What Is “Quiet Quitting” and Should You Do It?

You may have noticed the term “quiet quitting” floating around your TikTok or Twitter feeds lately and wondered what it means. Truthfully, it’s a bit of a misnomer, because it doesn’t refer to actually quitting your job. A more fitting phrase would be “acting your wage,” because it’s the idea that you only do the work you’re getting paid to do. 

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And while that may sound like a more than reasonable boundary to set with your workplace, it’s a novel concept to many who have become accustomed to hustle culture, and the constant expectations to be going “above and beyond” in the workplace. 

In the wake of the pandemic, and during a time when burnout has reached all-time high, it’s unsurprising that the phrase has gained so much traction. Younger generations are re-examining their relationships with work and how it fits into their lives, as opposed to the reverse. 

Though it hasn’t just elicited responses from people ready to reclaim their time and mental health — some have countered that “quiet quitting” is a bad idea. 

For example, Kevin O’Leary, investor and star of Shark Tank told CNBC you’re only working for him if you’re willing to put in “25 hours a day, eight days a week,” and claims “quiet quitting” won’t pay dividends later in life. But O’Leary, like many others giving “warnings” are the exact people who benefit from exploiting employees’ labor without additional compensation. 

Quiet quitting doesn’t actually mean you’re quitting, or that you’re lazy — you’re literally still doing your job. You’re just defending yourself against wage theft. Thanks for the tip though, Kev! 

So how do you know when you should “quiet quit” and where you should start?

Cinneah El-amin, founder of Flynanced, says the first step is to try and communicate with whoever you report to. It may sound obvious, but she knows there are people who might go weeks at a time without talking to the person who’s making those decisions regarding their workload and compensation. Once you have those updates established on a regular cadence, hopefully that builds enough trust to feel comfortable asking for what you need to be a content employee.

“It’s always important to make sure you’re showing that you’re still adding value. From there, hopefully most of us would have managers that would be pretty agreeable to a boundary that an employee would set.” If not, El-amin says, “That’s always a telltale sign about whether this is an organization or team you can be a part of. It’s always a red flag when there are things I need to be able to do my job well, and they’re not being respected.”

El-amin says she’s gone through this herself, and chose to “quiet quit” at a previous position. “I can think of a moment at my previous employer where one day I joined a call with two levels of higher ups, and was told I would be joining a new team. I would have all new responsibilities, and pretty much everything I’d been working on up until that point was null and void.”

After the call, she asked if she’d be compensated for all of her new responsibilities. “I was told flat out, no. That’s when I ‘quiet quit’ that job. Advocating for myself and being no absolutely influenced my decisions on how I continued to navigate that job. I definitely checked out, but I was still checking the boxes because I knew what success looked like in my role.”

That’s when El-amin started making decisions that prioritized what she wanted without looking for approval from her manager — like moving out of New York. 

Her main lesson learned? You don’t have to just take it. You don’t just have to sit in a job and wait patiently for that promotion, or whatever you’re being breadcrumbed to believe. Remember that your skills are worth a lot.

“And a lot of times, companies don’t necessarily have an incentive to retain talent. Companies will pay almost double what they’re paying an employee just to bring in someone new, so use that to your advantage,” she advises. 

Ultimately, setting work-life boundaries that protect your time and still allow you to do your work is healthy. If you find your job pushing past boundaries, though, checking out while still ticking the job description boxes can be a short-term solution to protect yourself mentally and physically from a toxic workplace. If you’re being asked to do things outside your role without proper credit or compensation and being shown you’re not valued or respected, it’s time to set a boundary. But don’t let that fool you into thinking there’s not a better job out there for you.