Quiet Quitting: Taking Back Control From Corporations

Caption: GRAPHIC BY SERENA JOHNSON/GRAPHICS CENTER

“Quiet quitting” is a phenomenon that debuted on Tiktok in March and has sparked conversations about work culture on a national level. A viral TikTok that garnered 8.2 million views posted by @zkchillin in July defined quiet quitting as “still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.” 

When someone “quiet quits,” they do not actually quit their job, they simply do not put extra effort into tasks that are not in their job description. TikTok user @lookatmyfeesh boasted their own success with quiet quitting: “I quiet quit six months ago and guess what, same pay. Same recognition, same everything but less stress.” Gallup reported that 50% of the United States workforce is composed of “quiet quitters.” Advocates of quiet quitting encourage the inner reevaluation of the accepted work life balance in an age of corporate exploitation and the mindless subscription to capitalist structures and believe it to be a form of individual employee empowerment.

Quiet quitting challenges the status quo of what work life balance has nationally become. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 52% of the U.S. workforce reports working more than 40 hours a week. Influenced by the disruption of the traditional work environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, proponents of quiet quitting are adopting the movement’s mindset as a way of freeing themselves from the induced stress and pressure of  “being a good employee”  in service of relentless company growth. As quiet quitting empowers workers, it also seems to be the beginning of a possible redefinition of corporate culture.

Ideally, ceasing to put in extra effort for extra responsibilities would allow people to explore who they are outside of the workplace. When workers start to refuse tasks outside of their job description, leave work on time, and only answer emails during work hours, their world begins to open up. According to Psychology Today, setting such boundaries is proven to reduce the likelihood of burnout, which is defined as an “emotional and/or physical exhaustion (often coupled with a loss of, or significant reduction in, motivation) brought about by prolonged work stress.” In 2015, Deloitte surveyed 1,000 American professionals and found that 77% of all respondents had experienced employee burnout, while 84% of millennials had experienced the phenomenon.

In the debate around quiet quitting, older generations seem to find the trend to be conducive to the laziness of younger generations. For example, an older man on TikTok (@chefkoumbis405) posted a video stating, “When I was growing up, you know what we did? We did whatever it took. You get out what you put in.” While quiet quitting might not present a long term solution to a person’s dissatisfaction in the workplace, it might give them space to prioritize their wellbeing, rethink their relationship to work, and find a career that drives their passion to go the extra mile.

Fed up with corporate exploitation, quiet quitting is a simple way of protesting the unrewarding atmosphere within the workplace. The virality of quiet quitting has the potential to force executives to take notice of the culture they foster in their companies. Management at some corporations have addressed possible solutions to quiet quitting. Trending posts on Linkedin have proposed tactics like better communication in the workplace, more trust between varying levels of employees, and giving people generally more inspiring and engaging work. In the meantime, quiet quitting allows for employees the tools to reevaluate how their personal values intersect with their professional lives. 

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