Breaking news: quiet quitting is all the rage with TikTok and Gen z’s. But the fact is, quiet quitting is not a new phenomenon. It’s how your lazy coworkers didn’t get promoted for decades. Right now, there’s a lot of hype about quiet quitting and a lot of misconceptions about what quiet quitting is.
And, maybe a lot of professionals are about to get themselves fired for quiet quitting the wrong way. We don’t want that to be you. So we’re going to talk about it all in this article. As always, there will be chapters mentioned in the table of contents below so that you can get into the part that’s most interesting to you. Let’s begin with the basics.
What is quiet quitting?
Essentially quiet quitting is opting out of hustle culture, i.e, overperforming and working all the time, and setting more effective and meaningful work-life boundaries so that you get to enjoy your life and not just base your identity off of work. In fact, this term is very new and many of us haven’t heard of this before. But we’ll come back to it in a later part because the discourse around quiet quitting and what it is has, of course, taken a turn. I have a rant about how quiet quitting is being discussed by critics.
Criticising The Critics
Of course, not everyone out there is like,” Quiet Quitting Movement!!, Let’s All Rejoice!!”
But also, there are lots of critics of quiet quitting. You’ve probably noticed the bombardment in the media and in videos and everywhere about quiet quitting. And a lot of the subtext of the conversations and the coverage when it comes to criticisms of quiet quitting is this “NOBODY WANTS TO WORK THESE DAYS”
However, this premise lies in the fact that being lazy is defined as refusing to overperform, overwork, burn yourself out(the phenomenon called employee burnout), and sacrifice yourself and everything about your life, including your relationships in order to service the company’s needs. And if that’s the definition of lazy we’re working with, many of us would be happy for us to all be lazy.
In order for this to make sense. We need to look at the subtext of who benefits from our overworking and overachieving. And who is most concerned about prospective losses in productivity and profitability.
Why Quiet Quitting Is Having A Moment?
Now knowing what quiet quitting is, what it’s not, and the fact that it’s not new, we need to discuss why quiet quitting is having such a moment in the cultural zeitgeist. For this to make sense, I think that we really need to zoom out. And this is something I want you to practice in your career success strategy and how you think about problems and decisions you’re facing at work.
For this to make more sense, we need to throw back to the olden days. The golden era when a dust job was nine to five. When a single income could support a whole family, comfortably. And there were real opportunities for economic advancement.
But in our case, I want to discuss only the work culture aspects. But obviously, there are a lot of socio-economic things that have happened. I’ll make a passing mention but I just want to caveat that this is my personal opinion. And I’m pulling facts from observations. I am not an economist and I did not do deep research to prepare for this. So please, if you’re basing decisions on this, fact-check for yourself.
Since those olden days, when a nine-to-five was truly a nine-to-five. And today, a lot of things about our working culture have changed, especially since the turn of the century. Everyone has an email now. And were are constantly connected to it through our smartphones, where we can just get to email, we can get to instant messaging, we can get to work apps. In simple words, we can do our jobs on the go. Which of course has led to this always-on culture.
Think of how often you’re able to go for dinner with friends with no one touching their phones, no one replying to their email, and no replying to just one quick message. It just doesn’t happen anymore. And as this technology enabled us to work from everywhere, liberating us from the office, we also saw the rise of the glamorization of the hustle and the emergence of hustle culture.
I know a lot of you are also in the tech world and we see through media and through social media the glamorization of startup life and its potential to strike it rich. And along with those things and along with those developments and our working culture, we also have a workforce that has been trained to overachieve.
Ambitious professionals are entering the workforce with a focus on getting the highest test scores, having the most extracurricular activities, and over achievement as a badge of honor. And of course, all of these things, and many more I’m sure have unfortunately created a dramatic increase in burnout, especially over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a marked increase in discussion around burnout. And you’d think that remote work would solve a lot of these problems. After all, we’re not commuting every day. We’re working from the comfort of our homes, we’ve so much less stress now.
Only we don’t necessarily have less stress and that time you’ve not spent commuting might be the time that you’re expected to be spent in meetings. Many professionals are of the opinion that they find themselves working much more when everyone was working remotely because their boss said, “ Yeah, you’re home anyway, we’ll have that meeting at eight o’clock at night.” And they didn’t feel like they could say no.
And obviously, subsequently, we’ve had the return to the office and trying to balance remote work, hybrid work, or being forced back to an office that you don’t want to go to. Hearing that, we have the great resignation, and talent shortages, there has been so much going on from a work culture perspective.
Honestly, it’s hard for most people to keep up with. And then, of course, we have financial stuff underlying all of this.
Over the past few decades, we’ve had the tech bubble burst, we’ve had the great recession, the housing market collapse, and we have growing affordability issues. This has led to a situation where right now the average price of rent in Manhattan is more than $5000 a month, whereas the average salary in New York City is just under $58,000 per year.
But this is not unique. And when you’re a highly paid tech employee, your salary brings you really far when you move to North Carolina, which also impacts housing prices and affordability within those markets.
And I also think that I would be remiss to not mention the social pressure that we feel. Through social media, a lot of people feel like they need to prove themselves or they need validation, you need to be living an insta-worthy life in order to be successful.
So you’re supposed to have an incredibly successful career where you’re paid an exorbitant amount of money so that you can buy all designer things, go on luxurious vacations, and spend all of this time with your friends while you’re working all the time.
And through all of this, the reality for most people has been this. “You work your a@# off and you struggle anyway”
Then we have this new term introduced “Quiet Quitting”. Where you’re not quitting your job, you’re still getting your paycheck, but you’ve opted out of overachieving, you’re just gonna coast along professionally so as to live a good life. Because all of that stuff is even worth it.
Misconceptions About Quiet Quitting
This leads us to the misconception of quiet quitting. Now, I tackle this one earlier, but I want to talk about it again because I know that I’m going to have some objections. So, what I want to do is I want to translate this for you. Quiet quitting has been viewed by some people as being lazy. Like an employee who just doesn’t want to work anymore.
But that’s not true. In reality, when you’re quiet quitting the right way, then quiet quitting is actually “working smart, not hard”. And we’ve had that slogan around for ages.
Similarly, not everyone has always wanted to get promoted into the C suite in their career. That was not true 40 years ago, and it’s not true even now. And I think what quiet quitting does is, it normalizes working smart instead of working hard, which people say they don’t practice often.
And it also expands the definition of success to not just rely solely on professional success. Because when professional success is the only version of success, I personally think that that’s very unhealthy and quite toxic. And I’d love to know your thoughts on that.
Another thing that I’ve heard in terms of pushing back on quiet quitting is that people who quiet quit are selling themselves short. However, I strongly disagree with that. I think that quiet quitting means that you’re very focused on true productivity and true impact. But selling yourself short is only giving yourself one version of your life and not living the life that you truly want to live.
Look. I know people who love to hustle. They derive joy, meaning, and fulfillment from working all the time. And they love the hours that they spend doing the work they enjoy. However, just because that is an option doesn’t mean it’s the only option.
Sometimes selling yourself short would be giving yourself an insufficient amount of time to develop the relationships that you want with your family, your friends, your partner, and your children.
Or perhaps, in all of the time that you’re not working, you’re exploring hobbies or side gigs or something else and allowing your truth and your true creativity, and your true passions to really thrive while maintaining your job that pays the bills. The most annoying misconception and kind of backlash against quiet quitting are that it requires underperforming,” YOU’RE STEALING HOURS FROM THE COMPANY.”
When you accept a job offer, you’re not signing away from your life. If you’re in the united states, you’re expecting a 40-45 hour workweek. Like back in the olden days and to meet the requirements of your role. Meeting the requirements of your role is not underperforming, it’s meeting expectations.
Meeting expectations is the point at which the world has overachieved and over exceeding and gotten the highest performance rating possible, and this has been normalized. Meeting expectations should be the expectation. Otherwise, you have the wrong expectations.
And if your expectations are substantially higher, your job description, your hours, and your pay need to reflect that. And when your team meets those expectations that you set and you set the payment, isn’t enough for you, that’s not a dumb problem.
That’s a huge problem. Maybe you need to get more staff, or maybe you need to rethink the pay balance and the requirements
In my opinion, quiet quitting is not anti-work. It’s about acknowledging that work is work, and it’s not life. And this brings us to the next misconception and this is actually for people who are planning to quiet quit or have quietly quit.
Because if you do it the wrong way, you complete your job in danger, quiet quitting should be just that quiet. No one should notice, unfortunately, a lot of the advice that I see and the way that it’s been positioned, it’s just, to scale back and settle in to meet the expectations.
However, when you’ve gone from overachieving and overworking, quite frankly, and you suddenly drop your hours and the impact that you’re making, the perception is going to be that you’re not making expectations. Even when you quantitatively look at it, you are.
Perception management is very important. Just like how slacker chad has barely worked but has been perceived as being high potential and has been given opportunities, promotions, and big pay increases, your working less does not have to coincide with a decreased perception of your performance.
In fact, I think when you do this the right way, the perception of your performance should actually go up. Now another misconception is that quiet quitting is completely detaching from any career ambition that you have. Now, it might be the point is that this is going to be personal to you. Success is an individual definition. And I want you to know what career success and life success are for you. That’s really important.
However, when you are quiet quitting, it doesn’t mean that you have to step off of the promotion track, it does not mean that you have to step away from getting great performance reviews. And it absolutely does not mean that your patients stagnate because you’re just mediocre.
You can maintain career ambitions, you expect to be paid more and well in order to fund your life and the fulfillment that that money is going to bring through travel and experiences that you want to have.
Quiet Quitting The Right Way
This actually brings us to the next point, how do you quiet quit the right way? This is something that we need to get into detail to help you uncover. So first of all, you need to have clarity on the tasks that you’re doing. What expectations are you meeting. There are likely tasks that you do on a regular basis that no one is going to notice unless they’re not done.
These are the tasks that you are doing just to meet your expectations and move on. There might even be tasks that if they weren’t done, no one would notice. What I’m saying is there might even be some tasks that you’re currently doing that you can stop doing entirely when you quiet quit.
However, there is going to be a set of tasks and KPIs or MBOs that have a high priority. Maybe it’s on the company’s goals, it’s on your boss’s goals. It may be associated with your compensation.
These are the areas that I encourage you not just to settle in and meet the baseline, but to uncover your unique awesomeness and find a way to create a strategic high impact. The strategic impact isn’t something that takes a lot of time. In fact, it will be done with the time that you’ll be free by doing everything else that meets expectations and standards.
But because these are going to be high visibility tasks that really allow you to create an unignorable impact, you’ll still be perceived by your boss, by the leadership team by your colleagues as being a high performer.
And this, of course, is going to show up in places like your performance appraisal, the opportunities that you’re given, and if you’re being considered for promotion, and it should also be showing up when it comes to pay raises.
Ultimately, in order to quietly quit, what you need to is you need to look at what your lazy coworkers have been doing this whole time and learn the lessons from them.