What is ‘quiet quitting’?

Movement centred around doing bare minimum at work has been gaining traction on TikTok

Two men leave their office
The new trend involves doing the bare minimum and leaving the office bang on time
(Image credit: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

For years now, hustle culture has dominated conversations about the workplace. High productivity and the monetisation of every minute have been held up as the benchmark for career success, with burnout merely a by-product of the daily grind.

But pushback against the pitiful work-life balance and long hours which are so often associated with hustle-culture mentality has been growing under a movement known on social media as “quiet quitting”.

In recent weeks, TikTok posts about workers doing the bare minimum to complete their tasks, leaving the office bang on time and muting notifications or emails after-hours – otherwise known as “quiet quitting” or “ghost quitting” – have gone viral.

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“You’re not outright quitting your job but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond,” explained the user @zkchillin. “You’re still performing your duties but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture and 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 productive output.”

Likely stems from China

The concept of “quiet quitting”, or mentally checking out from work, is believed to have stemmed from #TangPing, a now-censored Chinese hashtag meaning “lying flat”, which was introduced in opposition to the country’s pressurised work culture.

A post by a user on the Chinese discussion forum Tieba, which has since been deleted, explained that “lying flat” is a “wise movement”. “Only by lying down can humans become the measure of all things,” the user added, reported the BBC last year. When the term was posted on Sina Weibo, another popular site, it quickly became a “buzzword”.

Searches for the hashtag #TangPing have since been banned on Sina Weibo “in an apparent effort by censors to prevent people seeing the scale of the new trend”, added the BBC.

Linked to job satisfaction

Experts have suggested that the “quiet quitting” trend is connected to poor job satisfaction. Global research group Gallup’s recently published State of the Global Workplace report found that just 9% of UK workers feel enthused by their work and workplace, compared to 16% in Germany and 33% in Romania.

The movement follows reports of a national “great resignation”, thought to have been sparked by the pandemic, with people adapting to new ways of working during lockdowns and beginning to reevaluate their careers as a result.

PWC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey, which was carried out in March, found that more than one in five workers around the world plan to quit their jobs in 2022.

“If the ‘great resignation’ has taught employers anything, it’s to not take their workers for granted,” read the report. “Yet many companies risk doing exactly that – whether it’s by not paying close enough attention to skilled workers who are at elevated risk of quitting, by failing to support workers who seek personal fulfilment and meaning at work.”

Experts issue warnings

Career experts have warned workers interested in “quiet quitting” to take care to not be perceived as “slacking off”, particularly if they have previously “over-extended” themselves.

If your change in behaviour is noticed by your employer then “communication is key”, author and career development practitioner Sue Ellson, from Melbourne, told the Daily Mail.

“At the end of the day, the relationship between employee and employer needs to be one of mutual respect, empathy and commitment,” she said. “The implied ‘rule’ of quiet quitting is that you still get the job done. Don't ever lose sight of the value exchange.”

Given warnings that the UK is heading for a recession, career experts recommend that fed-up workers take “proactive” steps instead of coasting along and risking their job security as a result.

“Speak with your manager. Let the supervisor know how you’re feeling. Share with them that you are feeling demoralised, but would like to find a way to improve the situation. Discuss options to make your job better,” suggested Forbes contributor Jack Kelly.

In an interview with Metro, Jill Cotton, a career trends expert at Glassdoor, offered similar advice. “Before deciding to quietly quit, reflect upon what isn’t fulfilling you and your reasons for making this choice – could whatever is causing your frustration be fixed by simply expressing your concerns to your manager?” she said.

“Whether your work-life balance isn’t right, the salary isn’t meeting your needs, or there’s no support to get the promotion you want, have a conversation with your manager before deciding to disengage from your role.”

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