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Quiet Quitting: What It Means, Why It's Blowing Up, and Our Take on It

What exactly is quiet quitting, why is everyone talking about it, and what can you do to help prevent your employees from checking out?

6 mins read time
Jeanna Barrett
Jeanna Barrett

Sep 15, 2022

If you've been on Twitter, TikTok, or just about any social media platform in the last month, then you've probably seen chatter about something called "quiet quitting."

Spoiler alert: It's nothing new, and it's up to employers to prevent it from happening in the first place.

The Low-Down on Quiet Quitting

Out of the loop on quiet quitting? Not for long.

What Is Quiet Quitting, Anyway?

To put it simply, quiet quitting is the exact opposite of going above and beyond. It's doing exactly what's required of you as outlined in your job description, and nothing more.

Have you ever worked longer than you were strictly required to in order to get the job done right? That's not quiet quitting.

Have you ever answered a work email during non-office hours, just because you wanted to reach a solution faster? That's not quiet quitting either.

Quiet quitting is clocking in on time, clocking out on time, and not responding to all work-related correspondence once your shift has ended.

And to be clear, quiet quitting does not mean slacking off or neglecting your duties. Instead, it means doing no more and no less than you're required to — not lazing around, but not going the extra mile either.

So if you have once-enthusiastic employees who are now refusing to respond to messages unless it's during work hours, not doing anything outside of their job descriptions, and no longer interested in exceeding your expectations, we've got bad news: Your team is quiet quitting.

Where the Term "Quiet Quitting" Came From

While quiet quitting as a concept isn't necessarily new, the term itself is a 21st-century invention.

It first gained notoriety in 2021, but in a place you might not expect: China. There, young and overworked employees began to popularize the idea of tang ping, which translates to "lying flat."

This form of passive resistance was (and is) highly controversial, with the Chinese government quickly banning mentions of tang ping on social media. But the idea's seeds had been planted, and the movement continued.

And then in 2022, the term "quiet quitting" began to crop up on American social media. Some sources say it was first uttered on Twitter, while others say it caught on thanks to a viral TikTok video from user Zaid Khan:


But whether it was popularized on TikTok, Twitter, or another platform entirely, the result was the same: American social media users were fascinated with the concept, and news outlets were quick to report on the phenomenon.

As you might expect, some people are supportive of the idea while others are less-than-enthused. On Zaid Khan's TikTok video, for example, most comments are positive.

There, user @sailordoooom said that "the fact that expectation is 'above and beyond' tells us everything we need to know about capitalism," and user @jezzypc remarked that she "start[ed] doing this when I had kids. They gave me a sharp focus that myself, my family, and friends are my life, not my job."

On the other hand, user @lawgik wasn't so approving. "Ahhh the millennial perspective: rename it to make it more palatable. This used to be called slacking off," they commented.

Which interpretation is right? To find out, we'll have to dig deeper.

Why Quiet Quitting Is Trending

There's no doubt that people have been quiet quitting for years, whether they called it that or not. But according to some experts, pandemic and post-pandemic burnout can help explain its sudden rise in attention and popularity.

After all, a staggering 9.4 million people lost their jobs in 2020, as per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

us-employment-2020

Source

Those without a job had to quickly find another means of earning a living, while those who still had jobs often needed to pick up the slack left by a reduced workforce.

Long story short, the pandemic completely upended the American workforce, and employees are exhausted.

This, combined with the years-long growth of toxic hustle culture, created the perfect environment for tang ping, quiet quitting, and all its variations to thrive.

Our POV

Here at First Page Strategy, we've never been fans of the "rise and grind" mentality. Years before the pandemic started, our founder left her six-figure corporate job in San Francisco to be her own boss and #workfromanywhere.

The team of 40+ marketing experts she's built since then all love working at FPS for the same reason she created it: Because we don't want to sit in an office for eight hours a day, going above and beyond for a promotion that may never come, sacrificing freedom in the name of status.

Instead, we want rewarding work to be one awesome component of our lives, not to place work on a pedestal as the meaning of life itself.

That's why quiet quitting sounds so familiar to us: Because it's not new. Quiet quitting is just a new way to talk about employee disengagement, burnout, and dissatisfaction, and it's gained so much traction not because workers are lazy but because employers aren't fostering a healthy, balanced, and engaging workplace.

So from our point of view, you can't prevent your team from quiet quitting by putting more pressure on them, offering pay raises as incentives, or replacing them altogether.

Instead, you'll find more success by:

  • Emphasizing your brand's overall purpose and meaning
  • Soliciting their feedback (and listening to it)
  • Giving rewards for jobs well done
  • Encouraging them to pursue hobbies and interests outside of work
  • Showing interest in and support for their family lives
  • Allowing them to have more say in the hiring process
  • Setting realistic deadlines and project goals
  • Checking in on a regular basis to ensure no one is feeling overwhelmed or overworked
  • Having the flexibility to accommodate those who need it
  • Not encouraging or enabling excessive work-related communication outside of working hours
  • Not expecting overtime or over-exertion

And though what works for one company might not work for another, can we just say how fantastic the freedom of remote work is? Even if your team can't go fully remote, you might consider a more hybrid approach.

No, doing all those things isn't strictly necessary. But we'll tell you one thing: Quiet quitting wouldn't be trending to the degree that it is if more employers did them.

So don't be tempted to write of quiet quitting as a fad, a generational phenomenon, or a product of laziness. View it as disengaged, burned-out employees desperate for healthy boundaries, and you'll be one huge step closer to getting your team back on track.

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Jeanna Barrett

Jeanna is the Founder & Chief Marketing Expert for First Page, an award-winning, fully distributed marketing agency. Jeanna has a combined 17 years of inbound marketing experience at venture-backed startups, digital agencies and Fortune 500 companies, with an expertise focus on business and tech. She's been named 'Top 40 Under 40' of brand marketers and 'Best in the West' for financial technology marketing. In 2016, Jeanna left the U.S. to lay roots and build her business in Belize, and in 2021 First Page was named #43 in fastest growing private companies of Inc. 5,00 Regionals: California.

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