Are Workers Actually Quiet Quitting?

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The term “quiet quitting” has become all the rage of late, but it has caused some confusion. The name implies some sort of passive aggressive resignation, or a literal abandoning of your job without a word. 

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This is not what quiet quitting is. 

So what is quiet quitting and are workers really doing it? 

What Quiet Quitting Really Means 

“Quiet quitting is a misnomer for simply doing your job’s expectations — no more, no less,” said Dannie Lynn Fountain, a sales and marketing strategist for Google by day and a strategy developer for private clients and corporations by night. “By eliminating the extra work that is often uncompensated and unrewarded, it’s often easy to complete the expectations of your role in less than 40 hours a week. Technically, ‘doing your job’s expectations’ has always existed, but ‘quiet quitting’ has only hit popular media as a term in the past few months.”  

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Quiet quitting also could indicate a certain kind of complacency on the employee’s part. 

“[Quiet quitting] means doing the basics of your job and not going above and beyond,” said Vicki Salemi, Monster career expert. “It’s clocking in the 9-to-5.” 

We’ve Reached a Breaking Point 

“While the phrase ‘quiet quitting’ is new, the circumstances that lead to it are not,” said Paola Martinez, the VP of people operations at Jobsity. “For many years, employees have felt overworked and underappreciated and, as a result, unmotivated. The difference now is that we are openly talking about these issues. Proponents of quiet quitting desire a proper work/life balance that protects their mental well-being. This is not unreasonable.” 

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Yes, It’s Happening 

“Quiet quitting does exist, and it is real in the workplace,” said Adrienne Couch, a human resources analyst at LLC. Services.

In fact, quite a few people are quiet quitting — or at least considering it. 

“According to our new Monster poll, people are feeling burned out and underpaid for what they’re asked to do and 62% of respondents are quiet quitting or thinking about it,” Salemi said. “However, the other side of it is that everyone is not on board. Some workers (44%) are avoiding quiet quitting — indicating they like their job and want to exceed expectations. Others are worried about being fired, laid off or demoted. And nearly three-quarters of workers have been asked to work extra hours outside their contracted hours.”

Is Quiet Quitting Bad? 

Quiet quitting isn’t necessarily a bad move — particularly if you have a super casual boss — but it’s also not the best solution if you want to make headway in your career. 

“Based on my experience when I worked in corporate recruiting and HR, I didn’t see people advance their careers by pushing back,” Salemi said. “Stellar performers who got promoted and recognized were the ones who went the extra mile beyond their job description. They rolled up their sleeves and contributed to the organization to hit the ball out of the park.”

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What To Do Instead 

“I would say the smarter approach is to figure out why you’re unhappy or unsatisfied with your current role or company, then make a plan to improve your situation,” said Vida Thomson, the founder at Flourish Career Consulting. “Maybe you feel unappreciated by your current boss and you don’t think this will ever change – then you might need to look for a new role. Or, if you’re burned out, you need to evaluate the situation and work with your manager to identify a solution that will help you maintain the appropriate work-life balance.”

Employers Need To Take Charge  

Quiet quitting may be an employee’s choice — but it’s in many cases their employer’s problem, and companies need to step up to address this movement and what may be behind it. 

Leaders can’t just “quietly lead,” you might say. 

“With rising inflation and higher costs of living in general, more employees are having to find second and third jobs to make ends meet,” said Dr. Wanita Mercer, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Lead My Heart. “From a financial or economical standpoint, employees must ‘quietly quit’ the job that constantly overworks them without providing overtime pay to ensure they are available for the second and third jobs they need to provide for them and their family. 

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“And, as people continue to recover or navigate the emotional and mental strain of the pandemic, employees are also finding that clear boundaries in every area of their life is necessary to managing their mental health,” Mercer continued. “Therefore, it is both naïve and negligent for employers to ignore these important factors that ‘quiet quitters’ are dealing with, because the fact of the matter is they are still present and they are still doing their job.

“Rather than point the finger at ‘quiet quitters,’ effective leaders will take the lead on negotiating a reasonable work-life balance and work with their team, not against them, as in the case of ‘quiet firing.'”

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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