Quietly quitting has nothing to do with lazy employees. It’s about rejecting a broken work culture


Image: Thomas Barwick/Getty

Check-in on time. Not checking work emails in bed. Effectively manage your workload. All the hallmarks of a healthy relationship with work and fundamental habits to maintain a balance between our personal and professional lives – or so you think.

You’ve probably come across the phrase “quit quietly” recently, which has been in vogue for a TikTok user took to the platform to discuss the hustle culture and why they decided to pull out of it.

“You’re not quitting your job outright, but giving up on the idea of ​​going beyond it,” the user explains in the now-viral post. “You’re still doing your job, but you no longer subscribe to the hustle culture mentality that work should be your life. The reality is that’s not the case, and your value as a person is not defined by your job.”

SEE: The Future of Work: How Everything Has Changed and What’s Coming (ZDNET Special Feature)

Acknowledging the nefarious mentality behind the hustle culture should be applauded. Subscribing to the idea that our commitment to work is somehow a reflection of our morals and self-esteem is neither healthy nor sustainable, and will only aggravate the problems of burnout, stress and disengagement of employees who are already afflicting the workforce.

But the expression “quietly stop” is a misnomer. This suggests that if you don’t constantly make yourself available for your work, you are lazy and disloyal. This suggests that if you’re not constantly working late, phoning your boss at all hours of the day, or constantly saying “yes” to new assignments, regardless of your workload, you are as good as not doing your job. at all. This suggests that employees should continually do whatever they can to appease their bosses, even if they don’t receive recognition for doing so.

Hustle culture is a relic of pre-pandemic practices and the embodiment of much of what is wrong with today’s work mentality. By implying that rejecting the culture of agitation is a form of resignation, we blame the workers, rather than the bad workplaces and the nature of the work itself.

Employees are already plagued by burnout, stress and presenteeism, often due to our modern, always-on work culture. Technology has made our lives easier in many ways, but it has also made work more ubiquitous and harder to disconnect at the end of the day. Likewise, while broadband, software, and mobile devices have made us more productive and efficient as workers, few of these innovations have significantly lightened our workloads — we simply fit more work into the same window. eight o’clock and become more distracted in the meantime.

What we need is a fundamental overhaul of work and work culture – something the ongoing trials of a four-day working week in the UK, US and across other parts of the world hope to explore. The first indicators are promising.

Excelling in your role doesn’t necessarily mean engaging in the culture of hustle. You can be a dedicated, conscientious worker without taking your work home. In fact, the happiest, most engaged and most productive workers tend to be those who have flexibility in their role and enjoy a healthy work-life balance – not those who spend all their time office and work themselves to the point of exhaustion.

SEE: Feeling exhausted? Your boss is probably more likely to quit than you

It is the moral responsibility of employers to promote healthy work habits and to be clear that opportunities for growth and development are not tied to hours spent at the office. Employees need to be able to disconnect in time, say “no” to assignments they don’t have the capacity to handle, and disengage from anything work-related in their free time, without fear of judgment or retaliation. If leaders find that employee engagement is declining, that’s a good indicator that something in the workplace isn’t working the way it should. The key is to engage with employees and ask them what needs to be fixed, not accuse them of ‘quietly quitting’ – which could prompt them to ‘loudly quit’, which is the last thing employers need. need right now.

It’s sad that in 2022, after all we’ve learned about the role of work in our well-being and the many ways we can improve it, we’re still using rhetoric that normalizes overwork. Let’s stop accusing workers of “quietly quitting” and applaud them for recognizing that the culture of unrest only serves bad workplaces and bad work culture.

Instead of castigating employees for stepping back from roles that don’t reward them, let’s see how we can apply the lessons of the past two years to create more sustainable, equitable and rewarding ways of working.


ZDNet’s Monday Open is our first tech release of the week, written by members of our editorial team.


Margie D. Carlisle