Apparently, everyone has a lot to say about “quiet quitting.” In case you missed it, “quiet quitting” is the practice of doing what is required of you on paper at work—nothing more, nothing less. It’s the Gen-Z-fication of setting boundaries, and the antithesis of hustle culture.
Just to make things clear, when you quiet quit, you’re still doing your job just fine. There’s no dip in your performance, your goals and KPIs are still being achieved, but your joie de vivre when it comes to going beyond your set objectives is gone.
Also, you don’t announce when you quiet quit. That’s the point of the “quiet” part. The only person who knows you’ve quiet quit is you. It’s a personal form of separation from your work. So more than anything, it’s your relationship with work that has changed, not your output.
Many of us were taught that we’re only worth as much as our work is valued, but that school of thought is quickly going out of style with the younger generation. To most younger employees, emotionally investing themselves in their work is the quickest way to burning out and underperforming.
It’s about perspective
Ron (not his real name, of course) is a 20-something in marketing who says he’s quiet quit his current job since he started. Prior to his ad agency job, he worked for an event planning company and physically and emotionally poured herself into his job.
“It’s mentally and physically taxing. I used to work hell hours and really equated my personal worth with my performance,” he says. “I super used to bawl my eyes out after a bad day at work because a client screamed at me or a shipment didn’t make it on time. But now, I’ve learned to separate my self-worth from how well I’m doing from work.”
It’s worth noting that although Ron has “quiet quit since he started,” he’s gotten promoted twice and is now in a managerial position.
Quiet quitting also comes in different forms. Jen, a freelance copywriter, says she has a 50/50 relationship with quiet quitting.
“Sometimes, I take on a bigger workload than usual. But other times, I just try to work enough to pay the bills,” she says. “Personally, my anxiety is also a factor as to why I can’t completely quiet quit. Like, what if I lose clients because I got too lax? That’s the stuff I worry about.”
Why are people quiet quitting?
From a generational perspective, it makes a lot of sense that Gen Zs are normalizing this behavior that puts a priority on their mental health. According to a survey by Deloitte, 46 percent of Gen Zs feel “stressed and anxious” all the time. The contributing factors range from interpersonal relationships to health and financial security.
Of all the generations, they’ve also arguably experienced the most economic trauma in the least amount of time. Since 1996, the world has gone through the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, the Global Financial Recession in 2008, and of course, the pandemic.
The local stock market saw its worst freefall since the global financial crisis of 2008 on Thursday as the investors fled to safer havens amid the worsening coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. https://t.co/Z9YnLlauq4 pic.twitter.com/pPuGzSfHde— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) March 12, 2020
After taking all of these factors into consideration, quiet quitting can be seen as a trauma response to an uncertain economic future. Gen Zs have also seen older generations work jobs that don’t bring much personal or financial satisfaction, so they’re learning to set their boundaries early.
We can see this type of trauma response on a more personal level, too.
At the onset of the pandemic, Anna wanted to quit her production assistant job. After an unsuccessful job search, she decided to stay. “I really like my job but sometimes, the pay feels lacking compared to the effort I’m putting in. I’ve resorted to quiet quitting so that I still put in the right amount of effort and time while still having enough energy for myself and other things,” she explains.
As for its benefits, she says, “I have more time to pursue other hobbies and projects outside of my job. I’m able to meet and work with other people outside of our office bubble so I think it has been better for my overall health. I feel that it’s okay as long as I don’t forget my responsibilities or obligations.”
For Cesar, quiet quitting was a conscious decision he made to stop himself from burning out. Art direction helps him pursue his passion (making art), but he felt like he was overexerting himself.
“I used to be such a people pleaser at work, especially in my probation days—I wanted to prove a point. For a long while throughout my yearly performance, I was occasionally doubting myself until I was doing more than my confidence and abilities,” he says.
“Although I learned a lot, it really drained me of my energy, took away my personal time, and lowered my enthusiasm and self-esteem regarding my passion. It left me in an anxious, panicky state. Now, I steadily meet my requirements in a more creative process, knowing I spend my time wisely with a realization that my work is not what defines my worth.”
The management side of the coin
On the other side of the spectrum, some bosses notice when their people quiet quit. But it’s important to note that not all bosses will understand. After all, they are responsible for the business.
John, a manager of a medium-sized construction company, says there’s a disparity when people quiet quit after being achievers.
“It’s really obvious when you see someone who used to be invested lose steam. If I see an employee who used to be really enthusiastic at their job start to plateau, it’s a little disappointing,” he says.
He also said that employees who quiet quit can affect the business, but it depends on the employee’s past and present performance.
“If they were a good employee, then yes, it can affect the business. If their performance declines, it can affect how they do their duties. If the employee wasn’t that good at their job to begin with, I’d rather that they quit.”
He went on to explain that if they’ve quiet quit but nothing has changed in their performance, then it shouldn’t affect the business at all.
Lery, the chief operating officer of a startup, thinks that there are pros and cons to quiet quitting from a managerial perspective.
“I still consider these people as an asset to the company as they are the ones doing important work on the ground. You need to have a mix of employees with different values and attitudes to create a culture of diversity for learning purposes,” he says of the upsides.
“The negative part is that they’re less likely to get promoted because they’re just checking off tasks from their day to day lists,” he adds.
He also said that quiet quitting can affect the company’s productivity and efficiency in operations.
“In a business, process mapping is very important to assess [the] efficiency [of] your operations. If you have chosen the wrong people (quiet quitting employees) to do the job it may give you the wrong notion that you need to hire more employees to make your operations more efficient,” he explains.
The term “quiet quitting” may not sound great, but it’s actually doing something good: it’s mitigating burnout. The pandemic has compounded stress for employees tenfold, but setting personal boundaries and separating job from self is good for people, both mentally and workwise.
Whether you’re for or vehemently against it, it’s not going to stop people from doing what’s best for them.
At the end of the day, employees are still doing what is required of them because the only thing that’s changed is their relationship with their job. For employees who have quiet quit, they no longer conflate their sense of worth with their work performance, which is a good sign for their mental and overall health. For companies, this means that employees are still doing what’s required of them, so on paper, nobody really loses.
It needs to be said—quiet quitting is not the bad guy. It’s just the latest term for a practice that’s been around for ages. And whether you’re for or vehemently against it, it’s not going to stop people from doing what’s best for them.