Quiet Quitting: What’s Behind the Latest Trend in the World of Work?

1 Sep ‘22
4 min
Work performance
Annemarie Andre
Ein Mann hält einen Aktenkoffer und schaut vorsichtig über seine rechte Schulter.
It’s long been a prerequisite in many jobs to go that famous extra mile, and to work your way up to the top through unpaid overtime hours. A new debate – triggered by TikTok star “zaidleppelin” – challenges this way of thinking. Is quiet quitting actually an indirect resignation or is it really about setting healthy boundaries?


“Work is not your life,” says the TikTok star in his video – a sentence that kicked up quite a stir across global media outlets. While some saw this as promoting a healthy work-life balance and self-care, others classed this behavior as lazy and unambitious. So, what’s behind this whole debate?


Quiet quitting vs. hustle culture


The term quiet quitting means that you aren’t directly quitting your job, but you’re slowly breaking away from hustle culture. This means you’re no longer doing more than is strictly necessary. You go about your daily tasks, but you let go of the idea that work is your life and that your self-worth depends on it.


However, that doesn’t mean you’re just being lazy – as critics often put it. Quiet quitters can also yield good results, they just do so during their working hours and not outside of them.


But what about finding meaning in your work? Or having fun with it?


Arianna Huffington, Founder and CEO at Thrive, put it this way on LinkedIn: “Quiet quitting isn’t just about quitting your job, it’s a step towards quitting on life. Work can give us meaning and purpose. It’s part of a thriving life.”


The founder criticizes doing only the bare minimum. It’s by pushing boundaries that we’re able to develop and grow as people.


“We absolutely should reject hustle culture and burnout. But rejecting burnout doesn’t mean rejecting the possibility of finding joy in our work, loving our work,” Huffington continues.


Instead of quiet quitting, she suggests “joyful joining”. Employees who aren’t feeling motivated should switch jobs in favor of work that they find engaging. Many companies share Huffington’s rejection of quiet quitting. But why is that?


What are companies afraid of?


The economy is struggling and inflation is rising. Meanwhile, companies are afraid of falling productivity. In the USA, worker productivity has fallen by 2.5% across all sectors except agriculture. This is the steepest annual drop since 1948.


Many companies are now on the hunt for things that might be causing this lack of productivity and are even considering measures like monitoring keyboard activity. One of the main reasons for the decline could be the COVID-19 pandemic, which has driven up rates of burnout across the globe.


In particular, Generation Z is feeling exhausted by the current job market, having to struggle with financial fears and persistently high levels of stress. According to a Deloitte study, around 40% of them want to quit their jobs for these reasons in the next two years.


Participants in the study also often don’t think that their job is very important. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused them to re-evaluate what really matters to them in life.


How can companies bridge this gap and motivate their employees in the long term? The first step is understanding what future generations expect from the job market.


What future generations expect


While previous generations are still subscribed to the motto of “work hard, play hard”, millennials and Gen Z prioritise jobs with a good work-life balance. Movements like quiet quitting show that employees want healthy boundaries. They also want their work to be remunerated, so that they won’t have financial concerns.


For companies, debates like this are an opportunity to change their own corporate culture. Because only those can keep employees engaged in the long run will manage to maintain productivity and attract new talent. Flexible working models, an inclusive office culture, and work-life balance are right at top of the list of priorities for younger generations.


Looking forward, companies will need to raise their standards in order to satisfy these generations.


Are you finding it challenging to make these changes and are you not sure how to approach them as a company? Learn more about how OpenUp can help you to become a more attractive employer.