If you’ve ever had a job that felt more like a lifestyle than a way to earn money, you know it can feel like a hamster wheel. Executives sell you on their vision, ask you to be a team player, and go above and beyond daily. Managers want to see hands raised when there is new work to do that falls under no one’s purview. They may even raise your hand for you, branding additional work as a crown of achievement. But exhausted is the head that wears the crown, and a new hashtag has emerged on TikTok to prove it: #quietquitting.
Quiet quitting isn’t really quitting at all. It’s quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work. It's when a person works only within their set number of hours, limits tasks to those outlined in their job description, and turns down additional work without a raise or other incentive. The name may sound like some kind of slacker’s anthem, but the internet’s response could be best summed up as “Oh, you mean like setting boundaries?”
Yes, quiet quitting is so antithetical to the norms of salaried jobs, that the space between the term and the definition reveals some kind of collective cognitive dissonance. In other words, doing a job to the letter — nothing more, nothing less — is so radical that it can be considered a form of quitting.
While proponents (mainly Gen Z and millennials) of quiet quitting say it’s having a healthy work-life balance or “acting your wage," critics (mainly Gen X and baby boomers) call it lazy, naive, and clueless. However you describe it, it’s impossible to not draw a dotted line to the Great Resignation, the term for the uptick of employees quitting their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. In 2021, approximately 47 million Americans quit their jobs, which is up about 5 million from 2019. It's a mass unsubscribing to hustle culture that's a reflection of changing attitudes toward work and really just another sign that we're living in a post-girlboss world.
Quiet quitting may not be the most HR-friendly term, but when done correctly, it can help people manage burnout or, better yet, avoid it. It is a form self-care — another term that gets a bad rap — because it's an attempt to set boundaries, advocate for yourself, and create balance in your life. Maybe it is doing the bare minimum? But why is doing the bare minimum inherently bad? For bosses, it's an invitation to respond to a question that is often asked and rarely answered: What do employees really need?
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Photos by Pexels/Karolina Grabowska