Quiet quitting is a term that took off on TikTok, in July, in a video by content creator Zaiad Khan. In the video, which currently has 3.5 million views and with the sound of a piano playing a ragtime-style tune and summertime shots of New York City flashing across the screen, Khan narrates a 17-second video that has introduced millions of people to a new name for a not so new idea.
“I recently learned about this term called “quiet quitting,” where you’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond,” Khan says. “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.”
Quiet quitting, in other words, is not really about quitting. It’s more like a philosophy for doing the bare minimum at your job. Instead, it has been deemed a response to hustle culture and burnout; employees are “quitting” going above and beyond, and declining to do tasks they are not being paid for.
Millennials and Gen Z are quiet quitting which involves completing your work responsibilities without going above and beyond. This looks like logging out at 5 p.m., not seeking additional tasks or projects, and taking regular time off. However, despite their reputation for laziness and entitlement, studies show Millennials and Gen Z are working hard, just maybe not in the traditional ways. Bank of America did a survey and found that 56% of Millennials and 62% of Gen Z had a side hustle.
The generational component is that Millennials and Gen Z are prioritizing a greater work-life balance than previous generations. At the same time, they worry about finances. 45% of Gen Z and 47% of Millennials live paycheck to paycheck, and 43% of Gen Z and 33% of Millennials have taken a part-time or full-time job in addition to their primary job. That could explain the reasoning behind younger generations’ unwillingness to take on what they see as unpaid labor. That, combined with looming layoffs, could also explain the hesitance with putting all of one’s eggs in the same basket.
Ed Zitron, who runs a media consulting business for tech startups and publishes the labor-focused newsletter “Where’s Your Ed At?” believes the term stems from companies exploiting their employees’ labor and how these businesses benefit from a culture of overwork without additional compensation. “If you want people to go ‘above and beyond,’ compensate them for it. Pay them for the extra work.”
Dr. Tega Edwin, career coach and founder of “Her Career Doctor,” explained that the impulse to quiet quit comes from “people realizing that they have been doing above and beyond without the pay to match, without the rewards to match. And they realize that it doesn’t make a difference,”
According to a Gallup survey, around half of the U.S. workforce is already quiet quitting, with work engagement dropping in the second quarter of 2022. For some, it is a form of rebellion and for others, it is an odd term to describe something they’ve done for decades.
Quiet quitters say it’s not about laziness or not wanting to work, but rather, no longer tolerating being taken advantage of, which is a big issue for women, who are chronically undervalued and underpaid for their work.
Workplace culture has gone through many changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the “Great Resignation.” Quiet quitting is in line with a larger reevaluation of how work fits into our lives and not the other way around. As Gen Z is entering the workforce, the idea of quiet quitting has gained traction as Gen Zers deal with burnout and never-ending demands.
However, Gen Z is not the first generation to experience burnout, and quiet quitting is not a new idea. Employers benefit financially from workers doing extra work without compensation and it is reasonable for employees to push back against that. How do they push back? Look at the fight Amazon, Starbucks, and Apple are having to unionize. Extra work without compensation and burnout is at the top of the list.
HOW CAN COMPANIES ADDRESS QUIET QUITTING
Ed Zitron has one simple message to employers that are dealing with workers who may be exhibiting signs of quiet quitting, pay them for extra work.
In an NPR article, critics of this term say that quiet quitting is a misnomer for setting boundaries at work and having a healthy work-life balance. They also argue that this term highlights how many companies exploit employees and set an expectation of overperformance without adequate compensation.
The “Great Resignation” was reportedly driven by low or stagnant wages, high cost of living, health concerns relating to the pandemic, and a desire for remote work. Not to mention burnout.
With this in mind, employers should see quiet quitting as an opportunity to improve their workplace culture. The fact: Employees are quiet quitting as a result of a poor workplace environment, and there’s data to support this.
A workplace study by HBR (Harvard Business Review) states that quiet quitting is a reflection of “bad bosses” rather than employees’ unwillingness to go the extra mile. Their researchers found that managers who ranked highest in balancing business needs with employees’ needs had the highest percentage of employees willing to go the extra mile, 62% to be exact with only 3% quiet quitting.
This is a stark contrast to the managers who ranked the lowest in the category only having 20% of their employees willing to go the extra mile and 14% quiet quitting.
An employee who receives adequate support from their manager and is given growth opportunities, and is rewarded for their work will be motivated to perform at the highest level.
It’s up to employers to create the environment in which that happens. The more engagement managers build with their teams, the lower the likelihood of quiet quitting.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE A QUIET QUITTER?
Dr. Edwin states, “If this is a movement that lasts for long, if we see more and more people quiet quitting, the impact is that employers will realize that they’ve been taking advantage of their employees. They’ll start to see how one person has been doing five people’s jobs, how one person has been doing three people’s jobs, and then they would have to reckon with either, ‘Are we going to hire more quality people? Or are we going to start getting people promotions and giving them the pay to go with the promotions?’”
Studies have shown that consistently disengaged workers mean a decrease in revenue and it means an increase in expenses. A Gallup report found that disengaged workers result in $7.8 trillion worth of productivity loss globally.
If you have a quiet quitter on your team realize it’s likely due to a lack of trust between you and your employee. Create an action plan together on how to meet their goals and their needs. Set up a check-in schedule where you can discuss progress, obstacles, and opportunities. Be consistent and reliable. Lastly, treat your employees like people. In most cases, a quiet quitter is simply an employee who doesn’t have the right support. And even though it’s trending, the concept is nothing new. TikTok just gave it a fun little name.