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Hey Boss, I Give up. I’m (Quiet) Quitting!

29/09/2022Daya Dimensi Indonesia

Hey Boss, I can’t do this anymore. I’m (Quiet) Quitting!

The pandemic has once again reshaped our work concept, as many of us reconsider how we live and prioritize our time into a more modern work-life balance. Recently, there has been this growing culture, and we called it: quiet quitting. Some practitioners also described it as “phase two” of great resignation. The quiet quitting terms went viral globally, spearheaded by TikTok, that got millions of traction–particularly for the millennials and Gen Z workers.

But what does quiet quitting look like? Is quiet quitting the same as #AntiWork? How can organizations respond to this growing culture? And most important: should we quietly quit, too? In the first instance, here’s a thing about quiet quitting:

Quiet quitting is the expression of a broader trend.

The growing culture of quiet quitting was believed first emerge in China, where the hashtag “TangPing” (translate: “lying flat”) was all over Chinese social media throughout 2021 as the young workers rebelled against the long work hours in China. It gained much attention and became controversial, which is now censored in China (, 2022).

In recent times, the term has been going viral worldwide as it spreads quickly through precedently on TikTok and then on other social media platforms. But what is quiet quitting after all?

First and foremost, quiet quitting is essentially when employees just do the bare minimum to get by. Rather than leaving a job outright, quiet quitting is when the employees do only as much as is required, not less or more, and set firm boundaries.

The employees are not leaving their jobs per se but are already mentally checking out. Quiet quitting doesn’t necessarily mean slacking off the job or the passive- aggressive movement to end the hustling culture era. According to Psychology Today (2022), it means rejecting the idea you have to go and decided to stop chasing validation by going “above and beyond”. In fact, they invested more in the life side of work-life balance, which means focusing on the things outside of the job–living life. Quiet quitting is also often an employee’s form of response to all the hassles within an organization, for instance–unrealistic demands or toxic work culture that the organization isn’t acknowledging.

According to the viral TikTokker @zkchillin, which was agreed by many, this is what quiet quitting looks like:

‘You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.’

The quiet quitting itself can take many forms. That can mean anything related to setting boundaries, for instance, not answering any work-related contacts after 5 pm–including WhatsApp message, avoiding non-mandatory meetings, turning down projects that least sparks interest, or even simply feeling less invested in their role or job.

This term may be ubiquitous at the moment, but there’s nothing new under the sun in the workplace.

Although quiet quitting has not yet become the established academic term, and there is no specific academic research on it (as far as this article was written); the phenomenon itself has been around in workplaces for a while now. Almost every generation of workers has had its own Carpe Diem as a work philosophy.

Quiet quitting might be related to the concept of employee engagement. And the quiet quitting itself might be close to the term “disengagement”. William Kahn– the father of Employee Engagement, identified engagement and disengagement as psychological states and referred to behaviors describing whether people bring or leave their selves during work performance (Clark, 2019). For that matter, he defined personal disengagement as the “uncoupling of selves from work roles– people withdraw and defend”. Employees who are disengaged will withdraw from any non- necessary work activities. They tend only to do the minimum to get by, decreasing productivity and no longer giving voluntary effort. Disengagement can be seen as self-defense.

Employees make conscious decisions to engage/disengage based on their assessment of the situation concerning their psychological conditions of meaningfulness, safety, and availability. Upon an unfavorable evaluation, the employees are likely to uncouple themselves from their work roles–disengaged (Rastogi, Pati, Krishnan & Krishnan, 2018).

Another concept that might be related to quiet quitting is “Job boredom”. Job boredom is a state or mental exhaustion process involving negative attitudes toward work (cynicism), depreciation of one’s accomplishments, and reduced professional efficacy (Maslach et al., 2001; Harju & Hakanen, 2016). Like people who are quiet quitting, someone who experiences job boredom might be physically present here but psychologically somewhere else.

They perceive a lack of meaning in their job. Job boredom is often associated with insufficiently challenging demands at their job, job characteristics, the social environment of the workplace and societal context (Harju & Hakanen, 2016). Employees will not fully present in their task performances without the availability to engage in work activities satisfyingly.

The truth is everyone may be disengaged at some point in life. It is considered as the typical stage of the young-adulthood employees related to identity crisis where the people at this age have high hopes that they can have an impact and find meaning in a job (or ‘working toward purpose fulfillment’ in Barrett Value Model by Richard Barrett, 1998). On the contrary, reality can often be very frustrating (Fortune, 2022), leading to disengagement with their job. Let alone the characteristics of Millenials and Gen Z that are very vocal about the work-life balance.

Research showed that The Millenials, raised on welfare, are less willing to make trade-offs and sacrifice their autonomy for the sake of prosperity. They focus on self-fulfillment as the main driver in their career and living up to their values. Additionally, for Gen Z, the factors that keep them in an organization are mainly nonfinancial. They choose more satisfying tasks and put aside the well-paid job and a position (Kuzior, Kettler & Rąb, 2022). That might be why quiet quitting is closer to one’s heart for Millennials, mainly Gen Zs.

Despite breaking the internet, Quiet Quitting has its pros and cons.

Like anything that spikes on social media, quiet quitting invites much debate; some endorse it, and others are against it.

The pandemic has significantly contributed to the employee’s burnout, overwhelm, rage, and feeling of lack of control of lives. Therefore, the search for meaning has become far more apparent (Guardian, 2022). Some existential questions, like “what’s the meaning of my work? How can I align my job with my values?” keep popping up in people’s minds.

Most employees who experience workplace burnout identify themselves through their job. In psychology, there is this term called “enmeshment”, which refers to an unhealthy condition in which boundaries between two or more individuals become blurred, causing individuals to lose sight of their identity. In other words, in this context, they were unable to separate their self-identity from their job– their career became their whole identity (Maxfield, 2021).

Quiet quitting is seen as a helpful trick for employees to set healthy boundaries in achieving a better work-life balance. Work has been mainly premised on a traditional work model characterized by full‐time, permanent employment with one employer. In contrast, life has hitherto been viewed as caring for dependent children (Kelliher, Richardson, Boiarintseva, 2018). Life in the 21st century involves things other than childcare responsibilities for some.

That includes hobbies, education, exercise, religion, community service, or even doing the gig economy (also read our articles about “gig economy ” on page 21). Quiet quitting helps the employee cushion some of the adverse effects of blurring boundaries between work and non‐work life. It supports us to protect the priorities in pursuing the life part– the side hustles, family, education, or any other that is as important.

On the other hand, setting aside its ubiquitous, quiet quitting might not fit everyone and be perceived as a utopia for some. “Quiet quitting isn’t just about quitting on a job. It’s a step toward quitting on life,” according to Arianna Huffington on her Linkedin post (2022). Rejecting hustle culture doesn’t have to equate to doing the bare minimum. Huffington added, “Pushing ourselves beyond the bare minimum is how we grow, evolve, and expand our possibilities”. There is also certain jeopardy when only focusing on doing what is just being asked. One of those is lesser chances of sharpening skills which can lead to more dissatisfaction with work and a lack of accountability as well as appreciation within the team (Mekala, 2022).

People have also seen that achieving personal goals through work is equally essential to mental health. To tally more perspective, people also reckon that not all the workers are privileged to follow the movement–especially the minorities with unconscious bias around the corner. Hence, people must go above and beyond to be considered (Bloomberg, 2022).

Acknowledgement and starting the dialogue are the takeaway for the organization.

Quiet quitting sort of suffices as a wake-up call for leaders and organizations who, to this date, think that their employees have the same level of work motivation as them.

That can be momentum for organizational transformation. As mentioned above, quiet quitting is often an employee’s response to all the issues they face in an organization that the organization isn’t acknowledging. The leaders might be the first line holding the “it” key to help and to get the quiet quitters back on the track—to be engaged. Frank and open dialogue between the leaders and employees might be an effective way to enhance employee engagement.

Research has pointed out that the most relevant employee communication practices for them are the leaders, where the dialogue is aimed at providing information, explaining objectives and strategies, and also informal conversations to solicit employee feedback (Mazzei, Butera & Quaratino,2019). Addressing the issues (i.e. disengaged or job boredom) may require managerial attunement to the needs of employees. The leaders are essential in enforcing a climate where individuals are encouraged to craft more meaningful jobs (Harju & Hakanen, 2016). (RAK)

Read the last article by Daya Dimensi Indonesia here.

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