The first time I heard of quiet quitting was through a patient of mine. I remember thinking, “Wow, they finally have a term for this.” I can probably form a support group for this—right now—with at least 15 people from my current pool of patients.
Most of us feel disenchanted or unmotivated at various points in our careers. But what sets quiet quitting apart is how individuals don’t seem to feel better about their work. Instead, they tend to be progressively more disengaged from their roles and duties as time goes by. Things start innocuously: less participation in team meetings perhaps, choosing to sit out of voluntary team/company events, or being less collaborative and taking less initiative on projects and responsibilities. Eventually, the quiet quitter does the bare minimum of what is required of them to earn the paycheque that comes monthly, and strictly nothing more.
Covid-19 has irreversibly changed the way we work. The advent of remote work that has given us greater work-life integration has also pushed disengaged employees to further isolate themselves. Reduced face time has also translated to managers who aren’t as sensitive to sentiments on the ground—including decreasing team motivation. Tired of the organisation’s callousness, disgruntled employees might turn to spreading negativity. The result? A spiral of toxicity in the workplace that adversely impacts the organisation’s culture.
Technically, there’s nothing wrong to do exactly what one is paid to and no more. Who cares about team culture so long as you can make ends meet and still have time for yourself, right? Not quite. Quiet quitting typically stems from an increasing disillusionment about work. This often also manifests as a growing apathy or dread towards work. This can then lead to a person taking more and more time off work, whether in the form of sick leave or unpaid leave. Here’s the thing: absenteeism is often more easily noted than other forms of disengagement. This calls to question one’s performance and productivity. No prizes for guessing what happens to the performance bonus. Still think there are no consequences to quiet quitting?
Experts believe that quiet quitting is actually a way for employees to deal with burnout. While it might be tempting to engage in quiet quitting as a form of retaliation against an organisation, this actually harms employees as much as it harms the organisation. Since the former is the group that ultimately still suffers penalties for lower output and engagement. In addition, an employee’s opportunity for growth might also be affected. It seems unfair for employees to bear full responsibility and consequences for quiet quitting. Especially when their organisations should also be responsible for ensuring a conducive, burnout-free environment. That said, the reality is far more nuanced than such simplistic should-haves and could-haves.
If you feel overworked, underappreciated, and burnt out, you owe it to yourself to speak up. So that you are not unfairly evaluated in a difficult work environment. Since the cost of employee attrition can be very high, organisations are typically motivated to retain their staff. Setting clear expectations about compensation, opportunities, career growth and work-life boundaries isn’t easy. But these conversations give both employees and employers a fair chance to evaluate—and revisit— whether they are a good fit for each other. Should this no longer be the case, then do yourself the favour: Quit. Quit rather than prolong the pain for yourself and everyone else involved.