In 2022, we all heard millennials speak of quiet quitting. So what exactly is this phenomenon sweeping the world? A phenomenon that spread on TikTok, quiet quitting refers to doing the minimum requirements of one’s job and putting in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm than is necessary. As such, it is something of a misnomer, since the worker doesn’t leave their position and continues to collect a salary. In some places, soft quitting is used interchangeably with quiet quitting.
A 2022 Gallup survey suggested that at least half of the U.S. workforce, particularly those under 35, where this percentage is higher consists of quiet quitters, but these numbers are questioned and even if quiet quitting is a new trend or simply a trendy new name for worker dissatisfaction. In September 2022, a Harvard Business Review article observed that quiet quitters continue to fulfil their primary responsibilities, but they’re less willing to engage in activities known as citizenship behaviours like not staying late, showing up early, or attending non-mandatory meetings.
Beyond the workplace, the term quiet quitting is now being applied to nonwork aspects of people’s lives, such as marriages and relationships. The hashtag #QuietQuitting has now racked up more than 17 million views on TikTok and articles in print and online media worldwide have used the term and the noise has spread to Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites.
Adult Gen Zers are big influencers on social media and about 60% say they post content they hope will change the world, according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer. Those aged 18-26 are the most worried about security, health, finances, social connections and keeping up with change, the Edelman survey of 36,000 people found. But workforce studies on the changing world of work support the rise of quiet quitting – and suggest it’s more than just a social media hashtag.
Quiet quitting is a way of dealing with burnout according to organisational behaviour experts. Burnout is a big risk in the workplace, especially amongst younger Gen Z professionals aged in their 20s, research shows. A survey of 30,000 workers by Microsoft showed 54% of Gen Z workers are considering quitting their job. In its 2021 Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum ranks youth disillusionment as eighth of 10 immediate risks. Findings include deteriorating mental health since the start of the pandemic, leaving 80% of young people worldwide vulnerable to depression, anxiety and disappointment.
COVID-19 has changed the world of work – and how seriously we take it. Twenty-something Gen Z workers, in particular, may have joined the world of work during the pandemic with all of its dislocating effects – especially remote working. This generation has also come of age amidst rising activism. More people are quitting 9 to 5 jobs to start their businesses or try non-traditional work like temporary work, gig or part-time roles. It also shows some are quitting to take a break or care for family, as remote working has removed boundaries for working or living overseas. Gen Z workers aged 18-24 years most value flexibility and meaningful work, while Millennials and Gen Xers aged between about 25 and 45 years are largely the ones trying self-employment and new types of work. Experts say the passion economy where people do more of what they love has heralded a new era of side hustles, in everything from craft to campaigning.
Does quiet quitting just affect young people? Workforce data from major organizations including McKinsey & Company suggests 40% of the global workforce is looking to quit their jobs in the next three to six months. The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so it’s no surprise that job satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, can significantly affect your life according to McKinsey. The 2022 State of the Global Workplace report from Gallup shows only 21% of employees are engaged at work. Living for the weekend, watching the clock tick and work is just a paycheck are the mantras of most global workers, according to Gallup. People are realising that work is not life and that one’s worth as a person is not defined by their job.
The reaction of managers to the phenomenon has been mixed. Some have been tolerant, in part because the tight labour market of recent years makes replacing quiet quitters difficult, at least for the time being. Others have responded to quiet quitting by quietly, or loudly, firing employees whom they see as slacking off. Quiet firing has become a buzz phrase in its own right, generally defined as making a job so unrewarding that the employee will feel compelled to resign.
Some experts have suggested that bosses should get tough on quiet quitting while others say they need to lighten up. Some experts advise managers to first examine their behaviour and check if this trend is a reflection of their leadership abilities rather than the person quiet quitting.
Quiet quitting may or may not be a bona fide trend or recent phenomenon. But it has called attention to what appears to be fairly widespread dissatisfaction that employers might need to address. Quiet quitting is not a life philosophy or policy proposal that needs logical scrutiny. It’s also not a political weapon to be wielded to prove how much more woke or conservative one is than everyone else. It’s both more incoherent and essential than all of that. Figuring out how work fits into a life well lived is hard, but it’s an evolution that has to happen. Quiet quitting is the messy starting gun of a new generation embarking on this challenge.
So what are your views on quiet quitting? I know it’s been around and many of us are also guilty of quiet quitting at some point or the other.