MAggie Perkins, a Georgia-based teaching advocate, worked as a teacher for nearly half a decade before deciding to “quietly leave” her job. The decision did not mean she would leave her post, but rather limit her work to contract hours. No more no less.
“As hard as I work as a teacher, there’s no system for growth or incentive for recognition,” Perkins told TIME. “If I didn’t quietly quit my teaching job, I would burn out.”
Perkins joins a larger online community of workers who share their experiences at TikTokadopting a “quiet exit” mentality – the concept of no longer going above and beyond, but instead doing what their job description requires of them and only that.
The move comes in the wake of a global pandemic that has prompted employees to rethink what work could look like given the potential for expansion remote work, not much work on fridaysor in some cases among The big resignation, it doesn’t work at all. Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post and CEO of Thrive, wrote in a viral Post on LinkedIn“Quietly leaving doesn’t just mean quitting a job, it’s a step towards giving up on life.”
While “quiet leavers” defend their choice to take a step back from work, company executives and workplace experts say that while doing less may feel good in the short term, it can hurt your career— and your company – in the long run.
Why companies worry about the quiet exit
With the worries of one economic slowdown revolving, productivity levels are a major concern for company leaders. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics. Companies are now looking at performance scales as a measure of excellence, with some going so far as to moderate employee keyboard activity. Big tech companies like Google signal that they are slowing hiring and could lay off employees amid concerns about overall productivity.
Johnny S. Taylor Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest human resources society, says remote work has caused severe burnout, Zoom fatigue and made it difficult for some workers to take breaks from home. “I don’t know a company in America that isn’t sensitive to burnout and the need for employees to step away from the workplace because of their mental health.”
Taylor, who as CEO oversees a team of more than 500 associates, advocates for his employees to take time off when they feel overwhelmed, but he doesn’t see how accepting a quiet exit will benefit employees in the long run. “I understand the concept, but the words are off-putting,” he says. “Anyone who tells their business leader they’re quietly quitting is likely to be out of a job for a long time.” Gergo Vari, CEO of job board platform Lensa, also believes the decision will not serve employees in the long run either. “Any time you silence your own voice in an organization, you can deprive yourself of the opportunity to change that organization,” says his spokesman.
Employees’ actions toward their job dissatisfaction not only potentially affect their job security. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report found that job dissatisfaction is at a staggering all-time high and that unhappy and disengaged workers cost the global economy $7.8 trillion in lost productivity.
Deciding to step away from a “hustling culture” can cause tension between employees and company leaders, and it can also cause a rift between colleagues who may need to cut back. “Whether people feel their coworkers are committed to quality work can affect organizational performance and cause friction in teams and organizations,” says Jim Harter, chief scientist for Gallup’s workplace management practice.
The generation gap and the importance of pay
There are potential generational differences between Boomers and Gen-X executives, who have subscribed to the “raise and grind” mentality to climb the corporate ladder, versus younger generations who tend to prioritize better balance between professional and personal life, according to Deloitte 2022 Generation Z and Millennial Survey. The survey also found that among Gen Z and Millennials’ biggest concerns are finances, with pay being the top reason workers in the demographic left their roles over the past two years.
Shini Ko, a millennial software developer, admits that she and many of her colleagues are in the industry for the pay, but she also prioritizes stepping away from work when needed. She’s not convinced that “quiet opt-out” is the best term for setting boundaries. “It’s negative and dangerous to frame a healthy work-life balance as an exit,” Ko says. “Can we just call it what it is? It just works.”
When Ko isn’t working a nine-to-five, she runs Bao Bao Farm, a small vegetable farm. She admits she has a different mentality when farming. “Since the farm is my passion, there is an intrinsic motivation to do more.”
Gallup’s Harter agrees that passion is a big factor in whether people decide to look for a new job and how much they’re willing to work for. “Pay is usually interpreted in the context of how you feel about your job. If you are uncommitted, you will be willing to search less.
“Noisily Stubborn” as an alternative
Vari, Lensa’s CEO, has over 200 employees and works hard to ensure there are no “quiet leavers” among his staff.
In addition to providing employees with telecommuting flexibility and in-office perks, he says his workplace lacks quiet quitters because he values employees’ moments of pushback. According to its spokesman, it is key to make employees feel comfortable enough to voice their concerns before they get to the stage of “quietly” changing their pace of work.
“Employers need to make an effort to empower people to have a say in their own future,” he says. “I want them to stick around and I’ll stick my neck out to encourage them to do so.”
Vari comes up with an alternative: “noisy persistence,” the act of employees feeling emboldened enough to voice how their organization can better serve its goals. “When you push loudly, you have a sense of belonging and that you have a stake in where the company is going.”
Quiet quitters may need a better fit
Career coach Alison Peck has never considered herself a “quiet quitter.” In fact, she credits her work in the medical device industry as the reason she was able to purchase her first home. But that wasn’t always the case—her first job out of grad school required her to work 14-hour days, 6 days a week, only to be fired a year later.
“Choose carefully who you go above and beyond for and consider whether it’s worth it. Sometimes it pays off, but sometimes it doesn’t,” says Peck. She sees the “quiet exit” as a symptom of employees not connecting with their work or their managers. Her career advice for quiet leavers is to consider a bolder move.
“Finding a new job, manager, team, or company that’s a better fit for you overall can get you out of that quiet quit mindset,” says Peck. “It might make you want to jump through hoops.”
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