Months after the “big resignation” entered the collective vocabulary, the question of what exactly one owes one’s employer is having another viral moment.
At the end of July, @zaidlepppelin posted a phrase on TikTok called “quiet withdrawal”. It’s the idea of meeting the demands of the job and stopping there. The video has since garnered more than 3.4 million views, while the hashtag has more than 21 million views from other TikTokers joining in with their views on the larger idea and even the term itself.
The concept is reigniting further debate about work-life balance, with proponents saying it’s just a necessary boundary call, while critics complain about a perceived lack of initiative and a slacker mentality.
As always, it is not clear cut. Here’s what you need to know about silent termination.
What is silent withdrawal?
Quitting quietly is the idea of doing your job and nothing more. In the original viral TikTok, @zaidlepppelin described it this way: “You’re still fulfilling your responsibilities, but you’re no longer buying into the rush culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is that it isn’t, and your worth as a person is not defined by your work.”
@zaidleppelin On quietly ending #workreform♬ original sound – ruby
Is silent withdrawal new?
In a word, no.
“Now it’s popular because of the hashtag,” said Jha’nee Carter, who goes by @_thehrqueen on TikTok, where she talks about leadership and employee advocacy.
Although the phrase “quiet quitting” has only caught on in recent weeks, the struggle to find work-life balance is much older. The National Union first (if unsuccessfully) petitioned Congress to enact an eight-hour day in 1866.
A century later, American pop group The Vogues sang in their 1965 song Five O’Clock World about the bliss of being off the clock: “It’s a world at five o’clock when the whistle blows. Nobody owns a piece of my time.” “
Nowadays, it’s more appropriate to hear about achieving a healthy “work-life balance.”
This trend sometimes manifests itself globally. In July 2021, Brookings wrote about the “flattening” movement in China, where a culture that favors overwork has begun to clash with a sense of stagnation among workers, especially younger people. In April of that year, the concept went viral.
“For some, ‘lying down’ is a promise of freedom from the drudgery of living and working in a rapidly changing social and technological sector where competition is relentless. But for China’s leadership, this movement of passive resistance to the nation’s development efforts is a worrying trend,” the article said. and also explains that China aims to “end its dependence on imported technology”, putting particular pressure on the technology sector.
What is this dispute?
Some of the controversy surrounding silent quitting is whether it’s a healthy approach to your work or whether you’re a slacker.
“The attachment to the workplace … the expectations and exploitation of employers are now so extreme that simply doing your job is considered to be job termination,” Leigh Henderson said. You may have come across Henderson on TikTok as @hrmanifesto, where she uses her 15+ years of experience in the corporate world to talk about everything from dealing with your toxic job to interviewing for a new one.
At first, she was confused by the idea of a quiet exit, wondering how it was “different from just work-life balance, creating boundaries, priorities, and just life?” Henderson says it should be employers’ responsibility to keep their employees engaged.
And on TikTok, people have questioned whether anyone should be expected to put in more work than they’re compensated for.
@hrmanifesto ✨New Trend Alert✨Loud Failing #insanity#quietquitting#loudfailing#employee#engagement#nightmare#corporate#victimblaming#hr#hrmanifesto#greenscreen @wsj @zaidelleppelin ♬ original sound – HRmanifesto
Not everyone sees it that way. ABC’s Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary told TikTok to say, “Quitting quietly is a really bad idea. If you quit quietly, you’re a loser.” O’Leary did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He said in a video on CNBC that you’re hired at a company to make your business work, and you should go above and beyond because you want to — and that’s the way to get ahead.
@kevinolearytv What’s your take on silent weaning? #kevinoleary#quietquitting#entrepreneur#career#careeradvice♬ original sound – Mr. Wonderful
TikTokers pointed out that to an employer’s ears, a quiet termination could sound like suddenly getting less of their employees, regardless of whether those employees are getting paid for the extra work anyway.
What’s more, the very term – quitting – has a negative connotation. Henderson considers it “quiet survival” and it’s something she’s done in her own career. In a subsequent TikTok, Henderson said, “I was protecting myself from a toxic work environment, and I was protecting myself from a toxic work environment that my employer not only set up and facilitated, but continually benefited from.”
Why are people talking about silent weaning now?
The easy answer is that this particular TikTok went viral in late July. But according to Matt Walden, managing partner of Infinity Consulting Solutions, who has been in the recruiting field for more than two decades, the circumstances have been ripe for much longer. Some of this moment he pins down to burnout.
First, Walden looks at the pandemic — when employees have switched to remote work, it could often be more difficult to separate work and home life. Maybe it’s easy to leave your laptop open and answer a few more emails while cooking dinner.
“Working from home has been a blessing for many. And for others, it’s made people work harder than they’ve ever worked, unknowingly, in isolation,” Walden said.
The quiet exit also comes on the heels of the Great Resignation, the term for the phenomenon of American workers leaving their jobs in record numbers, often for better pay, benefits and flexibility, or even just to avoid returning to the office. A July report from McKinsey called it “a quit trend that just won’t stop.” Although the number of U.S. job vacancies fell to 10.7 million in June from 11.25 in May, the report said it is likely that the number of vacancies will not return to a more normal range for some time.
Another possible aspect is the resistance to rush culture – a mentality that requires optimizing every minute of your life for productivity and glorifies non-stop work.
Henderson also pointed out that there are a whopping four generations in the workforce today, bringing with them different perspectives, attitudes and experiences that shape their relationship to work.
“Make no mistake that Gen Z employees watched Gen X parents stick their finger right into corporate America,” Henderson said.
Who quietly quits?
While there are no numbers on quiet quitting, Walden said he wouldn’t characterize it as a tidal wave trend. Although Gen Z is largely associated with quiet withdrawal, demographic breakdowns from the Great Resignation show that they are not the only generation rethinking work.
And not everyone has the luxury of quiet withdrawal.
“In order to climb the ladder of society as a person of color, I believe it’s necessary to go above and beyond,” Carter said of how people in minority groups, such as people of color, don’t always have the same. resources available to them, so it takes more work to upskill them, get the right rooms with the right people to network, and so on. She also says you need to learn to advocate for yourself so you don’t end up burned out and exploited.
@_thehrqueen Can a silent termination destroy your career? ✨ #hrqueen#quietquitting#iquit#corporateamerica#mentorforu#youngprofessionals#hrlife#hrtok#careertips#careeradvice#careeradvicedaily#leadershipdevelopment#ReTokforNature♬ Level Up – Kwe the Artist