Is Quiet Quitting Just the Latest Work Meme?

Is Quiet Quitting Just the Latest Work Meme?

You’ve heard the term by now. ‘Quiet Quitting’ went mainstream after a viral TikTok post was picked up by the Wall Street Journal in mid-August and now it’s the meme du jour on everyone’s lips.

People have strong opinions about it and it’s become a divisive topic at the water cooler. That is if you’re still going into a workplace and not working remotely these days. Oh, how times have changed. Is the water cooler still even a thing these days? 

Haven’t heard of the term?

In a nutshell, it describes the idea that as an employee you no longer accept the constant hustle. The culture that subscribes to the idea that you must go above and beyond the technical parameters of your job description, including hours.

Essentially it means that you no longer value work more than your own personal life as the driving force and factor that takes top priority. It means getting ahead is less essential than having a healthy balance between earning and living.

Is this even a new thing? Not really. Many can equate this with the term ‘slackers’ for Generation  X-ers. Does coasting, disengagement, or work withdrawal ring any bells either? 

While coasting and slacking may sound like the realm of those with nowhere to grow in a job role who end up doing the minimum because they are stuck or not in a position to leave their role, quiet quitting as a term seems to have struck a nerve in the zeitgeist.

Pro Quiet Quitting

For those who think the term makes complete sense, even if some do think the phrase is a bit silly, it completely resonates.

Some people do feel that doing work beyond what you are technically being compensated for doesn’t always ultimately result in any sort of recognition, promotion, or even a thank you for that matter. So why push yourself into what is often a state of anxiety, mental anguish, and stress that can manifest in a myriad of ways?

One might argue that the term means mentally checked out of your job. But for the most part, the term has been refined to mean that you aren’t taking on extra work without the pay and compensation that should go along with it.

When you put it all together though, there are some jobs where this is feasible, and others where it just isn’t. 

Is It Just Simplifying?

Picture a restaurant where someone doesn’t show up for a shift. Will the place be left high and dry with a role unfulfilled if anyone isn’t willing to stay? Does anyone want doctors, teachers or other emergency services to clock out without a care in the world should there be an issue? Probably not.

So there is an element of where you are employed and the nature of your employment that will lend itself to adopting this way of thinking. And for the many who are happy to show up for work, tick off their to-do list and then head home without thinking twice about work until showing up the next day this can be a game-changer if stress has been an issue.

Burnout has been very real for many and the choice to take on a simpler job that allows you to have concrete boundaries has been life-changing for some.

Whether you like the term or not, it sounds like ‘Quiet Quitting’ is going to have some legs in the short term. Possibly even long-term.

Why Quiet Quitting is Booming

After a two-year pandemic, more and more people are taking stock of their mental health. It’s no longer taboo to say you are mentally struggling these days, and most sensible companies take this seriously and support their employees.

If an employee is actively ‘quiet quitting’ it can mean they are redrawing their work boundaries and taking a stand on being ‘switched on 24/7’. 

Toxic work cultures are another culprit. Employees have started to take stock of why their work performance might be often overlooked, or why management is often not seen to care for their employee’s wellbeing.

It’s a rejection of longer workdays, unpaid overtime, and always-on presenteeism as opposed to rebelling against work itself.

Is It Passive Aggressive?

There are naysayers who believe ‘quiet quitting’ is just a passive-aggressive way of withdrawing from work. 

But it’s a deeper sign of a lack of employee engagement overall, which has been in decline for years. According to the Wall Street Journal:

“Across generations, U.S. employee engagement is falling, according to survey data from Gallup, but Gen Z and younger Millenials, born in 1989 and after, reported the lowest engagement of all during the first quarter at 31%.”

Those who disagree with the concept think it’s a cop-out, while others think it reminds people to not work to the point of burnout.

After all, if you are doing your job, meeting expectations within your contract or remit, why should someone be switched on at all hours? This might be very different for a business owner or freelancer who needs to find leads and build client bases, and for them that may be perfectly acceptable.

But for the average employee trying to earn a wage, work encroaching on their personal life and causing stress amidst the stresses of recent inflation (not to mention energy costs) just isn’t worth it. 

Last Thoughts

Do your job, do it well, but not at the cost of overextending yourself without compensation is the modus operandi of the moment.

This best describes the not-so-new phenomenon of the term quiet quitting. 

Nobody is actually quitting, although some might say they are more susceptible to losing their job should companies need to contract. And it certainly isn’t a quiet term on social and all forms of media these days.