Quiet Quitting is all the rage now.
You’ve put in a few hours of actual work for the day, now it’s time to sit back, do a little online shopping, take a nap, go for a walk, or take a two-hour lunch. And not just on Fridays either.
What led us to this new McRib of a work-life fad? What are the pros and cons of Quiet Quitting in a job market where workers hold all the cards?
Quiet Quitting Was Born Of TikTok?
TikTok has something to do with it. A couple of big-time influencers went viral with this newfangled twist on work-life balance. Coming out of the two-year (and going?) pandemic has forced companies to reckon with work-life balance.
The Great Resignation mixed with a rebounding economy leaves businesses little choice if they want to attract and retain talent.
All of a sudden headlines are stirring ideas of a four-day work week for all. Pretty please?!?
The problem is that a lot of workers (especially those who had no choice but to suit up and go to work during peak COVID) are burned out. Executives figure all will be well again if we just pretend the last two-plus years didn’t happen. So, they re-open the office campus and demanded employees give up their work-from-home status.
These HR or “People Team” leaders don’t realize that returning to work is yet another big change for the workforce to cope with. As if coping with a pandemic, a former president’s con job, inflation, and climate disasters weren’t enough. Let’s pile on another stressor and pretend we don’t mind endless commutes and limited childcare options.
We could have seen it coming. The world is changing at a faster and faster logarithmic clip. Meanwhile, the human capacity to accept, internalize, cope, and adjust to change is the same as it was 100 years ago when the change curve was just getting ramped up.
Now you know why so many people resisted wearing masks (even if they put a political or religious spin on their rationale.)
Quiet Quitting Is a Response to Outdated Work Models
At some point, we just need to cry “Uncle!” and redirect what energy we have left to self-care. Quiet Quitting is simply a way to recapture balance and freedom without taking the severe step of quitting altogether, as the Great Resignation cohort did.
When your company won’t or can’t give you the work-life balance you need, it’s time to disengage from “the hustle” and coast.
In an ideal scenario, “Company X” and its leaders recognize what makes employees tick, and institute an environment that prioritizes time away from work and autonomy. That’s the central theme in my post about the alternatives to early retirement: Why quit, if the job is challenging, purposeful, and provides the flexibility (balance) you desire?
A company’s ability to attract and retain the best talent isn’t a spreadsheet exercise. High enough pay and enough time off are one thing. Moving away from command and control “productivity at all costs” work models to ones that prioritize innovation and learning at a sustainable pace?
That’s the solution. But it takes brave leaders to install these changes.
The Pros of Quiet Quitting
1.) You can get away with it (for now). This is the season to quiet quit if ever there was one. Want to coast? When the unemployment rate is at historic lows, you have tremendous leverage with your employer. Just make sure you’re getting the work done that’s expected of you. Quiet Quitting is not the same level of slacking as the Peter Gibbons “I don’t give an F” archetype of Office Space infamy.
2.) You still get a paycheck and benefits. Maybe you aren’t putting in the full effort and you’re not as engaged as you used to be. So what? You still get the check the boxes as per your job description, and you demonstrate professionalism while you’re at it. Recovery from burnout takes time. Get back what time you need and deserve.
3.) You’re still getting a paycheck, so why not put those dollars to very good use, and donate to GiveWell? Just because you’re not putting in 110% doesn’t mean your soft-earned dollars can’t be put to optimal use supporting worthy causes around the globe.
4.) It’s guilt-free. Quiet Quitting is not coasting, even if Pro #1 alludes to it. This is simply doing the expected job without taking on more than what was asked. You know how to say “No”, albeit in a very passive-aggressive manner. You don’t need to feel guilty about anything.
5.) Quiet Quitting is an off-ramp of sorts to retirement. If you’ve been a hard-driver for most of your career, and are feeling the itch to retire, this could be the downshift you need. Instead of taking on extra projects and tasks after checking the essential boxes, head out at 3 or 4 for an early happy hour or a round of golf. No one’s watching. (Are they?)
The Cons of Quiet Quitting
1.) It’s passive-aggressive. If you’re suffering from burnout and haven’t shared this with your boss, you may be missing out on a trust-building opportunity. These are moments when the good leaders distinguish themselves from the bad, by sharing their vulnerabilities. Your company may be more in-tune and empathetic than you imagine. And if they’re not, time to find one that is.
2.) You might just be letting down the team. Granted, you are doing the job you signed up for and nothing more. But what about when your work Team (capital T) is pulling out all stops to get something big across the finish line? Should you leave them hanging or put the extra effort in to show that you care?
3.) Not everyone can quit quietly. This is the reality check in a world dealing with inequality and discrimination in the workplace. Many simply have no other choice but to go harder at work to get ahead. There are cultural considerations as well. In India, offshore professionals experience surging rates of burn-out, fatigue, and in some instances, suicide. The message they are persistently told: keep your mouth shut and keep churning because there’s always someone waiting to take your seat.
4.) If you’re just starting in your career, you’ll be wasting that extra energy that only exists in your 20s and 30s. If you’re burned out in those decades, it’s time to move on to a new company or a new line of work altogether. Once you start having kids (if you chose to do so) and the hamster wheel starts sapping your energy, you’ll want to have put your “giving it all” time behind you.
5.) You’ll regret not being true to yourself. If you don’t like your job, it’s not the end of the world. I’d go so far as to wager that it’s a Pareto relationship: where 20% of all workers truly love their jam and produce 80% of the innovation and product. 80% (the rest of us) plod along and play the game because we haven’t figured out what we want to do when we grow up, but we need to put food on the table NOW.
My Humble Advice
Ultimately, the decision to quiet quit should start with Con #5. And it depends on what stage of your career you’re in. In later years, when you approach some measure of financial independence and confidence (and unless you’re about to retire), consider a new career. Or, start a business.
Don’t find yourself regretting it later in life for not trying something different today; something that stirs a little passion, just because the current job pays and you can get away with doing the bare minimum.
Also, consider that you probably deserve “seasons” of Quiet Quitting. QQ is not a permanent solution for a condition that is generally temporary.
For instance, I take my foot off the pedal at work in the summer months, and traditionally pick it up a notch in the fall and winter. Regardless of your situation, make sure to communicate often with your boss, especially if burnout is affecting you.
Be open about what you’re willing to take on at given periods throughout the year and that openness will be appreciated and rewarded. Take it from me – the manager who wanted to retire early but continues to quit quietly.
Please share what you think are the pros and cons of Quiet Quitting in the comments below!
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Ben Zabulis says
In my last job before retiring I was seconded to a large power company in Hong Kong. During that time I encountered a few people who managed effortlessly to avoid doing too much or taking too much responsibility for anything, it was amazing to watch the nifty footwork required to achieve this. Their reasoning being quite simple, if you don’t do anything then you can’t make a mistake, you avoid criticism and that future pension pot looks safe. I, being contract staff, did much work and covered for some of these folk – I didn’t mind, money was good and the job manageable. Perhaps these were not quiet quitters as such but more deadwood that couldn’t easily be removed. In Japanese corporate culture, legend has it that such people deemed generally useless, but impossible to sack, are given a quiet desk somewhere by a window through which they can while away the hours gazing at the scenes below !
Hey there, Ben! Great call out with respect to “deadwoods”. I think it’s a very blurry line between deadwoods and quiet quitters. I’d suggest there’s a sliding scale of quiet quitting that ranges from very strong performers setting aggressive limits (still getting the job done, still being vocal, but shutting it down at 5 and not being “on” during vacations). That’s the high end. The low end of quiet quitters on that scale being the deadwoods – mailing it in, coasting until retirement or that elusive package. I’m aiming to stay in the former category because burn-out or not, work ethic still has a strong tug if it’s part of your character at core.
Ben Zabulis says
Absolutely agree, they are different for the reasons you say. Funnily enough, in China they have coined a new expression which translates to ‘Lying flat’. This stems generally from the younger generation who feel that no matter how hard they work they will never advance either within the company or within society, such as gaining respect, recognition or even owning a home, so, best to do the bare minimum and ‘lie flat’
Wow – Lying flat! The first thing that comes to mind in that context is Tiananmen Square and tanks stopped by students.
Ben Zabulis says
Yes, had to admit, that crossed my mind too !
I’d have to maintain that mailing it in at work has to be more stressful than working hard and accomplishing things you can be proud of. If you select a career where your results will be rewarded then you should be able to increase both your engagement and income with few limitations. Rather than quitting in place go find a place that allows you to develop mastery over a valuable skill set. Work hours fly by when you are engaged and in the flow of something you are world class at. The highly successful people I know enjoyed their careers, although I suppose calling them successful is pretty subjective. They might sometimes retire early to find something even better but none of them quiet quit their jobs. The people I worked with that did the least possible never seemed to have a smile on their face. But I just have the one company I worked for, very small sample size.
Hey Steve! I would agree with that wholeheartedly. Mailing it in, like “coasting”, means you’re taking advantage of the situation and not contributing anywhere near your compensation.
What you describe is the central theme of a book I highly recommend – “Drive” by Daniel Pink. Once you find yourself lost in the flow of work – you know you’ve landed in the right career.