good about it. Quiet quitting doesn't allow for that." So, when it comes to quiet quitting, there may be a balancing act to ensure you're setting appropriate work boundaries without disengaging from your career entirely.