Quiet Quitting: What Does It Mean - And Could It Be Harmful?

3 min
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When you’re consistently exhausted, burned out, and jaded by your job, there seem to be two clear options: suck it up, or quit. But there’s a third option that, while it might not be new in practice, has been brought to light and recently given a name: quiet quitting. It’s the idea of mentally checking out, and making a point of performing only the essentials of what your job involves, and nothing more – the minimum of what will get you that pay check. Some people consider this idea to be “slacking”, with those who take this viewpoint perceiving quiet quitters to be lazy, unmotivated, and unambitious for not being willing to go above and beyond for their job. But there’s another side to this coin. The very fact that doing exactly what you are paid to do might be considered "slacking" is highly problematic – and points to some serious issues with work culture in the 21st century. Let’s explore the idea further.

The quiet quitting movement

The term ”quiet quitting” appeared in 2022 and gained traction on TikTok, with users sharing their experiences of slowing things down at work. A poll of workers in the US found up to 50% of people are quietly quitting as they become disillusioned with the intense demands and expectations of the corporate world – with little reward. Reasons for quiet quitting can include being passed over for a promotion or pay increase, a reverse of the flexibility in working conditions following the pandemic, or simply the overwhelm and burnout caused by the often unrealistic expectations of a hustle culture that normalizes workaholism. Acts of quiet quitting include consistently leaving on time, always taking a full lunch break, refusing to monitor work emails outside of office hours, and refraining from taking on any extra duties. The concept has come under huge debate, however, with employers and critics calling out quiet quitters as “lazy” and unambitious.

The benefits of quiet quitting

For many workers, physical and mental health is a genuine concern in stressful and competitive work environments. Quiet quitting is a way for an employee to take control of their time and energy by re-establishing boundaries around their quality of life. In some ways it is a form of self-care – an assertion that a fair day’s wage or a career trajectory should not come at the expense of health and happiness. It can also be considered a way of ensuring the worker in question isn’t being exploited by being subtly and constantly accepting new or extra tasks that do, in fact, constitute an extension to their job description, simply to prove they are going above and beyond, quite often to establish one’s value in a competitive workspace. It’s also a form of “quiet” resistance that ensures continued financial security over the uncertainty of organized action or actually quitting – which is a huge concern for many in financially unstable times. For some though, it is simply a recalibration to what ought to be standard practice: doing what you are paid to do. 

The dangers of quiet quitting

One of the criticisms of quiet quitting, though, is that it fails to hold employers accountable for the exploitative culture they foster – with untenable workloads and under-valued staff. If workers don’t feel able to speak up when they feel stressed and overwhelmed, the problem is perpetuated. Many talented, skilled, and ambitious people can end up missing out on opportunities because they have reached a state of burnout without any support. Quiet quitting can become a symptom of emotional distress, and can be soul-destroying for anyone who might otherwise thrive in the workplace. After all, many of us want to do work that we love, and take pride in our output. The normalization of quiet quitting also upholds societal inequities – either it’s not an option for traditionally marginalized groups who are already having to work harder to prove themselves, or it rewards those who already have fewer barriers in the way of career mobility. From another point of view, as quiet quitting becomes more of a trend, there may even be some who follow its actions without being led from the same emotional or mental need, thereby taking advantage of a situation that another more motivated person could have held in their place.

Considering your options

If quiet quitting is sounding like an alluring option, have a think about the state of your relationship with work. Are you wanting to establish yourself on a career path, or clock in at a day job to pay the bills? Both are legitimate approaches to work, but being sure of your motivations at this phase in your life is important for managing expectations – both of yourself, and of and for your employer. If you are feeling under-valued or stifled, have you advocated for yourself with your line manager or HR? Is there a chance you could be putting too much pressure on yourself to find all of your fulfillment and purpose through your job? If you feel like your workload is unmanageable, what boundaries are you unable to put in place and why? It’s also important to make sure you aren’t pinning your entire sense of self-worth on your job performance – pouring all of your energy and life-force into someone else’s profit margin is most certainly a fast-track to burnout. Remember that work is just one dimension of life, and it is much more fulfilling when you are in a relationship with it, rather than owned by it. You can get yourself back in control, however loudly or quietly you need to.


All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: New Directions In Burnout Research; The Great Resignation And Quiet Quitting Paradigm Shifts: An Overview Of Current Situation And Future Research Directions; Woes Of Silence: The Role Of Burnout As A Mediator Between Silence And Employee Outcomes; Distinguishing Voice And Silence At Work: Unique Relationships With Perceived Impact, Psychological Safety, And Burnout.

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