The Metro reports on a growing trend of what’s being termed “quiet quitting”: a mindset-shift in which employees no longer go “above and beyond” within their roles, for instance by not picking up extra tasks which are outside their job description, or by actively shunning additional out-of-hours work.

It’s a loaded term which implies weakness or possibly even malice from an individual, but what does it really represent?

Great Expectations

I’ve written recently about the burden of expectations: we’re given job descriptions and career frameworks which list the activities which we should be performing in our roles. But what does it mean to push beyond those expectations? If we take on additional work, this can indicate to higher-ups that we’re serious about our job and our commitment to the company, but it can also send out the wrong signals. (Coming from a background in testing and software delivery, I can’t stress the number of times I’ve winced at a senior manager praising “another all-night effort” from the test team.)

And when it comes to working hours, we’re in an era now where flexible working (of locations, hours and days) is more of a hot topic than ever. Any company which boasts about their credentials in this area, yet would also criticise anybody for having the audacity to work solely their contracted hours, should maybe rethink how they’re advertising themselves.

Nobody should be “expected” to have to shirk their familial responsibilities, or to be on-call all day and night, unless that’s what you signed up for. Yet with regular reports of restructures and redundancies at high-profile organisations worldwide, there’s a nagging pressure that people need to “give their all” to ensure they’re not the first name on the list if staff numbers are cut.

Should you “quiet quit”?

Whilst I’m undeniably in favour of allowing staff to maintain their mental and physical health by working within their means, I’d argue against the “quiet” part of this, as it’s open to misinterpretation. There may be a belief that your performance has slipped, or that your heart is no longer in the role, when you’re actually trying to realign your working practices back to what is “expected”. It’s the perfect time to have an open conversation with your manager about your relationship with work; and if the company won’t respect that, then maybe a real quit is on the cards.

The more we stay quiet as a collective, the more that underlying issues are allowed to persist. I’ve worked for several companies where there seems to have been an underlying belief that work must come first - that the work “has to get done”, regardless of what it means to the people involved. (And I appreciate that my own experiences have barely scratched the surface here, as anybody who’s dealt with “crunch periods” in the gaming industry will know.)

If one member of a team takes the “quiet quit” approach - that is, they reduce their output and contribution levels to a more humane amount - it makes that person seem uncaring, and if nothing else changes in the system, the rest of their team have to work even harder to cover the perceived slack. For everybody’s sake, start the conversation early, with your team and with your managers.

Key takeaways 📝

  • If you’re paid a flat rate, doing work beyond what’s expected is essentially giving your work away for free.
  • You’re unlikely to be alone in feeling this way. Gain bargaining power by raising issues as a team.
  • Try to avoid the quiet bit (have conversations with your manager). If there’s no room to give, try the quit bit.