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What we’ve got wrong about quiet quitting

The phrase has leapt into the business lexicon this year, but how helpful is the term, how new is the phenomenon it describes – and is this actually problematic for employers?

“The pandemic has highlighted the importance to people of preserving their health, both physical and mental. Younger workers in particular are focusing on maintaining a better work/life balance.”


It's a term that's taken the world of work by storm over the past few months. So-called quiet quitting has quickly become part of the zeitgeist and it has employers and HR experts worried, as more and more dissatisfied employees decide that any discretionary effort they put in will never be recognised, let alone rewarded, by their companies.

There is nothing new in working to rule, of course, and employees should never be expected to exceed what they're contractually obliged to do. The term could be seen as a new spin on an approach that many people have long applied to their work, so is it really a problem? And should we be labelling it as ‘quitting' anyway?

For Aliza Sweiry, UK Managing Director at global staffing agency Aquent, it's an unnecessary neologism that ill suits the concept of upholding workers' rights. 

Sweiry argues that the term implies that the alternative – doing unpaid work outside your contractual hours and/or responsibilities (and never feeling able to refuse it) – is somehow normal when it shouldn't be. 

“While the term has set TikTok ablaze and is directed mostly at members of generation Z and remote workers, I firmly believe it's just a new name for an age-old issue: employee disengagement,” she says. 

But this situation has become worse for employers in recent times, largely because of the extreme stress that the pandemic has placed on most organisations and their employees. Many workers performed Herculean tasks to support their employers during the depths of the Covid crisis, often with little recognition.

This article originally appeared on Raconteur.

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