There’s a new term on everyone’s minds and social media feeds these days — quiet quitting. But quiet quitting means different things to different people. Its definition may vary from generation to generation but quiet quitting has become a trend, perhaps even an argument, and we wanted to understand what it is and how it’s applied to the workplace.

The commonly accepted definition of quiet quitting is doing the bare minimum at work to get by. A lot of people on social media have argued that people do it for one of two reasons — to “act their wage” or only do things they are being paid to do or to use it as a means of self preservation.

In most cases, it can be an employee refusing to put in extra work hours after their shift ends or doing something that is not part of the initial contract they signed. It’s being used by people who believe they are not being compensated or appreciated for the extra effort they put in, which takes up a lot of time and energy, leaving them with little downtime. The alternate, is quiet quitting and employees doing exactly what they’re asked to do, within their stipulated work hours.

What Millennials and Gen Z think

The idea of quiet quitting has existed for a while but hasn’t had a specific term to call it by. The topic is growing in popularity on TikTok where Gen Z and Millennials are pushing back against the expectations of going above and beyond at their workplaces for the same salary.

According to BBC, the term was popularised by a TikTok user named
zaidleppelin in July. “You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond,” he explained in the video. “You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that work has to be your life; the reality is it’s not, and your worth as a person is not defined by your labour.”

The idea behind quiet quitting is a counterculture to “hustle-culture” and the mentality of working long hours and going above and beyond for your job with the expectation that eventually, you will be compensated for it but not knowing when that eventually will actually arrive. The trend has picked up in the last few months and has gotten 83.7 million views on TikTok where both employees and employers have argued about what this attitude means for the workplace.

To comedian and TV host for The Daily Show Trevor Noah, quiet quitting literally means just doing your job as per description but nothing more in order to keep your work-life balance intact. He said that people are obsessed with work in the US and that it doesn’t need to be the most important part of your existence.

“If your job is from 9 to 5, that means the work messages should stop at 5. Anything after that is a booty call,” he joked. But the truth is, that’s no joke.

What the Baby Boomers think

Another side of the argument has been presented by Kevin O’Leary, a Canadian businessman and TV personality, who opposed quiet quitting and said this practice doesn’t allow a business to grow.

“Quiet quitting is a really bad idea. Creativity is very much honoured in the work environment. People that go beyond to try to solve problems for the organisation, their teams, their managers, their bosses, those are the ones succeed in life. If all of a sudden you try and define your work ethos by some kind of definition of your job, then you’re going to fail,” Leary said.

He argued that the whole point is that you’re there, as an employee, to make the business work and how you have to go beyond not because you’re forced to or have to but you want to. For him, this was the definition of success where individuals are not doing it for the greed of making money but because of their work ethos. “People that shut down their laptops at 5 want that balance in life, want to go to the soccer game, 9 to 5 only, they don’t work for me, I can tell you that. I hope they work for my competitors,” he said.

A lot of work habits have come into question ever since pandemic forced us into working from home. Those two plus years gave people the time to reflect and question why they were doing work that was never theirs to begin with, which is how quiet quitting came into being. People just want to do their own jobs, not anyone else’s.

People are also using quiet quitting to protest lack of recognition and compensation at work and they’re well within their rights to say they will only do the work they are being paid to do. After all, invisible labour was never part of the contract they were made to sign. Therefore, going the extra mile (or 10) should not be expected unless they are being appreciated, recognised and paid for their hard work.

We have to take issue with the term itself. Why is it called quitting when the employee is literally doing what they signed up to do. Doing your job is not quitting. Doing what you’re being paid to do is not quitting.

It is not unheard of for employers to take advantage of eager or loyal employees and exploit their efforts for the sake of “growing their business”. And a lot of employees are finally realising something they should have come to terms with long ago — your workplace is your workplace, not your family. Throw aside your notions of your work family because at the end of the day, employees are dispensable, and no amount of overtime will make you indispensable.

At a time when there’s inflation and rising costs of living, the older generation needs to understand that it isn’t 1950 anymore. Everything is more expensive and this generation is struggling to make ends meet, let alone invest their salaries and secure their future. So if not getting compensated for work that takes a toll on your mental health and overall wellbeing means people are quiet quitting, then we need to cut this generation some slack.

It’s about time things change and we do away with the mentality that extra labour is a form of personal growth requiring no compensation. Everyone should be appropriately compensated for all the work they do that is outside their job description and if they aren’t, well, then it’s time to quietly just sit back and do their jobs and nothing else — there’s no quitting about it.

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