(noun) doing your job but nothing more, putting life ahead of work
After the Great Resignation came something new: quiet quitting. The concept was popularised in a TikTok post by @zaidleppelin, a young American who described it as “quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work, 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 idea of doing your job — and not a jot more — went viral. Was it a real phenomenon? Probably not. It didn’t matter, though. It was a vibe, not a workforce metric. The term expressed a desire to put life ahead of work after multiple lockdowns.
To some, quiet quitting was a TikTok take on slacking, but that is to understate Generation X’s ambitions. Peter Gibbons, the posterboy slacker in the 1999 film Office Space, described the ennui of his working day: “Well, I generally come in at least fifteen minutes late, I use the side door — that way Lumbergh can’t see me . . . after that I just sorta space out for about an hour . . . I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.” Quiet quitting was more modest — a reformulation of trade unions’ “work to rule” protest for a twenty-something audience.
When the term went viral, it triggered a conversation about greedy employers. The idea of acting your wage, to use the colloquial rationale, was to show that it was not young workers who were entitled but their bosses.
As @zaidleppelin put it, all he was doing was “setting a work-life balance”, and for that, he received “vitriol” from “corporate bootlickers”.
As the economy deteriorates, perhaps the corporate bootlickers will dominate the discourse. It would be a shame if quiet quitting was replaced by noisy firing.