Sometimes, there are three versions of your job. The one that’s on your JD, the one you actually do and the one that your company expects of you. For the most part, we're happy to go a little beyond what's expected of us — the fear of job loss can spur our competitive sides — but what doesn't get spoken about enough is when going above and beyond is the expectation.
We know that overextending ourselves with work leads to burnout, but when we're not in a position to join the #anti-work movement, what exactly do we do about it? Well, if you thought that TikTok was only good for pasta recipes and beauty hacks then you're wrong. Currently going viral amongst the app's users is the concept of 'quiet quitting' as a preventative tool against burnout.
What is quiet quitting?
Despite the name, quiet quitting has nothing to do with actually handing in your two weeks' notice. In a post that has amassed over 3 million views, TikToker Zkchillin explains why it might be even better, though.
"You're not outright quitting your job, but you're quitting the idea of going above and beyond," they say. "You're still performing your duties, but you're no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.
"The reality is it's not. And your worth as a person is not defined by your labour."
It’s essentially the idea of pulling back your time, energy and effort from your job when you decide that the stress of going beyond your JD just isn’t worth the detriment to your well-being. Where we once were convinced that working excessive hours and clawing for dream jobs was all part and parcel of life, we're now learning how to stop identifying with our work.
The phenomenon may be going viral at the moment, but it’s actually been a trend in workplaces for a while now. In the last few years, we’ve seen work and career discourse turned completely on its head. With the fall of Girlbosses and the rise of the #anti-hustle culture movement, the way we once related to our work is changing. In fact, as Gallup's 2022 State of Global Workplace Report revealed, only 22% of those surveyed reported feeling engaged at work, while 60% feel emotionally detached from their workplaces. And for young people who have barely even begun their careers, looking for ways to reconcile with work culture feels like a catch-22 when all that seems certain is the promise of burnout and/or misery.
Post-lockdown, people want more meaning in their lives, and, unfortunately, that's not always so easy to come by at work. But just because we need to do something for a living doesn't mean we need to love what we do. And anyway, workplaces that insist you love every banal element of your job simply out of gratitude are deeply out of touch.
But before you decide to engage with quiet quitting, we suggest looking at what's motivating you to do so. Mostly, consider if it's a temporary solution to burnout before you eventually quit for real, or if you're just ready to remove yourself from the rat race (while still being paid, of course).
If you're in a job that you know you want — for reasons that go beyond financial necessity — then this puts you in a tricky spot. What you need to figure out is if your gripe is more about implementing boundaries rather than mentally checking out. Ask yourself: Can you still work hard at what you're supposed to do and clock off on time, without hindering your chances of moving up? Or do you get the sense that the expectations to go above and beyond mean you'll never be able to achieve the work/life balance you want? When it feels like you've given everything to a job, only to feel less-than-appreciated, it's easy to resign, emotionally. That might just mean it's time for a chat with your managers.
If your workplace does enforce a bit of an unhealthy hustle culture, rife with unspoken expectations that have rendered you exhausted, then the answer might not be in quiet quitting but in finding a job that's better suited to you. But if your hard work hasn't paid off in the past and now all you want is a gloriously average job that just pays your cheque on time, then quiet quitting gets our blessing. Embrace the freedom that comes with performance mediocrity, we say!
Of course, depending on what you do, quiet quitting your work isn't an option for everyone and can lead to less satisfaction in your life. This is probably the case if you're in a creative field where it's not always feasible to switch off or just 'care less' about your output. Even if you manage to successfully pull back, make sure your rest doesn't turn into complacency. If you're still sure of what you want out of a job, keep an eye out for opportunities in your peripherals.
Being less engaged at work has its pros and cons. Sure, work may become a whole lot less stimulating. But if you're happy with the trade-off and it leaves you more content and less overworked, then we say go for it.