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‘Quiet Quitting’: A new term for the ancient art of slacking your way to a paycheck

Have you heard of ‘quiet quitting’? This new name for an old trend could be an effort at work-life balance — or a sign you’re in the wrong profession

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A family from Palm Bay, Florida, watches the sunset on the final evening of their vacation at the Great Salt Lake.

A family from Palm Bay, Florida, watches the sunset on the final evening of their vacation at the Great Salt Lake on Friday, June 10, 2022. The family spent two weeks traveling to the Great Basin in Nevada, all five Utah national parks, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas in a rented RV.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Slow-playing your job out of boredom, apathy or distraction is a practice as old as the work-reward employment model itself but the tradition is earning new notoriety on social media thanks, it seems, to a catchy new title — “quiet quitting.”

What sounds, at first, like an alliterative re-working of “ghosting,” the practice of quitting your job (or a relationship) by simply checking out without notice or explanation, quiet quitting refers to the decision to gear-down your day-to-day employment responsibilities, opting for bare minimum performance versus high achievement to get to that next paycheck.

The current popularity of the term, and the job conduct it defines, may have a lot to do with a work world that has been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic and its 212 years of tumultuous impacts.

TikTok-tastic: Videos carrying the hashtag #QuietQuitting have earned millions of views on TikTok recently with commentary ranging from soft reminders about the need for setting appropriate boundaries that separate our work selves from our private selves to rants against employers who are over-tasking employees and establishing expectations that job duties trump all other factors. There are also plenty of videos trashing quiet quitting as a problematic concept that, itself, can lead to deeper issues for employees.

Career counselor Emily Smith recorded a TikTok video in which she lambasted the practice of quiet quitting and said those who take the skate-by approach at work are risking career advancement when they should really be looking for a better employment fit.

“Quiet quitting does not benefit you at all,” Smith said in her video. “I’m seeing all these people thinking that quiet quitting benefits them and not the company. That’s not true. Because, when you become apathetic, not only do you hate your job more, but you create a reputation amongst your colleagues and amongst the people that you work with.

“Quiet quitting is literally wasting your time with this company and shooting yourself in the foot.”

Job coach Allison Peck posted her take on the quiet quitting phenomena in her TikTok video, pushing back on criticism of an approach she says can be about finding balance.

“I’m hearing people talk about quiet quitting,” Peck said. “What that means is that people are not going above and beyond any more. They’re not chasing hustle culture at work. They’re just doing the required minimum.

“Essentially they’re doing what they’re getting paid to do. Why does quiet quitting have such a negative connotation, though? Sure sounds a lot to me about creating work-life balance for yourself.”

In search of a deeper purpose: The fallout from pandemic-induced changes to the world of work are still being sorted out, but there’s a mountain of research data reflecting that workers are suffering from high levels of burnout and dissatisfaction and many have reevaluated what they do for a living through lenses reshaped by the tumult of the past 212 years.

The country’s quit rate reached a 20-year high last November and has remained elevated as workers continue to look for new opportunities.

A Pew Research Center study released earlier this year found the biggest driver for those who quit their jobs was higher pay, but running very close behind money issues was a lack of opportunity for advancement and feeling disrespected at work.

Earlier this year, Benjamin Granger, Qualtrics’ head of employee experience advisory services and organizational psychologist, told the Deseret News that pandemic conditions have left employees burned out and reevaluating their professional and career priorities at unprecedented levels, and higher pay is just one of many things on the minds of unsettled workers.

“A lot of what we’re hearing from employees is that they’re exhausted,” Granger said in a statement. “They’re just whipped. As a result, many people are looking at their jobs, their companies, and work in general through a completely different lens. Many people are searching for totally new experiences and some are leaving the workforce outright.

“We know from our research that one of the main drivers of this exodus is the pursuit of higher pay. But even more than increased wages, employees are looking for a deeper purpose in their work and opportunities for personal growth. A record number of Americans are leaving their employers because they see greater potential for growth by changing employers than sticking around their current organization,” Granger said.

“Going forward, it will be important for employers to not only offer job candidates competitive compensation and a great work experience now, but emphasize their broader purpose and get more creative with how they define and offer opportunities for growth.”