Quiet Quitting – TikTok trend or the tip of the iceberg of a growing labour rebellion?

The concept of “quiet quitting” is dividing the internet.

What started as a simple TikTok has quickly become one of the most talked about topics in business and leadership.

While some view the practice of quiet quitting as an issue of laziness, others argue that it is driven by a growing labour rebellion that could potentially result in the healthy evolution of the workforce.

In this post, we explore the global phenomenon of quiet quitting and examine how savvy leaders can use it as an opportunity for growth.


What is quiet quitting?

The amusing thing about quiet quitting is that it doesn’t involve quitting at all!

Quiet quitting is about setting boundaries, rejecting hustle culture, and moving away from the above-and-beyond mentality in workplace performance. Employees are still completing the duties outlined in their job description. However, they are making a conscious decision to set limitations on expectations from leadership to work beyond what is considered reasonable for the role.

At the end of the day, it’s about doing the job you are paid for and setting personal and professional boundaries with your employer. Many argue that the term quiet quitting needs to be clarified and more accurate, suggesting ‘acting your wage’ may be more appropriate.

While there is talk about quiet quitting being the product of Gen Z, a deeper analysis suggests this is not a new concept but rather a modern labour rebellion that may transform the workplace.


Why are we seeing an increase in quiet quitting?

The rise in quiet quitting is complex and driven by multiple factors. An unmanageable workload, burnout, poor pay, toxic workplace culture, and low employee engagement have all been cited as reasons for the growing trend.

Mental health and well-being

Quiet quitting can be an employee’s way to protect their mental health.

Outside of the office, people are facing unprecedented stress, including pandemic exhaustion and the financial pressures from inflation. So, it is not surprising that more and more employees are trying to find a work-life balance.

Recent research by Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence found workers are dealing with extensive burnout.

  • 43% of workers reported being exhausted always or often
  • 42% were stressed
  • 35% were overwhelmed
  • And 23% reported they were depressed.

In addition, 83% of employees reported that factors relating to their job prevented them from achieving their well-being goals, with a heavy workload and not having enough time due to long work hours at the top of the list.

Poor leadership and corporate culture

Being valued, having autonomy, and experiencing a sense of belonging are at the top of employees’ workplace culture wish lists. Unfortunately, many workers feel they do not have a voice in the organisation and experience a lack of appreciation and respect. Research has shown that employees who have quietly quit often have a history of going above and beyond without being acknowledged for their contributions or efforts.

Decreased employee engagement

One of the contentious debates around quiet quitting is that the term puts the responsibility of employee engagement on the employee when many feel engagement is a leadership and management issue. People crave work that is meaningful and has a purpose. Engagement increases when they feel their work matters and their contributions are valued.

As the famous poet David Whyte wrote…

“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest… the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness”.

Addressing the issue and importance of meaningful work could prevent quiet quitting.


How can leaders manage quiet quitting and leverage it as an opportunity for growth

Quiet quitting offers leaders an invitation to look at their policies on employee engagement and productivity.

The issues that cause quiet quitting are often systemic and are unlikely to be resolved overnight.

With that said, there are steps you can take to start addressing the concerns, such as:

  • Communicate with employees – Take out the quiet part of quiet quitting and raise it with employees. Be open to discussing productivity and work-life balance. In addition, encourage employees to share their thoughts and ideas regularly to increase their sense of belonging and value in the organisation.
  • Examine your organisation’s pay and benefits – Are your employees fairly compensated for their work? Do you have systems in place for rewarding and acknowledging initiative and drive?
  • Invest in leadership training – Effective leadership can promote teamwork, inspire trust, and provide a sense of purpose and belonging.


Key Takeaways

While the debate continues as to the cause and origin of quiet quitting, most agree the concept is not something that is going away anytime soon.

Perhaps a subscription to hustle culture is coming to an end, and quiet quitting is leading to an evolution of a healthier work-life balance. Would that be such a bad thing?

In any scenario, particularly with the current talent shortage, quiet quitting should be on the radar of all savvy leaders as an opportunity to examine current practices and grow.

Career, Workplace