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The curious trend of quiet quitting

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Business Spotlight - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 12/2022 vom 23.11.2022


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“Quiet quitting is direct resistance to hustle culture”

The term “quiet quitting” has gone global, and it seems everyone has an opinion about it. The Financial Times declared it was “worse than nonsense”, while Psychology Today said it was “great for your mental health”. But what does it mean exactly?

No, quiet quitting doesn’t refer to someone who tiptoes out of the office, never to return. The phrase first gained popularity on TikTok in July 2022. Zaid Khan, a New York software engineer, posted a very popular video, in which he described the term as “quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that work has to be your life.”

Essentially, quiet quitting involves doing what’s required in your role at work: no more, no less. Elizabeth Houghton, a career transition coach, explains: ...

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... “Quiet quitting is about boundaries at the workplace.” It’s about making sure we get enough rest, refusing to answer Teams calls and messages outside our working hours and taking regular time off, all of which are healthy ideas.

US data from Gallup indicates that quiet quitters could make up more than half of all American workers. Remote and hybrid workers under the age of 35 are driving this trend, but it is a global phenomenon, and the phrase is spreading around the world.

Finding a balance

The pandemic transformed our working lives. While some welcomed the change, others found it hard to adapt. The Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey found that younger employees were struggling to find a positive work-life balance — 44 per cent of Gen Z had left a job because of workload pressure, while 46 per cent felt burned out. Together, Gen Z and millennials will make up more than half of the global workforce by 2030, and their views will certainly change how we work.

It’s not just the pandemic that has changed attitudes, though. One 2022 study found that 45 per cent of Gen Z feels that career and money do not define success, echoing Zaid Khan’s words about not accepting the hustle culture that’s been popularized by entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk. Nadia De Ala is the founder of Real You Leadership, an organization that supports minority women in leadership positions. De Ala “quietly quit” her job about five years ago. “Quiet quitting is an antidote and direct resistance to hustle culture,” she tells Business Spotlight. “Working people are tired of overperforming and overworking without additional compensation and recognition of that extra labour.”

Many agree that quiet quitting fits into the post-pandemic zeitgeist. The Great Resignation, a trend that began in early 2021, saw a fifth of workers planning to quit in 2022, according to PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey. Statistics indicate that the trend is likely to continue.

Houghton believes that it is all interconnected. “I see the Great Resignation as an extension of quiet quitting,” she says. “We have had the opportunity to pause and re-evaluate what is important to us.” A UK survey by Aviva in 2022 supports her theory. It found that more workers were attracted to their current role for the work-life balance (41 per cent) rather than for the salary (36 per cent) — in 2019, it was the other way around.

Is lower productivity slowing the economy?

In a Forbes article, management consultant Peter Cohan said that “investors seeking alpha should put their capital in publicly traded companies that are more productive than their peers.” Productivity matters when it comes to business success.

While the disruption that quiet quitting causes is harder to measure than that of the Great Resignation, some data suggests that it might be impacting the economy. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that workforce productivity decreased dramatically in 2022. Of course, there could be many reasons for this historic drop: the record number of people changing jobs, global supply chain disruptions or the global talent shortage, for example. But some of the world’s biggest corporations are worried about decreasing productivity.

A screenshot obtained by Insider showed that a sales executive at Google Cloud said that there would be an “overall examination of sales productivity and productivity in general” if results were not good. At Meta, too, Mark Zuckerberg told managers to take a closer look at low performers. According to McLean & Company, disengaged employees cost companies around $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary. It’s no shock that managers are trying to improve productivity levels.

“Working with strong boundaries can be hard if you’ve never done it before”

These accounts generated plenty of headlines, with suggestions that low productivity and quiet quitting are a result of management weaknesses and an inability to communicate with and motivate employees. Houghton highlights the importance of dialogue: “So often, I see people afraid of raising work-related concerns with their managers,” she says. “They fear that the conversation will not go well, that their manager will not be supportive, that if you express that, in some areas, you are unhappy, your manager will interpret this as you wanting to leave.”

Turning things around by talking

Matthew Knight founded , a community that supports the mental health of the self-employed. He thinks that it isn’t just up to managers — we must all learn to work differently. “Working with strong boundaries can be incredibly hard if you’ve never done it before. It takes self-awareness to understand what your effective working hours are, really good communication to engage with your team and explain how you need to and want to work, and a relationship with your manager to ask them to help you work well,” he tells Business Spotlight. “Ultimately, this is a shared responsibility.”

Poor communication has a significant impact on the workplace. A 2021 McKinsey study on the future of remote work found that employees who feel more included in communication are almost five times more likely to report increased productivity. This has been proven to improve customer service or increase sales, lower stress levels and raise employee morale.

Managers need to improve communication in the workplace, but the past couple of years have seen big changes in the way we work, and we all need to learn to adapt. Managing a healthy work-life balance isn’t easy, but if companies can do this, productivity and workplace morale will both improve.


“If your withdrawal is a result of a growing disinterest in your role, you should consider looking for new opportunities. We spend a great deal of time at work — being disinterested in what we do will have an impact on all aspects of our lives.” Elizabeth Houghton, career transition coach

“It’s unfair to be expected to go above and beyond the job description and working hours if the pay and career trajectory don’t match it. You’re still performing your responsibilities.”

Nadia De Ala, founder of Real You Leadership

“Doing the hours you’re paid to work is not lazy — it’s healthy. Establishing good, healthy boundaries, such as switching your phone off, not checking Slack or email outside of hours, and being able to step away from work at the end of your day, is essential. Not only does it mean you’ll be more productive the following day, but it helps protect individuals from burnout.”

Matthew Knight, founder of