The Great Resignation, which saw droves of workers leave their jobs or switch careers, may still be going strong — but another new workplace phenomenon is emerging: “quiet quitting.”
The term gained popularity on TikTok this month and videos related to the topic amassed 354 million views as of Thursday.
Quiet quitting can sometimes refer to setting of boundaries at work or not taking on more work than necessary.
While quiet quitting has received a fair share of backlash ever since it went viral, there’s no single definition for the term. For some, it means not going above and beyond at work. Most, however, agree it does not mean you’re leaving the job.
The Great Resignation saw record-high numbers of resignations with young and burned out workers leading the charge, whereas quiet quitting is a mindset adopted by those who stay, said Jaya Dass, Randstad’s managing director for Singapore and Malaysia.
“If no one’s asking you to leave, why not do less by default and get away with it? You’re buying time where you’re at,” she said.
While burnout levels are high with people “doing a lot more with less for a long time now,” said workplace psychologist and behavioral expert Dr. Natalie Baumgartner, it is important that employees feel valued and appreciated.
“But that is not happening either,” she added.
According to a Resume Builder survey in August, one in 10 employees say they are currently putting in less effort than they did six months ago.
Additionally, 5% out of 1,000 people surveyed say they do less than what’s required of them.
The survey also showed that quiet quitters refuse to go above and beyond, not just because they are not compensated for the extra effort, but also because they think it will compromise their mental health and work-life balance.
While quiet quitting may help ease burnout in the short term, it is not a long-term solution, workplace experts tell CNBC Make It. Here’s what they say you can do instead.
1. Be efficient
Achieving better work-life balance is important, but Michael Timmes, a senior human resource specialist at Insperity stressed that you still need to remain engaged at the job.
“If you are going to adopt some level of ‘quiet quitting,’ then the hours that are spent at your job should be maximized and efficient,” he said.
“This way, you will continue to grow and develop the skills being offered by others that have more experience and knowledge, while also exploring your creativity and passions that may bring you more happiness.”
Maggie Perkins, 30, who practiced quiet quitting at her teaching job, pointed out that you cannot “become a negative person at work.”
“Still give your positive attitude … you have to be who [your company] hired, but be who they hired for the hours that you’re paid to be there.”
Career coach Kelsey Wat also noticed that people who engage in quiet quitting become “bitter and resentful” toward their employers, using it as a way to get back at their company.
However, Baumgartner said quiet quitting stems from “a state of pain” as a result of being overworked and under-appreciated.
“Nobody likes to be that way. That’s not a that’s not a human condition that that people want to be in.”
Even so, quiet quitting is not going to be sustainable in the long run as it doesn’t give a greater sense of purpose of appreciation at work, she added.
Dass from Randstad said that employees should take ownership for their own growth and figure out why they feel burned out or why they need to resort to quiet quitting.
“People are very quick to say I’m unhappy, but why are you unhappy and what will make you happy is a very hard question,” she said.
Timmes added, “In many cases these individuals do not understand their own ‘why.’ Unfortunately, individuals are actualizing Henry Thoreau’s famous quote — ‘Most men live lives of quiet desperation,'” he said referring to the American poet and philosopher.
While some workers have taken to social media to express why they are quiet quitting, workplace experts advise that they should be speaking to their bosses instead.
“What’s actually scary about [the phenomenon of quiet quitting] is that the people who are at work don’t know about it and the people who are not at work know about it,” said Dass.
Career coach Wat added that it is “irresponsible” to quietly quit without having conversations with your employer about your needs and current challenges.
“If you never have these conversations and just silently check out, the needle will never move.”
If you feel unappreciated at work, workplace psychologist Baumgartner recommends speaking to your boss about it too, even if it’s an uncomfortable conversation.
“You could say, ‘I don’t have the sense that I’m doing a good job that I’m delivering what you want. So when that happens, you can let me know.'”
When giving feedback, it is also important to “get really specific,” she added.
“We as humans have this tendency to expect that people understand how we feel, or what exactly we need,” Baumgartner said.
“Write down two things that if they happened, would improve your experience of burnout or lack of purpose and tell your manager those things.”
In dealing with quiet quitters and burnout among employees, the management also has a responsibility.
Not only do corporate leaders need to be good listeners when receiving feedback, they must also be good listeners, Wat said.
“They need to take a whole human approach to their workplace policies and they need to acknowledge the fact that the workplace will never be the same as it was before the pandemic. People have changed. The workplace needs to catch up.”
Baumgartner said the role of leaders is to ask employees what’s not working out for them if they are disengaged, rather than “make assumptions” or “coming in with an iron fist.”
“Quiet quitting is a cry for help from employees … what’s important then is that managers pay attention to feedback and take meaningful action.”
Meaningful action can be as small as letting employees feel heard, or saying “a genuine ‘thank you,'” she added.
“You can do worlds of wonder in alleviating this sense of burnout and lack of appreciation that’s driving quiet quitting.”
However, if an employer is defensive or not receptive to feedback, Dass said, it’s worth revisiting the conversation and giving him or her the time to process the information.
She said that one of the mistakes she’s seen in employees is that they think: “I already told my manager how I feel. It’s up to them to come back and do something about it.”
“Communication is a process. It’s not an end game,” she pointed out.
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