If you haven’t heard of the idea of “quiet quitting,” here’s the TL;DR: The term refers to employees who stop doing extra work beyond what they were hired to do, often doing so without a direct conversation with their boss.
The topic of Quiet Quitting has gone viral on social media over the last few weeks, particularly among employees between 23-35 years old.
As the pandemic has highlighted more than ever before, companies ask their employees to take on work and responsibilities beyond the scope of work they were hired for – the expectation of always going “above and beyond.” The problem is that employees are taking on this work without being appropriately compensated and without any recognition to reflect their larger role in the organization. They find themselves working longer hours for approval and recognition. Without any tangible benefits, eventually leading to those additional responsibilities being seen as part of their normal workload instead of something the employee is doing above their original scope of their role.
While I don’t think the idea of quiet quitting is inherently a bad trend. It’s simply misnamed and in my opinion, a little misunderstood by those jumping on the bandwagon. With the right terminology–and the right approach–workers and employers will be better equipped to have a serious conversation about the matter while digging into the root of the issue.
Quiet quitting does not mean slacking off at your job. It’s not walking away from your work. It’s not disrespecting authority. Employees are still performing their designated duties competently and effectively. They just aren’t burning out and working overtime to get extra tasks done without any compensation or proper recognition.
In recent years, especially with virtual work during the pandemic, the boundaries between work and life were blurred considerably. Many people worked from home, and working hours spilled out of designated office hours into the mornings and evenings. Now that life is returning to a more normal state, employees are recognizing that work needs to have limits. Both in terms of time and scope.
It really shouldn’t be called quiet quitting, since the term makes it sound like employees aren’t doing their work at all. That’s not the case. It’s simply a matter of employees doing the work they are actually hired to do. Without extending their scope of work unless there is a promotion to go along with it.
A more accurate description for this concept is “boundary setting.” Employees should not allow work to sneak up and overtake their lives. Instead of letting themselves be taken advantage of, they should learn how to say no to the tasks they’re not being paid to do. Or to start a conversation with their employer about what these additional responsibilities would require.
That involves employees being willing to have conversations with their bosses to discuss–honestly and openly–the work they’re doing. It means standing up for yourself and having clarity on how you can set appropriate and healthy boundaries in your life. Figure out what your priorities are and be willing to speak up. Avoiding the issue through “quietly quitting” won’t address the problem and help solve it. It will only result in resentment and frustration on all sides.
Let’s be clear: Offering perks to employees–like free coffee–doesn’t entitle employers to more labor from their team. It doesn’t make up for overworking and overstressing employees.
This doesn’t just apply to large corporations; it happens in small businesses too. Clients sometimes demand more work than was agreed to–and is well beyond what they actually paid for. If you’re a client and you want your service provider to do work beyond the scope of your contract, expect to pay for it! This is a simple matter of mutual respect. People deserve to be paid fairly for the work that they do. And compensated for all the time and energy that goes into it.
Here’s another thing to consider. A 2% raise against a 9% inflation rate is actually paying employees less than before. That means employees have even less buying power than they did previously. For the same amount of work (only the employee is now more experienced). To pay employees fairly for their work, a raise needs to be commensurate with both the market and their scope of work.
Working 12 hour days, burning out, and constantly stressing out is not how your career should be. However, if you want to scale the corporate ladder, working is required. It’s how the corporate world functions! Taking on an extra project to show you’re capable of the role at the other side of the promotion is sometimes necessary. But working hard and showcasing your skills doesn’t mean burning out, working all night, and dropping boundaries. This is a fine line–and the trend of quiet quitting is making the line a lot thicker.
Even though “quiet quitting” isn’t the correct term for the movement, it brings to light a real issue of boundary setting in corporate America. Fixing this problem involves setting healthy work/life boundaries, having tough conversations with your boss, and being direct about your needs and priorities.