Quiet Quitting: What It Means and Why It Happens

September 19, 2023

11 min read

Quiet quitting is more popular than ever.

People who are unhappy with their jobs often end up leaving their position and company. For others however, quiet quitting is a more manageable option.

If you’re unfamiliar with quiet quitting, you’re not alone. We’ll give you the rundown on what it is, how it manifests, why it happens, and what you can do as an employer. 

What Is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting is the concept of just meeting the requirements of their job description instead of going exceeding or going above and beyond. People who are quiet quitting do the bare minimum for what their role entails. 

Keep in mind that it’s a bit of a misnomer, since the person quiet quitting isn’t actually quitting their job. However, someone who is a quiet quitter doesn’t attend meetings that aren’t mandatory, plan to stay late, come in early, or otherwise “go the extra mile” like many managers and senior leaders expect them to. 

Quiet quitting was influenced by a Chinese term meaning “lay flat” (often accompanied with the hashtag #TangPing). Employees began to use this hashtag to object to the normalization of the overworking culture in China. 

The COVID-19 pandemic also encouraged people in the workforce to question their work habits. 

Although it’s primarily in reference to working, the phrase has also been adapted to relationships and marriages

The phrase gained popularity on social media platforms, particularly during the early 2020s. An engineer on TikTok, Zaid Khan, posted a video describing quiet quitting and the reasoning behind it. 

“You’re not outright quitting your job but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond,” Khan says in the video. “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 labor.” 

You can check out the full video below:

Zaid Khan, an engineer on Tiktok, speaks on quiet quitting.

Many employers see quiet quitting as a significant problem, citing the fact that many positions in the workforce warrant “extra effort” to meet the needs of customers and work with colleagues. 

What percentage of employees are quiet quitting?

About 50% of the workforce in the United States are quiet quitting, according to Gallup. In fact, the number is likely even higher. 

Quiet quitting vs. loud quitting

There’s a pretty significant difference between quiet quitting and loud quitting. While people who engage in quiet quitting are still meeting expectations and doing their job, staffers who participate in loud quitting are extremely vocal about how unhappy they are.

For example, someone who engages in loud quitting will openly talk about changes that need to happen and how they’re ready to move on to new opportunities. On the other hand, a quiet quitter will simply keep their head down and continue to meet the requirements of their job.

Quick quitting vs. quiet quitting

While quiet quitting is relative to an employee doing the bare minimum for their position, quick quitting is when an employee stays at a company for less than a year. This can happen for a number of reasons, but it’s most often job dissatisfaction

Quiet firing

Quiet firing, on the other hand, is a phenomenon in upper management or senior leadership levels where the manager attempts to tactfully get their employee to quit without the manager having to fire them. This often happens when an employer doesn’t want to directly fire an employee or have to offer a severance package.

To accomplish quiet firing someone, the manager might do things like:

  • Give the employee extraordinarily difficult or unwanted tasks and projects
  • Decrease the number of hours they’re allowed to work
  • Removing any and all chances for the employee to grow or advance in position

It’s not OK for a company to participate in quiet firing, as it’s unethical and only happens in toxic work environments. 

Signs of Quiet Quitting

This phenomenon can manifest differently depending on the position, the industry, and the employee. 

Generally though, there are some common signs of quiet quitting, like not: 

  • Showing up to work early
  • Picking up extra tasks or projects
  • Looking to expand their responsibilities
  • Attending meetings that aren’t considered mandatory
  • Participating in meetings
  • Replying to work emails if it’s outside of the employee’s work hours
  • Staying late or after hours

Another common sign of quiet quitting is isolation, particularly a separation from the team through things like not attending team social outings. This also involves taking more sick time. 

What Triggers Quiet Quitting?

There are many things that can trigger quiet quitting amongst employees. For example, one reason is unfair treatment at work. 

One of the biggest triggers of quiet quitting is an unrealistic, unmanageable workload. This is common amongst companies that are understaffed or simply have impractical expectations for their employees.

Another common trigger for quiet quitting is the push for returning to the office. The shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic forever changed the labor landscape. Employees realized they could be just as productive at home and could cut work-related costs, like travel expenses. 

As such, a forced return to an in-person office — as companies like Google, Amazon, and JPMorgan have ordered — has been a huge pain point for employees.

The upper management and senior leadership teams can also trigger quiet quitting. For example, a lack of communication from leaders higher up in the company can lead to confusion and discontent in the workplace. Employees often report that those in upper management or senior leadership don’t provide nearly enough appreciation or support for staffers. 

Quiet Quitting and Burnout

Quiet quitting is directly tied to employee burnout. Burnout — the feeling of being extremely overworked and stressed — leads to the urge to do only what’s required and nothing more than that. 

Essentially, quiet quitting is a remedy of sorts to burnout. It’s a coping mechanism for unrealistic expectations at work.

Bare minimum Monday

Bare minimum Monday is another workplace trend in which every Monday in particular, employees do the bare minimum of what’s required of them. They may do more work throughout the week, but Monday is for the bare minimum. 

Trends like bare minimum Monday help rid workers of the “Sunday scaries” — the anxiety and stress often felt on Sunday nights — while also helping them feel less overwhelmed at the beginning of the week.

Quiet Quitting and Gen Z

Younger employees — particularly gen Z and younger millennial staffers — have embraced quiet quitting. The reason? Both employee satisfaction and engagement have decreased significantly due to a lack of opportunities for growth and not feeling valuable to employers. 

Still, that doesn’t mean only gen Z and millennials are the only ones quiet quitting. In fact, this phenomenon extends to all generations; it’s just more common in younger workers. 

How to Prepare for a New Job

If you’re in a position where you find yourself quiet quitting, it might be time for a new job. If that’s the case, there’s no need to stress. Here are TK ways to prepare for a new job.

1. Check out available positions that you’re interested in

When you’re unhappy with your job, it can take all the fun out of doing the things you love. Try searching local job boards and sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter to see if there are any listings that interest you.

Be sure to check the company’s ratings on sites like Glassdoor. This can save you from applying to companies with a lower employee satisfaction rate. Focus on the brands that have great ratings and good reviews. 

2. Brush up on your interview and impromptu speaking skills.

It’s a good idea to brush up on your interview and impromptu speaking skills before tackling any actual interviews. Even if you feel totally confident, it’s still a better idea to put a little practice in.

You can do this through Yoodli, an AI interview coach and simulator. Although Yoodli has a lot of uses, one of the best tools for quiet quitters is its interview simulator. 

Yoodli will prompt you with various interview questions — either selected from Yoodli’s existing interview question base or inputted by you — while also recording and analyzing your response. For example, Yoodli can tell you if you’re speaking too fast, if you use too many filler words, and if you accidentally use non-inclusive language, among many other things.

You can improve the way you speak and boost your confidence by checking out the provided metrics and implementing Yoodli’s actionable suggestions in your own interviews. This interview simulator also uses generative AI to provide insightful follow-up questions, too. 

You can learn more about it below: 

People quiet quitting who are looking for a job can use Yoodli to help their job search.

3. Be sure to ask about the company culture in interviews.

One thing applicants often don’t think about is company culture. In your interviews, make sure you ask the interviewers questions about what the company is like to avoid a toxic work environment. 

For example, you can ask questions to gauge whether or not the company could be a toxic workplace by asking things like:

  • How would you describe the office culture?
  • What protections and processes exist to create a safe space for honesty and employee feedback without risk of retaliation? 
  • How do you give employees feedback?
  • Can you tell me a little bit about this company’s commitment to DEIB and how it manifests in corporate priorities?
  • Can you give me a couple of names and contact information for current employees who can share a deeper understanding of their experience at this workplace?  

For Employers: Facing Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting happens because of a lack of inadequate management. 

If your employees are quiet quitting, here are six things to do to improve both their situation and yours. 

1. If you’re in senior leadership, check in with managers. It’s not just the younger generation who aren’t as engaged anymore. In fact, engagement levels among managers are decreasing, too. 

2. Managers need to improve their management capabilities. Senior leaders don’t necessarily see employees as individuals like managers do. That’s because typically, those in senior leadership only work with managers and others above a managerial level. As such, managers need to step up and have meaningful conversations with their team to address issues like burnout. Research shows that in order for managers to be successful as a team leader, they need to have at least one sincere conversation every week for around 15 to 30 minutes, according to Gallup

This should go beyond a typical one-on-one where a manager might walk their employee through new tasks, upcoming projects, and the works. The conversation should be meaningful. 

3. Senior leaders and managers must collaborate with HR to improve company culture. When a business has a positive company culture, its staffers feel appreciated and are more motivated to exceed expectations. Employees want to feel like they have purpose. 

4. Identify and openly recognize the achievements of your staff. Celebrating these accomplishments, big and small, can further help employees feel like they matter. These achievements should also be rewarded in one way or another.  

5. Respect the boundaries of your employees. For example, if an employee says they don’t want to answer work emails or messages after hours, don’t push back on this. Accept their boundary and respect it. 

6. Listen to employee feedback, even if they tell you something you don’t want to hear. One of the biggest complaints from employees is that their manager or supervisor doesn’t listen to them. For example, if an employee offers constructive criticism on the way you manage them, listen and comprehend this feedback so you can make a change.

Quiet Quitting FAQs

There are quite a few frequently asked questions about quiet quitting, but three of the most critical questions to consider are: 

  • Will I get fired for quiet quitting?
  • Is quiet quitting a work-life balance?
  • Is it OK to quit without a job lined up?

Will I get fired for quiet quitting?

It depends. Some of the factors that affect whether or not you’ll get fired for quiet quitting include things like: 

  • What industry you work in
  • What your role is and what it entails
  • The current quality of your work
  • The needs of the company
  • Who your employer is

If you’re considered an “at-will” employee, chances are, yes, you could be fired for quiet quitting. 

Is quiet quitting a work-life balance?

The majority of people do seem to hold the opinion that quiet quitting is a work-life balance. About 57% of quiet quitters say the practice of sticking to the essentials of the job has improved their work-life balance

The number is even higher for those who have children younger than 18 years old. 

Is it OK to quit without a job lined up?

It depends. There’s nothing wrong with quitting a job even if you don’t have another position lined up. This is especially true if you work in a toxic work environment. 

There will always be risks to quitting without a job lined up, but for a lot of people, quitting is still worth it. 

When you’re quiet quitting or otherwise unhappy with your job, it can take a very serious toll on your mental health. If that’s the case, quitting is a good option to have, especially if the position or company no longer serves you.

The Bottom Line

As quiet quitting becomes more and more popular, employees and employers alike are taking a deep dive into the phrase and its meaning (perhaps for different reasons). 

If you’re a quiet quitter, it may be time for a new job. Once you’ve started applying, don’t forget to practice with a speech coach app like Yoodli to best prepare.

On the other hand, if you’re an employer, it doesn’t seem like quiet quitting is going away any time soon. To best mitigate this, aim to improve your company’s culture and ensure you listen to employee feedback instead of letting it go in one ear and out the other. 


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