5 October 2022
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the phenomenon known as “Quiet Quitting” popularised by Gen Z Tik Tokers.
Whilst there’s a lot of misconception around what exactly it is, the notion of quiet quitting isn’t new or inherently wrong. The fundamental premise is that we, as a society, should reject the notion that work is a central focus of our lives. Although this may not be a great approach to take for career progression, this phenomenon has really catapulted in the post pandemic zeitgeist which has made everyone re-evaluate WTF they were actually doing and prioritising all of this time. Sitting at home in lockdown for months made everybody reconsider what was important to them -Friends, family and health - being around loved ones, pursuing your passions. It probably wasn’t their 9 to 5.
So WTF is quiet quitting? Well, the premise is that your job is a means to an end, not your whole life. There are things like your happiness which you should prioritise. The fundamental notion of quiet quitting is that we should resist the expectation that we should be putting in extra hours for no real return; an expectation which holds particularly true in big corporate firms that expect you to work till late hours of the night for no overtimes or additional pay but just to meet a deadline. You just do what you’re obliged to do between 9-5. You say “no” to requests to go the extra mile for no real tangible benefit.
The Boomers and Gen X love to call this “lazy…” but is it? Is quiet quitting really that bad? Is it even morally wrong if you’re restricting yourself to only do what you’re contractually required to? Maybe if it’s done to the detriment of your wider team, meaning they take on far more responsibility, but the notion of doing just what you’re paid to do aligns with the younger Millennial and Gen Z stance that we should be working smart, not unduly or unnecessarily hard. By making the work day feel like it’s exactly that, and that they have more to their life than a career. So whilst the name may be misleading, you’re not actually quitting at all but rather ascribing to do the minimum as opposed to the maximum.
In general, younger Millennials and those in Gen Z have the lowest engagement and employer satisfaction that companies have ever had. Both these younger generations are driven by recognition and positive reinforcement. We were coddled a lot more than our predecessor generations who centred themselves around career progression and staying loyal to their businesses. As the most entrepreneurial, technologically savvy and liberal generations, what motivates us and what we care about is just different. Further, data shows that quiet quitting is a direct reflection of managers and bosses abilities to manage. Those who make their team feel undervalued, unappreciated and under-recognised are those most likely to have team members quiet quitting. Conversely, workplaces where those in positions of management have supportive relationships with their employees and where managers are aware and respect how employees have changed with the times will have people more reluctant to let a team down.
So whilst quiet quitting may seem like it’s this whole problem where entitled Millennials and Gen Z’ers are doing as a form of sheer laziness, it’s actually very reflective of our formative experiences and motivators. It’s about respecting yourself and priding your self-worth and ego on more than what you do just for work, and not striving for career perfection. Economically, it’s been identified as the next stage in the “Great Resignation,” and I think it’s important for employers to simply acknowledge that the tide has shifted, and ultimately what role they may be playing in encouraging their employees to quietly quit.
"It’s important for employers to simply acknowledge what role they may be playing in encouraging their employees to quietly quit."
However, with that being said, it’s also important to note that there is perhaps a marked degree of entitlement that us Millennials and my successor generation may have. We come out of University and in some instances we may think success is owed to us from the very start. Although times are changing and setting boundaries for yourself is a very legitimate and reasonable request, we also need to realise that we can’t just start an entry level role expecting six figures. 3-6 months of experience does not qualify as enough work experience for one to claim to be a professional in that field.
Generally, 7-10 years of experience is the reasonable and required amount of time required to be a self-proclaimed maestro. You can’t become a registered architect without a minimum of 7 years experience, nor can you become a lawyer without passing the bar exam, or a doctor without meeting the requirements at different levels.
With social media, there is a sense that success is nearly instantaneous and that one is entitled to it as if it arrives on a silver platter. While the notion of self-respect and dignity in the workplace is encouraged, there is a fine line between asking for your true value and overpricing yourself with minimal experience. The point is, you still have to work, albeit not as hard, to upskill yourself, follow through on the commitments you make (so as to not affect the livelihood of your team and employer) and ultimately claim your rightful success.
So whilst you should feel free to establish your boundaries with your employer as much as you want (that's your right to leave at 5pm), it's important to not leave your colleagues picking up the pieces in the process, and remember that working in a specific field requires skills which is only truly gained by practical experience.