“Quiet Quitting” – a new phenomenon or simply a new buzzword calling out the humdrum of work?

The viral HR term of the summer has undoubtably been “Quiet Quitting”. For those that have not heard of it, it started out on TikTok as a rebuttal to the USA’s “Hussle Culture”, or the tendency for employers to expect MORE from employees (after-hour phone calls, picking up someone else’s tasks when they are busy or falling behind, going above and beyond one’s job description). Some claim it has become a response to pandemic-worn workers who are burnt out, others claim its simply slackers justifying their slackness!

What is “Quiet Quitting” actually? It is the latest Gen Z buzzword attempting to improve our overall work-life balance. The rationale for this is threefold:

  1. Overworked – a WHO study from 2016 found that people working 55 hours or more in a week face a 35% higher risk of a stroke, and 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared to people who work 35-40 hours per week. With our collective increased awareness of mental health and its importance, it makes sense to not overwork.
  2. Proper / equal pay – no one is going to wear themselves out for minimum wage or even a $35-40k annual salary. In a work economy with high unemployment, employers have traditionally pitted employees against one another with talk of “top performers” and “high achievers” being considered for promotions and career development. However, the threat of “Work hard or we will find someone who does” does not work as well when there are no new workers to be found! With employees now having the “upper-hand”, the tables have turned! It’s time for employers to stop expecting something (extra work) for nothing (no extra compensation).
  3. Invest in Me – to be a great communicator, one must first be a good listener, right? Same with your workplace culture – if you want employees to feel a part of the team, to feel good about going to work, then a company must first show how valued and important the employees are! Does your company give positive feedback or praise? Does your team know what the strategic priorities of the company are? Are your employees encouraged and supported in learning and development? Unless your company invests in their people, their people will not invest in the company.

So, is Quiet Quitting a new phenomenon or is it simply a newly coined term that explains the approach to work most workers have had for generations? It is a bit of both; Let me explain!

Firstly, we must acknowledge that our society is made up of a wide spectrum of workers – slackers, hustlers, high performers, and average Joes. Take any slice of the workforce and you’ll find a normal bell-curve distribution with the majority falling somewhere in the middle. These middle-of-the-roaders are showing up for work, doing their job, and going home at the end of the day. They are not the slackers or hustlers, but they are the majority, and employers need them, want them, love them! HR professionals have, for years, been trying to move the needle in terms of equal and equitable pay. We have been advocating for mental health awareness and the importance of good work/life balance, as well as the importance of staff learning and development. So really, there is nothing new here!

However, while these concepts are not new our society’s collective awareness and new-found dedication to improving things is (Thanks Pandemic and GenZ’ers!), and that is why quiet quitting has generated the buzz it has, and why as HR professionals we are excited to see where this phenomenon will take us!

1 Comment

  1. Shana
    September 23, 2022

    Fantastic post! I hope employers and employees alike learn from this new phenomenon.

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