Why Quiet Quitting Needs Reframing And Rewarding
It’s almost impossible not to have heard of the “quiet quitting” trend. The phrase was popularized by @zkchillin in a July 2022 video on Tiktok that now has 3.5 million views, spawning an online phenomenon.
It generated intense media attention and consequently sent employee motivation experts into overdrive. While that sense of a deepening disconnect between employer and employee is not new, it has been steadily increasing since the pandemic.
A recent Gallup survey shows that 55% of 15,001 US workers now strongly feel that their organization doesn’t care about their wellbeing. This sentiment has become more acute as real wages tumble in the face of soaring inflation.
Part of the challenge of quiet quitting is its definition varies depending on who you ask – some think of it as setting clear-cut, work-life boundaries while others say it’s “phoning it in”. It’s also a bit of a misnomer, as it doesn’t involve quitting at all.
Quiet or not, doing what the job requires and not volunteering your extra time should perhaps, just be called “working”. Some people will always be driven by ambition, enjoyment, perfectionism or insecurity to do more than is asked of them, but if employers expect everyone to do that, by definition, it isn’t “above and beyond” any more.
Plus, the idea of quitting comes with a negative context, putting the onus on the employee for somehow shirking their responsibilities at work – and worse yet, doing it sneakily or quietly – when in actuality, they’re just dropping the “above and beyond” work they’ve been expected to do without pay or recognition.
That is more a reflection of how our culture incentivizes exceeding expectations, and the way in which companies exploit that tendency for profit, rather than an indication of workers suddenly wanting to coast at work or ‘’quit’’.
Others feel that the conversation on “quiet quitting” is being spun as if employees don’t want to do their job, but the real discussion should be focused on what companies have done to deserve their employee’s discretionary effort.
Until that extra is proven to count for something, there’s no reason employees should feel pressured to do it – and choosing not to do it is far from “quitting”a job, quietly or otherwise.
Implicit in the corporate panic over “quiet quitting” is the idea that people are psychologically unattached to their employers because their engagement ideas are not being fully met. But this is also mushy ground to wade into.
What if someone loves their work but not their organization, or vice versa. What if “purpose” matters for some people but not for others? What if some only do their job for money, but they’re really good at it?
At its heart, the “quiet quitting” kerfuffle speaks to an unhealthy understanding of the relationship between companies and their staff. Employers don’t need to cater to employees’ every psychological need, and employees don’t need to be passionate about their employers.
The holy grail of course is the idea of a simple contractual relationship of mutual trust and clearly defined obligations. The truth is, employees are starting to set and protect their boundaries at work around work-life balance and how they want to be treated at work. Framing it as quitting is a sneaky way of creating negative thoughts about normal behavior based on a contract that both parties have agreed to.
In fact, stepping back from the extras and the hustling can be a major boon for your mental health as it involves setting and upholding effective work-life boundaries.
Perhaps the reason why having boundaries around work can feel so radical (and for some people, equivalent to quitting) is just how ingrained and powerful our hustle mentality really is. We often buy into a myth that relentless productivity only comes with rewards when in actuality it comes with a costly price too.
Inevitably, the quality of your output goes down, your creativity plummets and your ability to be empathetic drops, too. Keep at it, and you’ll eventually arrive at burnout. Reframing the idea of “quiet quitting” as setting healthy boundaries with work makes it both more empowering (you’re drawing certain lines, not giving up) and sustainable (quitting can’t last forever but boundaries can). Having work-life boundaries can also help protect you from burnout, thus moving you closer to success, not quitting.
Of course, you can work some flexibility into these boundaries or make exceptions to them when necessary, but the key thing is that you’re conscious of both the boundaries you’ve set in place and any decisions you’re making to flex them.
In this way you may be quietly quitting from the demands of hustle culture, but you’re certainly not quitting any element of work. In fact you’re enacting even more agency over your actions in the workplace. Rejecting burnout does not mean that you are rejecting the possibility of finding joy in your work.
The spotlight on “quiet quitting” is providing a platform for change, and that’s a good thing. Regardless of the buzzwords and phrases of the moment, most of the issues come down to finding and thriving in an organization where people can find purpose in what they do and where they aren’t left feeling burnt out and unappreciated at the end of the day.
Most of us want to be proud of the work we do and the contributions we make. We want to see our impact and feel good about it. So perhaps it’s time to explore new horizons; to seek out a new role that speaks to your purpose and allows you to really expand your goal of working towards a better future.
Your first stop? Check out the selection of meaningful advocacy openings on The Hill Job Board.
From exciting grassroots advocacy positions at The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) to fulfilling roles at Calbright where you’ll get to develop and execute a federal relations program to advance actual and potential federal policy. Or if your passion lies in congressional and regulatory advocacy, look no further than policy advisor opportunities at Arnold & Potter.