“Act Your Wage”: Quiet quitting has become the latest workplace trend, but it carries much more than just doing the bare minimum.
After years of working overtime with no compensation, going above and beyond for company satisfaction, and being expected to throw away your social life to make a name for yourself, thousands of people globally seem to be on a growing trend that includes setting boundaries, also known as ‘quiet quitting.’
Quiet quitting is the newest TikTok craze, fueled by years of excessive hours with little to no compensation, understaffed businesses, and burned-out employees.
The slogan “quiet quitting,” however, may mislead some individuals into believing that it refers to employees who perform minimum duties at their workplaces.
However, this is far from true. The term suggests doing the work you were hired to do, and nothing more than what you are being compensated for.
First thing’s first – what is quiet quitting?
The fundamental goal of quiet quitting is to establish more distinct lines between work and life, which is a healthy goal in a culture that idolises nonstop effort, according to psychologists.
But experts believe one should be skeptical of the phrase, noting it is a self-defeating idea that is extremely susceptible to being appropriated by management if not understood correctly.
The term must be coupled with a deeper comprehension of why many individuals feel compelled to burn themselves out for a job, and how to create a healthy balance between work and a social life that would neither kill one or the other.
In a viral TikTok video that has been shared more than 40,000 times, Zaid Khan describes it as “you’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond.”
“You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is it’s not, and your worth as a person is not defined by your labour,” he continues.
Although the definition of what it means to reject going above and above differs depending on the nature of the type of work, it is still a helpful explanation of the term. This could entail anything from refusing to stay late at work and responding to emails at midnight to mentally checking out of the office and performing the minimum required to maintain employment.
The term’s inception coincides with a decline in employee involvement in the workplace over the previous two years, which is especially prominent among younger workers.
The fact that this slump coincided with a pandemic that blurred work-life boundaries and diminished the socially rewarding aspects of work is perhaps not totally a coincidence.
It also makes sense that the robust job market at the moment gives employees a little more assurance to take it easy at work without worrying about getting fired.
But, does it really work?
According to psychologist and well-being expert Lee Chambers, the term is frequently adopted as a coping strategy to combat burnout and overworking.
“It can also manifest when considerable effort in a role isn’t valued and appreciated, and the lack of acknowledgment shifts employee behaviors toward detaching from their role,” he told Healthline.
The expert explained that quiet quitting can be beneficial in many ways, especially when it comes to having the self-assurance and confidence to set such boundaries. Anthony Klotz, associate professor at University of College London’s School of Management, seems to agree.
The expert told BBC that doing more than what is asked of you can take a toll on your mental health, and may cause more harm than good.
“Always going above and beyond the call of duty consumes mental resources and causes stress,” says Klotz. “Arriving early to work and staying late, helping a colleague out at the expense of your own tasks, showing as much dedication to your role as possible – these are extra behaviours that go the extra mile for an organisation, but can take a personal toll.”
Since the concept is still relatively new, there isn’t much research about it. However, according to Chambers, there is convincing evidence that suggests creating boundaries is a good strategy to improve well-being and prevent burnout.
He specifically highlighted a 2021 study that looked at how setting up work-nonwork boundaries could help healthcare staff manage burnout amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Quiet quitting has the potential to improve boundary setting, as well as helping people step away from toxic productivity,” Chambers notes. “It may empower them to take control over their rest and growth time and create space for reflection on how they can embed well-being into their lives.”
Tania Taylor, psychotherapist, and author, also agrees. In an interview with Healthline, she claims that quiet quitting can prevent personal and professional life from fusing together, while also realizing that there’s more in life than work.
“Ensuring you have the breaks assigned to you can improve productivity and motivation when you are working,” she notes. “As well as that, switching off from work for several hours at a time gives your brain a chance to process the events of the day and can help you to problem solve from different perspectives.”
With that being said, the widespread response to quiet quitting reveals a wider, pandemic-driven trend, in which many workers are reevaluating what work means to them and how much of their life it should take up, and the answer is simple: just enough to give you a healthy social and personal life.