‘Quiet Quitting’: The Workplace Trend with a Lousy Name


A relatively new concept dubbed ‘quiet quitting’ is gaining popularity among workers. But it’s not really about employees leaving their job.

I only recently heard of what’s being called “quiet quitting.” The idea itself isn’t all that new. We’ve all done it at different points in our working life. But it seems that recently, Millennials and Gen Zers seem to be embracing the notion as a way to avoid burnout.

I’m not certain, however, that it will accomplish that.

A CNBC article on quiet quitting quoted a TikTok user’s definition. TikTok is the first place you turn for career advice these days, right? That user described it not as quitting your job but “quitting the idea of going above and beyond.” Quoting the same TikTok user, the Washington Post further described it as “renouncing hustle culture.”

Imagine that you have a daily list of tasks you are required to perform. Towards the end of your shift, you check the last item off the list. You have two options: You can move on to another task, perhaps even the first task on tomorrow’s list. Or you can just call it quits for the day. Quiet quitting, then, is accomplishing everything your responsibilities dictate, but no more.

It’s coming at a time of increased burnout.

All I hear these days, particularly from younger workers, is burnout. I believe workers of all ages — from all age groups — experience burnout. I even believe that all workers are experiencing a stronger sense of it these days since the pandemic.

But from what I see, older workers — folks around my age — seem to do a better job of pushing through. Some of the folks who’ve most recently entered the workforce seem to be complaining more of burnout. It’s difficult at times for someone like me to be completely sympathetic. Part of me wants to tell them that they haven’t been working long enough to know what burnout is. But at the same time, I don’t want them to have to find out the hard way.

‘Quiet quitting’ is an unfortunate name.

Over on her LinkedIn page, Ariel Belgrave Harris, who calls herself “The Burnout Whisperer,” says the name gets a big “no” from her perspective.

She says the name implies:

  • doing the job you’re paid to do is “quitting,”
  • not going above and beyond at work is “quitting,”
  • and prioritizing your mental and physical health is “quitting.”

But in reality, Harris says:

  • Choosing to do the job you’re paid to do is a healthy work boundary.
  • Choosing not to go above and beyond is a healthy work boundary.
  • Choosing to prioritize your mental and physical is a healthy work boundary.

Without healthy work boundaries, she says, employees will burn out.

The name could put more pressure on people who don’t like the notion of quitting, even though it’s not an accurate title.

When did ‘going above and beyond’ become a sin?

A comment on one post about the trend summarizes an all-too-common attitude among younger workers. I’ll paraphrase it:

If you want your employees to go above and beyond, you should pay them to do so.

The problem — which should be obvious — is that if you’re paying them to do more, it’s no longer “above and beyond.”

When I entered the workforce, there was still such a thing as work ethic. This notion of doing the bare minimum seems to fly in the face of work ethic. There’s nothing wrong with going “the extra mile.” If you’re passionate about what you do, you should want to do an above-average job. That may, at times, mean you’re out-performing your pay. But in the old days, that’s how you demonstrated to your superiors that you were worthy of additional responsibilities and moving up. It was moving up that got you a bigger salary.

Of course, moving up meant more responsibilities, which brings me to another issue.

Given the attitude about salary that many seem to be embracing, namely that no one is ever paid enough, as soon as you get an increase to do more, that new salary then becomes the “not enough.” It becomes a never-ending cycle of entitlement anger.

I know few people who wouldn’t like to make more than they currently bring home. That’s true of people making minimum wage and true of those in management. No “enough” is ever really enough.

You ought to want to do more.

Believe me, in more than 35 years in the workforce, there have been jobs at which I felt I’d had enough. There were jobs I knew I was ready to leave.

But that doesn’t mean I ever did a half-ass job while I was still an employee. To me, that was integrity. I was going to do the best job I could do as long I was collecting that paycheck.

As soon as I was ready to slack off and phone it in, that was the point at which it was time to leave. Burnout or not.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me. Some of the aforementioned Millennials and Gen Zers might accuse me of being the victim of brainwashing. Sorry, but I don’t buy that. I wonder if it’s not them who’ve bought into this convenient conspiracy theory that the evil employers are out to get as much as the can for as little as they can.

But that’s not a conspiracy theory. That’s common sense.

Just as all of the Millennials and Gen Zers are out to get as much as they can for as little as they can pay when they hire a mechanic or buy their dinner. When do they ever pay more than the asking price just because they don’t want those folks to burn out?

There’s also the notion of ‘Future You.’

This is something I’ve always kept in mind, but I never heard an easy name for the idea until one of my bosses mentioned it. She told a few co-workers who would invariably come in at the start of a shift to a chaotic lack of planning that they should take a few minutes at the end of their previous day. Make a few calls, set a few things up in advance.

Why? Because it makes life easier for future you.

There are times when I work ahead at the end of my day’s task list. I do it not because I’m trying to go for some special recognition or because I’m trying to “donate” work I’m not being paid for. I’m being paid for the time I’m there.

But by working a bit ahead, I come in the next day with a head-start. That gives me more time to work on other things or spend more time that might otherwise be rushed against a deadline.

It makes “future me” have a slightly lighter workload for the next tasks on my list.

The thing is, the task list is always going to be there. There will always be things added to that list. That’s never going to change.

I get paid the same whether I slack off at the end of the day and start the next day with more on the plate or work a bit harder the night before and have a bit more time to ease into my shift.

So if I can lighten my load (and stress) by spending a few extra minutes working ahead, I’d be a fool not to do so.

Some things aren’t all about pay.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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