What is ‘quiet quitting’? Gen Z is ditching hustle culture to avoid burnout

August 14, 2022, 11:00 AM UTC

Tired of feeling like you’re working so hard with little reward, but you don’t necessarily want to completely give up?

Try “quiet quitting,” or quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work, as TikToker @zkchillin put in his viral video that’s racked up more than 3 million views and nearly 500,000 likes. 

In the video, he explains how he sees quiet quitting, a term he said he recently learned. 

“You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life,” he said. “The reality is, it’s not.” 

He’s part of a spreading trend that’s basically telling people to take it easy at work, stop taking on added responsibilities outside of the role’s description, or work extra hours.  

Burnout isn’t new—millennials practically invented the word. But their younger colleagues, and some millennials themselves, are trying to avoid burnout and simply do the job that’s asked of them. It’s the latest salvo in the pandemic-era tug-of-war between managers and junior colleagues over work-life balance, making the “hustle culture” of the 2010s a distant memory and replacing it with something of a comeback of Gen X’s 1990s-era slacker culture.

Quiet quitting is the latest expression of a broader trend

There’s more than just anecdotal evidence of widespread disaffection among young workers.

Fueled by the pandemic, the Great Resignation became the name for the substantially higher rate of Americans quitting their jobs in search of something new, including a shift in priorities. Months into the Great Resignation, it got its own viral expression in the form of QuitTok, as job quitters would post their stories to millions of views, striking fear into corporate America. In China, Gen Zers and millennials have coined terms during the pandemic—“involution” and “lying flat”—to describe similar feelings of lack of motivation and a work culture that had evolved beyond the idea that hustling would be rewarded. 

Gallup’s recent State of the Global Workplace report for 2022 found that only 21% of employees are engaged at work, and only 33% are actually thriving in their overall well-being. Additionally, 44% of employees reported they felt stress throughout their workday. 

It’s plain to see on TikTok. One user shared that she was working to reframe her way of thinking and focus on community versus professional networks. Others say they’ve already been quiet quitting—one person said “It’s beautiful.” Another expressed that the term really just means doing your job, and nothing more. 

Another user, @newsforthought, posted a video explaining his view on quiet quitting, and how he can see how it’s started to trend among those either unhappy with work or are just striving for better work-life balance. 

“You don’t really have to go extra above and beyond because the companies really show you no love for doing that,” he said, referencing the idea of quiet quitting. “And that’s a problem.” 

But with all trends, there are haters, or maybe in this case people who just disagree.

One user told her viewers not to quiet quit; rather she said to try to discuss responsibilities with employers because they might not know how much you’ve taken on. In a separate video, she said it doesn’t benefit individuals or the company.

“Quiet quitting is literally wasting your time at this company and shooting yourself in the foot,” she said. “So please don’t do that.” 

Another user, who labeled herself a career coach, said she thinks it’s a coping mechanism, and an unhealthy one, to deal with the fact that a person’s job has either crossed boundaries or doesn’t align with their values. 

For now, you can add quiet quitting to involution, lying flat, and QuitTok to the list of all the ways Gen Z is rebelling in the workplace.

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