What is quiet quitting?


Quiet quitting is a movement that encourages employees to do only what is expected of them and what they are paid to do at work.

Quiet quitting is a movement that encourages workers to do only what they are paid to do – no more, no less. In other words, quiet quitting represents the middle ground between underperforming and overperforming.  

Quiet quitting is a rejection of ‘hustle culture’, which praises employees for doing things like overworking, staying late, showing up early and attending non-mandatory meetings. As quiet quitting does not actually involve quitting your job, the term is a bit of a misnomer.  

History of quiet quitting 

In the past 20 years, ‘hustle culture’ mentality, which places work at the centre of life and praises those who sacrifice their wellbeing in pursuit of ‘the grind’, has dominated the workplace. However, following the Covid-19 pandemic, work lost its meaning for many people – and no longer felt like life or death. This changed the way that many approached the workplace and led to the Great Resignation, and in many countries, a reinvigorated labour rights movement. It also brought about the concept of quiet quitting.  

The term ‘quiet quitting’ was first introduced in March 2022, when career coach Brian Creely used the phrase to discuss an Insider article centred around employees “coasting” at work. The phrase then took off on TikTok, especially amongst the app’s younger demographic, Gen Z. Be that as it may, the concept itself is often traced back to China, where the ‘tang ping’ movement originated in 2021. Tang ping, which translates to ‘lying flat’, is a movement that rejects working long, hard hours at the expense of one’s wellbeing – and is essentially the Chinese equivalent of quiet quitting. 

Recent trends in quiet quitting 

While the Covid-19 pandemic and Great Resignation have exacerbated the quiet quitting movement, it is not an entirely new phenomenon. According to a 2022 Gallup poll, employee engagement has remained relatively stable from 2000 to 2022 – with a visible decline from 2020 to 2022. This means that, despite its recent attention, the underlying principles of the quiet quitting movement have been around for quite some time. 

Driven largely by social media, quiet quitting gained significant traction in early 2020 and became a highly publicised trend in the United States and around the world. However, it wasn’t just talk. According to a recent Gallup poll, at least half of the US workforce consists of quiet quitters as of 2022.  

Reactions to quiet quitting have been mixed, with some employers seeing the movement as a natural and understandable progression away from ‘hustle culture’, while others have taken to firing employees they see as slacking off. Some employers have even taken to ‘quiet firing’ – or making a job so unrewarding that their quiet quitters will have no choice but to resign. However, rather than quiet firing, employers should address the root causes of quiet quitting – and make informed decisions that will help to reduce burnout and create a more positive workplace culture.  

Advantages of quiet quitting 

  • Quiet quitting has been praised for its establishment of healthy boundaries, as workers still perform their duties but have more work-life balance. 
  • Quiet quitting can reduce burnout, which is a significant risk associated with overworking and can have long-term physical, emotional and mental health impacts.  
  • Employees that are happier are more likely to engage in employee friendships, which can be a significant factor in how enjoyable they find their job.   
  • Companies will no longer be able to pay the bare minimum for employees who go above and beyond. 

Disadvantages of quiet quitting 

  • While quiet quitting helps employees establish a healthy work-life balance, work-life blending – which merges one’s work and personal life – has been proven to have positive effects as well. 
  • As they will not be overperforming without additional pay, it may harder for quiet quitters to be promoted even though they are fulfilling all the duties within their job description.  

Use case 

An example of an employer who has rejected the quiet quitting movement is Twitter owner, Elon Musk. In October 2022, Musk sent an email to Twitter employees in which he wrote, “Going forward, to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we will need to be extremely hardcore … This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.” Musk paired this with a mandate that all employees must return to the office for at least 40 hours a week or resign, which has caused uproar amongst employees and has led many to leave the company.