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Off the Grind: Why Workers Are 'Quiet Quitting', and Bosses Are 'Quiet Firing'

The social media tug-of-war between 'Quiet Quitting' and 'Quiet firing' reveals the dents in our work culture.

Updated
Mind It
5 min read
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If you've been on the internet in the last few weeks, you might have heard the phrase 'quiet quitting' floating around social media.

While some have called it the next 'revolution' in the workplace, others are wary of the trend catching on, even calling it an 'excuse for laziness'.

But first, let's back up a bit. What even is 'quiet quitting'?

While some define it as working within your stipulated work hours, and not working beyond your wages, others say it refers to doing the bare minimum to just get by and still collect your paycheck at the end of the month.

But, why is the idea of not going above and beyond at work being seen as such a radical move?

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"It represents the notion that people are looking towards doing what they need to, and what is within the purview of their role instead of pushing themselves to go beyond what their defined role is in a bid to take care of their self and be able to better manage the quality of their life," explains Dr Kamna Chhibber, head of the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Science at Fortis Hospital.

'Quiet quitting' is no proletarian revolution, neither is it a new concept, however, in the last few weeks, the internet has been abuzz with arguments around the term, pulling apart the good, bad and ugly of it.

We just survived a near-apocalyptic situation – one that most of us had to work through under unusually stressful conditions. This also means that people are tired, and many are re-evaluating their work life, their mental health, and their personal needs.

The recent discourse surrounding the phrase, however, is telling of the economy we live in, and the post-pandemic fatigue that seems to have set in in the workplace as well.

Case in point, the great resignation.

Setting Boundaries or Shirking Responsibility?

Simply put, quiet quitting is a kind of silent, passive resistance by a disgruntled employee.

In a Twitter post, career coach Lisa Petsinis points out that it is a sign of a 'discouraged', and 'disappointed' workforce.

Organisational psychologist and author Adam Grant added to the discourse on Twitter, saying it's 'bullshit jobs, abusive bosses, and low pay', and not 'laziness' that's making people not want to go the extra mile at work.

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There have also been those who have reacted with alarm, fear, and even disgust at the trend.

Canadian entrepreneur Kevin O'Leary, better known for his appearance on the show for aspiring businesspeople, Shark Tank, was one of the louder voices to speak out against the trend.

Speaking to CNBC, O'Leary said it was like 'introducing a cancer into your culture' and that it was 'like a virus, worse than COVID'.

Fearing that the trend will catch on, many employees have found a pushback with 'Quiet firing' – another phrase that started trending on social media weeks after 'quiet quitting'.

Quiet firing is when an employee's support system and responsibilities are pulled back, they are not given raises, feedback or praises, and their progress is stagnated, all without actually firing them.

This pearl-clutching reaction to employees choosing to 'act their wages' is interesting because it's a reflection of how overworking and 'hustling' beyond your call of duty is entrenched in our work culture.

But if we really unpack what's going on here, we find that these silent resistances are a symptom of something fundamentally wrong with our work culture, something that needs fixing in its roots.

Burnout: Addressing the Underlying Issues

"The reasons for this can be bilateral driven and so it can be representative of both how work often pegs people to do more in order to be able to see greater growth, but also of the fact that often people feel the need to push themselves in order to get to the goals and vision they have for themselves."
Dr Kamna Chhibber, head of department of mental health and behavioural sciences at Fortis Healthcare, Delhi
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"This second aspect too can be linked to the work culture, where the growth can be made contingent upon an individual's comparative productive," she adds.

This in turn puts all the onus of drawing boundaries, sticking to them and dealing with the consequences of doing so on the employee.

This trend of quiet quitting may be a direct result of post-pandemic burnout, but burnout itself is an issue that workplaces and employees alike have struggled to adequately cope with even in pre-pandemic times as well.

In a previous FIT podcast where we discussed burnout, the ways in which it can manifest, and why we overwork ourselves to the point of burning out in the first place, young professionals admitted that the cycle of burnout and self-criticism can be hard to break out of.

This is especially true in a culture that encourages and rewards burning yourself out with more buzzwords like 'hustle' and 'grindset', and sincerity is measured in how much of your personal time, hobbies, and vacations you're willing to sacrifice for your job.

But, Gen Z is fed up and saying enough is enough.

While employers and career coaches are telling people that quiet quitting may cost them a successful career, Gen Z is saying we're okay with lower levels of success, as long as our mental health doesn't suffer, and they get time to do the things they actually enjoy.

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More Concrete Ways to Deal With Burnout

Silent resistances like quiet quitting may make you feel like you're pushing back against a system where you feel like a cog in the proverbial machine, but it's kind of like slapping on a band-aide over a gaping wound and calling it a day.

Speaking to FIT, Dr Kamna Chibber explains that both workers and organisations need to work together to tackle employee burnout.

First, single out the causes of your burn out at your workplace, and pay attention to what it is doing to you.

  • Is there unfair treatment at the workplace?

  • Unreasonable expectations?

  • Toxic work environment?

  • Lack of communication or support from your manager?

She goes on to say that figuring out your boundaries is key.

"This is crucial because we struggle to say 'no'. But being able to draw these boundaries in going to be critical in how you are coping with burnout."
Dr Kamna Chhibber

It's also important to cultivate interests outside of work that add value and rejuvenate us, says Dr Chhibber. "That's how you're able to manage the frustrations you're experiencing at the workplace because you have positive reinforcement coming at you from the other side."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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