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Four Things You Need To Do Before ‘Quiet Quitting’

Understand your motivations and seek a solution before leaving your job

Rebecca Tay
Rebecca Tay
Quiet Quitting

Similar to any viral TikTok phenomenon, the trend of “quiet quitting” has caused its fair share of confusion and controversy. Why is it called “quitting” if you’re still working? Is a quiet quitter lazy or just drawing healthy boundaries?

While quiet quitting covers a range of worker mindset and behaviors in response to unhappiness at work, at its worst, quiet quitting is checking out. The most extreme quiet quitters work only as much as needed to keep from being fired, and often feel very negative or passive aggressive toward their work, colleagues, and employers.

Why try to avoid quiet quitting?

While reducing your workload can curb burnout, checking out doesn’t solve many other issues that lead to burnout, such as poor leadership, unreasonable deadlines, or failure to be properly recognized for your work.

Additionally, the “quiet quitter” label can be a damaging self-fulfilling prophecy. If people come to view you as a quiet quitter, you’ll get fewer opportunities to have mastery and grow in your job, experiences key for employees to feel engaged at work.

By checking out, you neither accept your working situation — flaws and all — nor make moves to change what isn’t working. So, while checking out can make you feel less negative toward your job, it’s unlikely to make you feel as positive as someone who is fully engaged in their job.

So here are four things you need to do before quiet quitting:

Identify your motivations

First, understand why you’re feeling burnt out and think quiet quitting will help.

Some workers check out to avoid hustle culture. A study by UK marketing company Impero found that less than half (45%) of Gen Zers equate career and money to success. And a middle-school English teacher notes that more of his past students are now prioritizing travel or finding a job they enjoy after college. These trends show that younger generations are more likely to view work as simply a means to their desired life, and not a purpose-giving endeavor that should be allowed to detract from their time or mental health.

Other factors leading to burnout include heavy workloads, long hours, feeling underappreciated, finding no meaning in work, and dealing with challenging colleagues or bosses. In other cases, the person might not be a good fit for the role — for example a salesperson who doesn’t like interacting with people.

Alternatively, some workers may be tempted to follow coworkers who’ve already jumped on the quiet quitting trend. Whether resentful or admiring, for many workers it doesn’t make sense to do more work while others are doing the bare minimum.

As you brainstorm your reasons for quiet quitting, identify which factors are within your control. Did you work overtime because of bad time management or because your boss assigned you work right before a deadline? Are you confused about your role because you volunteer to help other departments or because other teams give you work? Record the details of your burnout experiences to both help you and your manager better understand the problems and identify solutions.

Uninspired employment

Set boundaries

Ideally, employees want to give 100% while at work, including doing as much high-quality work as they can. However, to make working like this sustainable, you need to become comfortable setting and sticking to boundaries with yourself, coworkers, and bosses. Here are three tips to help you avoid wanting to check out at work:

Avoid taking on work outside your role

By being assertive, avoid work not directly related to your job. For example, don’t volunteer for tasks just because you’ve done them in the past and others have come to expect you’ll do them. Only accept assignments that fall within the scope of your work, interest you, or provide a growth opportunity for you.

Reduce overtime with smarter time management

If working overtime has led to your burnout, improve your time management skills to work more efficiently, including avoiding distractions, streamlining processes, and using technology. Prioritize the tasks that are most urgent and important to your role, accepting that some to-do items won’t get done. If possible, increase how much work you delegate to others. But be wary that optimizing your time management skills can only save you so much time, especially if many aspects of your work system fall outside of your control. For example, if you rely on a coworker to provide the data for a report, how quickly they finish their work will determine how much time you have left before the deadline.

Stick to your work-life boundaries

Avoid answering emails or taking meetings after you leave work. Additionally, try not to worry about work during off-hours. Although not worrying is easier said than done, actively focusing your attention on hobbies or interests outside of work can help. If exhaustion is contributing to your burnout, ensure you get enough good sleep. Try to take the full number of vacation days you’re allowed, even if doing so makes you feel uneasy or is frowned upon at your company. Equally crucial to taking time off is commiting to not working during your vacation.

Talk to your manager

Once you understand your motivations for quiet quitting, propose actionable and reasonable changes your boss could implement to help reduce your burnout.

Solutions can include more recognition, more growth opportunities, better pay, flexible working arrangements, or removal/management of the stressful aspects of your job. For example, if you’re constantly given work outside of your specialty, ask that assignments be commissioned to the appropriate team instead.

Use popular psychology tool the DEARMAN technique to help you approach the conversation with your manager. Here’s how:

  • Describe your problem
  • Express your feelings
  • Assert what you need
  • Reinforce gratitude towards the opposite party
  • Mindfully stay on point
  • Appear confident
  • Negotiate as needed

Additionally, keep in mind that having a solutions-oriented conversation is a win-win. If your boss is receptive, you can improve your situation. If your boss doesn’t respond well, that will help confirm that you don’t want to work for this employer anymore.

Prepare to actually quit

If the steps outlined haven’t successfully reduced your burnout, it may be time to quit. Ultimately, quitting and finding a job more aligned with your interests and lifestyle will improve your short- and long-term happiness more than quiet quitting at your current job will.

Keeping in mind your reasons for quiet quitting will help you determine what you’re looking for in your future employer. For example, you may look for jobs that have certain benefits helpful for avoiding burnout, such as flexible working arrangements or mental health days.

Alternatively, you may focus on choosing a workplace with a healthy company culture, which you can determine by talking with past or current employees at the target company. Also, when interviewers ask if you have questions for them, you can use behavioral questions to probe how employees are treated. For instance, if your current boss never acknowledges your work, you can ask potential employers how they view or reward employees who’ve successfully completed their work.

It’s normal to want to do as little work as possible for your current employer while you search for a new job. But make sure you don’t check out or act in a passive-aggressive way that catches your boss’s attention. Maintaining amicable connections with old employers increases the likelihood they’ll think of you for other job openings or be willing to write you letters of recommendation in the future. Additionally, you don’t want to be “loudly fired” if you haven’t yet secured a new job and aren’t prepared financially.

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine January 2023 issue.
Rebecca Tay
Rebecca Tay

Rebecca Tay is a content writer and researcher at Resume Genius, a career-focused website known for its AI-powered resume builder, free resume templates, and job search resources.

Published on
Dec 28, 2022
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