White Paper: Quiet Quitting
Categories: White Paper
October 11, 2022
Post-COVID Series: Re-finding Workplace Norms and Establishing New Norms
After a long, uneasy 2+ years of facing the pandemic, work is in flux. Workplaces are flustered to adapt to the expectations of employees who have lived and adjusted to unprecedented times, and while some industries came to a halt in the height of lockdown, they are now back in full swing, navigating a new normal. With change comes angst, and if the pandemic has not opened up new vulnerabilities, it has shone the flashlight on those pre-existing workplace gaps and pressures which, after so much suffering and uncertainty, seem less tolerable.
This is the third in a series of five spotlights on the experience of the worker and the employer post-pandemic, with an emphasis on mental health and wellbeing.
What’s the Hype with Quiet Quitting?
There’s a new trend—Quiet Quitting! You’ve likely seen it in news headlines and if you’ve read into what it means to be a quiet quitter, you’ve seen it from all angles—why we should ban it, endorse it, and use it to solve our growing pile of pandemic-related problems. Despite a generational divide taking shape around the new topic, quiet quitting has been going on for centuries. If we look back, there was probably a handful of cavemen who tried their hand at the quiet quit. But the definition is at the mercy of the interpreter as quiet quitting evolves in the media, so we thought we’d distil it for you. The definition of quiet quitting is not as extremist as some of the headlines; quiet quitting is not actually quitting your job but doing what it takes to get by…not more. If you are a quiet quitter, you show up, do your tasks, clock the day, and leave. But you don’t give an inch extra. So who are these quiet quitters?
The Latest Trend is a Response to Burnout: Quiet Quitting
Before we can shape our understanding of quiet quitters, we have to understand some of the reasons that they started to quiet quit in the first place. Research shows that the brain is primed for survival and it will do what it takes, inventing new ways to manage stress in the brain and body. The newest defence mechanism? Quiet quitting. The latest trend has experts asking if the buzz phenomenon is a mass defence mechanism to ward off burnout. In the last segment, we took a deep dive into burnout. Now, we’ll look at how these two workplace complaints connect.
Researcher, Emily Nagoski, says quiet quitting is quickly becoming a self-sustaining tactic, one that helps individuals avoid or get back to baseline after burnout. Burnout happens because expectations aren’t clear, goals aren’t meetable, and the demands don’t let up.The pandemic was an ideal breeding ground for these conditions, because there was little distinction between work, recreation, and social connection. If employers aren’t careful, they can take too much of their employees. When people quiet quit, they let go of all this, and it helps them restore feelings of balance.
A common association with quiet quitting is defiance or rebellion, although that’s not the case for most quiet quitters. Many are driven by a sense of defeat, the feeling that they are unable to meet their goals. This can cause frustration and despair. The turmoil we feel mounts because of our conflicting feelings. We want to have work, a salary, and a purpose. Expectations outpace our capacity, and burnout becomes inevitable. Criticism for quiet quitting is mounting, but when it comes to burnout, this structured approach to boundary setting can bring tranquillity or at least make work more bearable. Without giving up your interest or commitment to your role, how can you set boundaries - big and small - to stay several steps ahead of burnout? In the end, burnout prevention is a win-win strategy for employers and workers, but it can happen before quiet quitting feels like the only option. Learn your limits, identify your triggers, set your boundaries, and give your best on your shift without risking the backlash of burnout or turning to the quiet quit.
Ok, Who are the Quiet Quitters?
They tend to be Gen Z’s and Millennials but suspend any judgment because that may be for an understandable reason. The trend started with a TikTok from user @zaidlepplin. Zaidlepplin lays out the foundations of quiet quitting. In this video, he’s seated at a subway stop as if he might be on a commute. His tone is calm and informative. He doesn’t come across as a rebel, a cop-out, or a quitter per se. Zaidlepplin says, “you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re not subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.” For those Gen Z’s and Millennials that are engaged in or curious about quiet quitting, the movement is less a revolt and more about how, as Zaidlepplin says, “your worth as a person is not defined by your productive output.” You know what they say, it’s a straw that breaks the camel’s back, so what brought Quiet Quitters to the brink? And would Boomers have joined in if they were more regular users of TikTok?
What Was the Final Straw?
The phenomenon is not specific to North America, as TikTokers might think. In China, the hashtag #tangping became popular in response to long working hours. It means ‘lie flat.’ If burnout is affecting people all around the world, how can we manage it? Our last segment pointed to lifestyle interventions as a way to reverse the effects of burnout. If workers feel that their employers are preventing them from finding a healthy balance off shift, they’re more likely to turn to quiet quitting. Here are some ways you can set healthy boundaries without leaning all the way into quiet quitting mode:
Set limits around your thoughts. Practice turning on and turning off for work. That might mean engaging in physical movement, music, social connection, or other hobbies off the clock to define your space outside of work.
Set appointments with yourself, and if you can, make them transparent on your calendar (as much as you are comfortable). When you schedule that workout or social event, you let your colleagues know (implicitly or explicitly) that there is a limit to your availability. This helps you preserve yourself for your shift.
Decide what hours you’ll respond to email, text, phone calls etc. Maybe you have one or two exceptions (for instance, if your boss reliably calls when he or she needs a shift covered). Outside of that, stay true to your rules for unplugging to give your brain a rest.
Set aside planned time for tough tasks or challenging conversations at work and give yourself time to get out of fight or flight mode and back into rest and digest. With these limits in mind, you can conserve energy throughout the day.
If the demands of your job are going beyond what you agreed upon, or sneaking past the end-time of your shift, talk to someone you trust about whether the ask fits into the definition of your role. Decide on the concessions you can make around rest and your mental health. If it feels ok on a gut level to give a little extra, it may show your dedication and work ethic. But if it makes you uncomfortable, anxious, or out of balance, don’t be afraid to share your concerns with your boss and let yourself shine in another area.
Set aside worry time and try your best to control your worry in between. For 15 minutes a day, let yourself worry about everything: journal, call a friend or family member, and let your thoughts run wild. For the rest of the day, stay with the present moment and remember to breathe.
Is the Term Quiet Quitting Misleading?
Let’s take a moment to adjust a somewhat misleading name. Quiet quitting has nothing to do with quitting or slacking. It’s about boundaries. Let’s look at some examples of quiet quitting, but keep in mind it’s not a one-size-fits-all. It might mean turning your work notifications off between shifts or taking a 30-minute lunch break to walk the dog. For some, quiet quitting might mean not taking on an extra task in the kitchen when they’re stacked to the max or not covering an extra shift if they’re starting to show signs of burnout. Maybe it’s about honouring your mental health. Is the quiet quit starting to sound more relatable? When push comes to shove, quiet quitting is about putting aside that the only way to get ahead is to go above and beyond, grind it out, or present with a “yes sir!” mentality.
What’s the Backlash?
Quiet quitting has its upfront benefits, but what about the hidden costs… And do quiet quitters want less out of life (housing, a future for their children, a vehicle, and a pet), or do they just want to dial down the expectations on the job? There certainly is a divide. Plain and simple, not everyone’s on board. More established generations believe that quiet quitting shouldn’t be a state of mind but a sign to move on. There is a sense of pride associated with working hard. Those who have reached positions of management equate going the extra mile with getting recognition and a better position in the workplace. Not only do they think that quiet quitting is a bad idea, they think that it can hurt a young person’s career. Kevin O’Leary of ABC’s “Shark Tank” is in this boat. He has called quiet quitting “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” Others are saddened by the approach that when we spend so much time at work, it would become the norm to detach emotionally. The generational divide around the issue of quiet quitting represents a difference of opinion, rather than one group being right and another wrong. Truth be told, quiet quitters could learn from the wisdom and drive of their bosses and an older generation could take a leaf out of Gen Z. balance.
Signs that the Quiet Quit Isn’t Right For You
Maybe you want to take time to reflect, or even re-consider. Before you jump on a Tiktok band wagon, check in to make sure quiet quitting is right for you. Afterall the nay-sayers have a lot of life experience and many accomplishments under their belt. Now, that you’re sharp on the definition of quiet quitting and you can make a well-rounded decision about whether quiet quitting is right for you.
Bear in mind, you spend the bulk of your waking hours on shift. You may quickly become bored, unfulfilled, and potentially more dissatisfied than when you took action to pull back. While the trend offers value, you may get a different result than expected. Maybe, there’s another way of looking at it.
It might sound counterintuitive but placing extra emphasis on engagement might re-activate your passion for your role. Engagement takes work but so does the boundary setting of quiet quitting. What if instead of focusing on how your shifts feel today, you focused on how you’d like them to feel two months or a year from now. This could be your motivation to fill the gaps. It might involve a bit more vulnerability or a push to ask your manager for more support, mentorship, or opportunities, but the trade off—pride, self-worth, and deeper relationships. Your desire to quiet quit may actually be a plea for engagement: more opportunities, more connection, more recognition, more results.
Work is also about the people. That’s another good place to start. Ask that colleague out for coffee or a drink after shift to deepen the relationship. Seek out mentorship, apprenticeship, and training opportunities. You want your work to be interesting and challenge you. If you care about the people, you’ll be more invested in each task, and the day will go by quickly and with enjoyment. It might be time to secure a mentor or to suggest more team-building opportunities and chances for social connection off-site. If you still feel stagnant or unhappy, it may be time to move on It’s ok to define quiet quitting on your terms. If you’re compartmentalizing or practising a healthier balance to increase your focus and fulfilment in your role, go right ahead!
We’re just getting started on our deep dive into the worker experience, so stay tuned for the next part of our series: The Career Perks Hourly Workers Really Want.FindWRK is on the front lines, listening to the stories of workers and employers, tuning into your needs, and innovating the next-best in all things hourly employment. We’re here for you, so check back with us any time for resources, support, or to find your next role. We think it should be simple, so we’re on a mission to make it that way.
BBC News. Quiet Quitting: The Research Trend Taking Over Tiktok. Retrieved September 21, 2022 from https://apple.news/AJw-MDtt9TzS8oaP7N-_N4Q
CNBC. Is ‘Quiet Quitting’ a Good Idea? Here’s What Workplace Experts Say. Retrieved September 21, 2022 fromhttps://apple.news/ApSnWbjAGQSG668RzWFWjrA
Forbes. Questioning the Quiet Quit - 4 Ways to Determine if it’s Really What you Want. Retrieved September 21, 2022 fromhttps://apple.news/AOGtvdmHdRvKJQr3TrLmhXw
Opinion: What Happened When I Sprinkled a Little Bit of ‘quiet quitting’ in My Work Day - NBC News. Retrieved September 21, 2022 fromhttps://apple.news/Ax612YyssRNG9c0V4tmYvxw
The Atlantic. The Cure for Burnout is not ‘Self-Care.’ Retrieved September 20, 2022 from https://apple.news/A9Wm-KqwUQV6sEr9rEoEmpA
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