Quiet quitting: resignation to work or a healthy approach?

Doing what you're paid for and nothing extra. That's a rough summary of the quiet quitting. For some, the phenomenon is a symbol of a healthy approach to work. For others, it's a different name for disengagement and a lack of ambition. Which side of the camp do you lean towards?

To Generation Z, which is most associated with quiet quitting these days, or to business veterans whose careers are often built on the "no pain, no gain" principle?

The bare minimum vs. good enough

Despite what the name implies, quiet quitting does not mean that an employee is quitting their job. Rather, doing only what one is paid for explains what the phenomenon represents.

Quiet quitting doesn't have a clear definition and can be understood from various perspectives.

  • People only devote as much time and energy to work as their employer pays them. They are not willing to help coworkers outside of work hours, take the initiative, or work overtime for pay that isn't clear. They see these things as extras that they don't want to do for free.
  • Employees set and maintain healthy boundaries between work and personal life. They realize that work alone does not define them. They want to take time for family, hobbies, and health care without feeling guilty about it. 
  • Quiet quitters are disengaged, lacking ambition, and misrepresent it as burnout prevention. 

Martina Mikesková, psychologist and Soulmio counseling guarantor, points out the negative connotation of quiet quitting:

"I would not use the term 'necessary minimum'. Instead, I would use the term 'doing the work we agreed to do within the scope of the working hours'. It can help anxious, perfectionistic, or creative personalities who can be driven by the idea that any job can always be done better."

Far from being a matter for the younger generation

Quiet quitting has been talked about lately in the context of young Generation Z not wanting to devote more time to work than necessary. But it's definitely not a new phenomenon. There have always been people in the working population who are strict about their hours and workload and refuse to do anything extra or demand extra pay for it. 

Who are the typical quiet quitters?

People who only want to devote a healthy amount of time to work. They know their self-worth, and they want to devote enough time to themselves and their family. Employees who consciously prevent burnout. 

Employees stuck in their jobs. They can't or have no reason to leave, but they have no reason to put excessive effort into the job, and cause themselves more stress. This includes, for example, mothers returning from parental leave or people who have limited job opportunities.

Employees who feel an imbalance between what they give and what they get at work. Not just the pay, but also the lack of appreciation and visibility, toxic relationships within the company, unclear communication, constantly changing job requirements, etc.

Not just Gen Z and pandemics, but life itself

Quiet quitting is often linked to the pandemic. During the last two years, many people realised they were not defined exclusively by work. A demanding remote work made people feel the need to set clear boundaries between work, family and time for themselves.

But Zuzana Donáthova, psychologist and Soulmio counseling sponsor, sees other reasons behind the quiet quitting: "Personally, I think that regardless of the COVID pandemic, it is mainly a life stage that determines how much energy and under what conditions we are willing to devote to work." A recent graduate defines the importance of work differently, fresh parents or people who are caring for a family member, etc.

Benefits and limits of quiet quitting

It is still more likely that people who stay at work longer, take on more work and actively present themselves to others are better evaluated and promoted. While you label your waning work enthusiasm with the term setting healthy boundaries, colleagues and supervisors may get the impression that you are not interested in the job and in them. 

Quiet quitting benefits

  • Healthy boundaries between work and personal life.
  • An important part of preventing burnout syndrome. 
  • A more mature perception of self-worth, abilities, and life roles. 
  • A healthy perception of work as an important but not the only determinant of a person's worth.

Possible negative consequences:

  • Conflicts with colleagues due to different perceptions of workload. 
  • Unwanted stagnation in career and personal development.
  • Less developed social ties with colleagues. 

Beware of quiet quitting traps

Psychologist Zuzana Jochmannova is a fan of healthy boundaries between work and personal life. But she also warns that there can be a fine line between work disconnection and personal stagnation: "I am by no means saying that we should work ourselves to burnout and neglect a healthy work-life balance, I just think that quiet quitting is not a long-term solution for all work problems."

According to Jochmannova, limited enthusiasm for work can lead to unintended consequences in the long run: "Imagine doing only absolutely necessary tasks under the label of quiet quitting, cutting out friendliness to colleagues, interest in training and further education, networking, making your good work visible, etc. Your knowledge, skills, and experience may stagnate because of this, and your attitude may impact your social life at work." 

Healthy balance

The debate about quiet quitting tends to see only two opposing sides: 

  • Either people set healthy boundaries, take care of their health and prevent burnout.
  • Or they belong among disengaged employees who have no desire to help their colleagues and bring the proverbial added value to their employer. 

We believe in a quiet quitting that is healthy for everyone. 

  • The employee works only the hours contracted with the employer. 
  • The employee gives his/her best within working hours. He or she completes tasks, respects deadlines, comes up with ideas, and helps colleagues as much as possible.
  • The employee distinguishes between when it is exceptionally important to stay at work longer and when it is healthy to shut the laptop and not get absorbed in work. 

The issue is that, despite making every effort, working strictly from 9 to 5 is not always popular with employers and ambitious coworkers.

Psychologist Mikeskova says:

"Sometimes I meet clients who find themselves in a work team of zealots. The clients suffer from remorse, and a feeling of inadequate work performance, for example, because they do not respond to emails after hours.

However, it is clear from their words and actions that they are interested in their work and its quality, and can critically review their results.

Quiet quitting carries a negative connotation: but it can also be seen as a healthy set of boundaries between privacy and work, which is lacking in some organizations."