If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably started seeing articles pop up recently about “quiet quitting,” the new term that was coined on TikTok a month or so ago but you’re only hearing about it now because you refuse to download TikTok.
When I first heard about quiet quitting, I assumed it was a method by which you quit your job so quietly that no one notices so you can collect a paycheck while sitting at home rewatching “Better Call Saul.” Unfortunately, quiet quitting isn’t nearly that exciting.
Zaid Khan, one of the TikTokers credited with popularizing the term, describes quiet quitting as “not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. … You are still performing your duties, but you are no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be our life.”
Essentially, quiet quitting is showing up to work and doing exactly what you’re contractually obligated to do; no more, no less. As it turns out, I’ve had many colleagues over the years who were pioneers at the forefront of quiet quitting, and I’ve had a few jobs where I was a quiet quitter myself.
As you can see, quiet quitting is nothing new. In the past, it’s also gone by the name “work-to-rule,” a union tactic of doing the absolute bare minimum to prove to employers that the only reason the trains run on time is because the employees are working through lunch breaks and performing unpaid overtime.
New or not, quiet quitting has employers in a tizzy. They’re concerned their businesses won’t be able to function. It’s no wonder the concept has become so popular.
If I pay my taxes and don’t throw in an extra hundred bucks, no one calls it “quiet fraud.” If I buy groceries and pay the exact amount on the receipt, no one calls it “quiet theft.” Yet somehow, work is different; if you don’t go above and beyond and provide the company with benefits they’re not paying you for, suddenly you’re a quiet quitter.
As long as we’re discussing fun terms, here’s another one: wage theft. Wage theft is when companies don’t pay their employees according to the law. Getting paid below the minimum wage? That’s wage theft. Boss taking your tips? Also wage theft. Denying meal and rest breaks? Wage theft. Not paying overtime? You better believe that’s wage theft. And quiet quitting is a direct response to wage theft.
Admittedly, there are some jobs out there where going above and beyond is incentivized. There are employers who recognize hard work and reward it with raises or bonuses.
Of course, they’re in the minority. In an attempt to squeeze out every last nickel of profit, most companies have spent years discouraging hard work, whether they realize it or not. If you burn the candle at both ends and complete your work early, your boss will reward you with more work. If you agree to temporarily take over another employee’s duties when they quit, you’ll be rewarded by having to continue doing your coworker’s job until the end of time. And you’re definitely not getting your coworker’s salary on top of your own. That would be madness.
In the current job market, employers shouldn’t complain that their employees don’t want to do more than the job they were hired for. The employers are the ones who taught them it wasn’t worth it. Eventually, even Charlie Brown stopped kicking Lucy’s football.