CEO of DeskTime—a time tracking and productivity app for companies and freelancers. He’s also an amateur athlete and father of two.
As with most trends these days, this one began with a TikTok video going viral. On July 25, 2022, TikTok user zaidleppelin posted a 17-second video on “quiet quitting,” defining it as “where you’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.”
What followed was an outpouring of support side-by-side with an avalanche of counterarguments deriding such an attitude, with the original video reaching nearly half a million likes (at the time of writing) and sparking heated debates across social media and beyond. With Gallup saying that half the U.S. workforce are quiet quitters, it’s no wonder this trend struck a nerve.
I am pleased to see the camp that’s defending quiet quitting coming out on top. I’ve never seen fulfilling your responsibilities as a radical idea, and I’m an ardent believer in pay being proportionate to performance—it’s a no-brainer for talent retention. But it appears that this attitude isn’t ubiquitous.
This story has rapidly evolved to address not just quiet quitting, but also our broader work culture. Bonding in support of quiet quitters, people have been quick to point out and lament the “quiet” activities taking place on the other side of the table, including:
• Quiet firing: when companies push out employees by intentionally making the workplace toxic to avoid fulfilling their own commitments.
• Quiet promoting: when employees are given more responsibilities, but pay and title remain unchanged.
• Quiet fleecing: when employees are not rewarded for sustained excellent performance that improves a company’s position.
Notably, these aren’t anything new—they’re widespread and deeply entrenched practices, and it was just a matter of time before decades of silence bubbled over into fierce push-back. All it took was a single TikTok to spark the powder keg an exhausted workforce has long been sitting on.
Increased workplace transparency—in part made possible by the growing use of modern work-monitoring technologies—certainly also helped stir discussion. Employees are more aware than ever before of how much they work, how their efforts stack up against peers and what their professional worth is.
Accordingly, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for managers to dictate disproportionate terms for performance, and any “quiet” practices become easily identifiable by either party, brought to light by data.
What is the tech empowering employees?
Work-monitoring tools have given more insight into daily team performance, not only for managers but for individual employees, as well. With most such tools, both parties have access to data on where, and how productively, time is spent.
On one hand, it enables managers to keep a finger on the pulse of individual or team performance and intervene when deemed necessary. On the other, time-tracking tools provide employees with a data-based performance log that can be leveraged in any HR discussions or salary negotiations. Perhaps more importantly, workers caught up in the rush of day-to-day operations can see how much time they actually spend at work, which commonly exceeds standard working hours.
Such increased self-awareness is fuel to the fire of a growing worker empowerment trend, kindled by the Great Resignation, rising burnout levels and increased experience sharing. Of course, record-low unemployment helps, too, with opportunities abounding as companies look to snatch up the disgruntled talents of their competitors.
We’re at a unique point in time when a convergence of the above factors is enabling workers to shape their work environment, rather than be its passive subjects.
So, what does this mean for your company?
Be transparent and incentivize.
As divisive as the “quiet X” trends are, there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s two (or more) work-life philosophies clashing head-to-head, with little to no hope of convincing the other side of their truth.
And that’s fine. As a leader, it’s not your responsibility to side with one or the other; instead, you must create an environment where both worker personalities can coexist, be it your hustling managers or quiet-quitting employees.
As such, transparency is still king. Being transparent in your communication, expectations and demands as a company has long been hailed as a desirable element of the work environment, and current trends prove just how much it matters. Clear boundaries, clear rules, clear responsibilities—and a way to ensure both sides observe them—are the recipe for a healthy modern-day corporate culture.
That said, if you’re unhappy with the level of employee engagement, it falls on your shoulders to incentivize better performance. The quiet quitting movement is about fairness, so give as much as you take and you’ll see workers respond. Meanwhile, companies that have been coasting on employee passion and dedication are in for a rude awakening—after all, for today’s talent, it’s a seller’s market.