What is Quiet Quitting?

December 9, 2022

What is Quiet Quitting?

“Boundaries protect the things that are of value to you. They keep you in alignment with what you have decided you want in life. That means the key to good boundaries is knowing what you want.” — Adelyn Birch

“Quiet quitting” is an old concept given a new name and has recently become a buzzword on social media and in leadership discourses. It became viral after TikToker @zaidlepplin shared a video online with a message that resonated with a lot of members of the workforce: “Work is not your life. Your worth is not defined by your productive output.”

Since the pandemic, we’ve seen an alarming rate of burnout among employees, which led to what is popularly called “The Great Resignation” or “The Great Renegotiation.” The workplace landscape has shifted tremendously. And adjusting to the new norms of remote or hybrid work, where the boundaries between personal and professional grow increasingly blurred, has not been easy.

Gallup has reported an increase in actively disengaged US workers, especially with the younger generations, and around 50% of employees are “quiet quitting.”

What does it mean?

Quiet quitting isn’t about quitting in the literal sense. It is when employees try to find balance in their work and personal lives by doing “the bare minimum” of what was required in their job descriptions. Some call it “protecting your boundaries,"  “working your wage,"  “working to rule,"  or “doing your job."

But the gist is going against the expectations of “going above and beyond” to succeed in the workplace in order to set boundaries and prevent burnout.

There are different opinions from both ends of the spectrum, between supporters of the trend and those who believe that it is an unproductive movement.

To get to the root of the issue—disengagement—I do, however, think that it is fundamentally a matter of establishing boundaries and safeguarding priorities, and it necessitates constructive dialogue between management and employees.

How can we deal with quiet quitting?

Ideally, it is a great idea to protect your boundaries. The contractual nature of work specifies what is expected of employees and what employers will give them in return for their labor. However, the reality is different and more complicated.

Depending on where we are in our journey, and what it is that matters to us, we will all have to take work home at some point. Some of us, especially those who work remotely or run small businesses, even have to work where we live.

I think it is more realistic to focus on identifying what it is that we want to achieve and setting boundaries on when and how we work in order to do so. This gives us a sense of empowerment and helps prevent burnout–because we get to work on things that we love, at times when we are at our best.

Of course, it isn’t always an option available to everyone.

While there has been an increase in employers and leaders granting autonomy and flexibility in terms of work hours and settings, some of us still need to clock in and out at specific times of the day. A lot of us are even required to go back to the office.

When the freedom to choose isn’t in the cards, renegotiating terms might be our best course of action. This poses another challenge, and it is a tough one to balance out. Because it requires strong leadership to create an environment where both pressing issues and deeper issues can be addressed.

It goes deeper than doing a job you love versus doing a job that you have to do. It requires a lot of work to fix this at an organizational level–sometimes by rebuilding the culture as a whole.

That’s why I always try to lead by allowing my team to work without micromanaging them. It gives them more freedom to focus on what they love doing.

The more you feel like you’re working on what you want and that your work has significant contributions to the overall vision of the company, the more employees feel engaged, motivated, and closer to being happy at work.

That is why it is important to cast a vision for your people, and be clear about their roles and how they contribute to the vision.

And from an employee perspective, if you feel like you are left with no other choice but to “quiet quit” in order to protect your boundaries in the place you work, then do it. While you’re at it, reflect on whether the job or role is the right one for you or whether it is time to move on to a new work environment–one that respects your boundaries and allows you to thrive on your terms.

Thank you for reading "A Brilliant Tribe."