What Is Quiet Quitting? All You Need to Know

In the world of work, there is usually a certain trend or phenomenon that everyone is talking about. In recent years, there has been a lot of coverage of the so-called hustle culture (this way to the corresponding article). But in the last year more and more often appears a new term: Quiet Quitting. But what exactly is it? I took a closer look at the topic and discovered something exciting that I would like to share with you.

In short:

Quiet Quitting is a movement that has been gaining momentum since 2021. While the trend to give everything for the job lasted for a long time, many people only want to do the contractually agreed minimum for their job, while usually already looking for a new job.

Quiet Quitting is the counterpart to the Hustle Culture. While the trend to give everything for the job lasted for a long time, it has become apparent in the course of the pandemic that many people show less commitment with regard to their work. Overtime and sacrifice in private life are no longer tolerated.

It would stand to reason that the current economic situation (especially when combined with pandemic, drought, and war) makes people more risk averse, and people are more willing to take on more stress, not less, for fear of losing their jobs.

In this article, we will look at what is behind the phenomenon, how it came about, and whether it is morally acceptable.

Currently, a new trend is emerging that we also discuss:

Quiet Quitting: what is it actually?

As mentioned, Quiet Quitting is the counterpart to Hustle Culture. Therefore, we will briefly outline what the Hustle Culture is:

Hustle culture describes the strong ambition to give everything at work. Overtime and neglect of private life are a matter of course in order to advance in one's career. Especially (but not only) among the self-employed and people in management positions, this lifestyle is often observed.  

So that's cleared up. So what exactly is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet Quitting is the reduction of personal work performance to the contractually agreed minimum. Just good enough not to get into trouble or be noticed in a particularly negative way. Overtime is avoided and additional tasks or projects are not taken on.

Often, this reduced willingness to perform goes hand in hand with a career reorientation. Many "quiet quitters" start application runs for new jobs or begin to build up a side income, only to actually quit at a certain point.

Why Quiet Quitting instead of quitting directly?

The reasons for Quiet Quitting can vary, but the most common are being dependent on income or lack of job alternatives, but a more distant start date with a new employer can also be a reason. Thus, Quiet Quitting is typically used as a quiet transition period between the current, job and something new. 

By no longer spending more time on the current job, the freed-up time and energy can be used for new projects. However, there are also many reports of quiet quitters who simply want to focus on friends, family or hobbies.

The last group of quiet quitters are those who cannot bring themselves to quit themselves and hope that they will be terminated instead. Depending on the country, this offers the advantage of severance pay or higher unemployment benefits. 

Why is Quiet Quitting on the rise right now?

There are several theories as to why Quiet Quitting is gaining momentum, but one of the most plausible is that the pandemic has shown many employees to be expendable to the company - despite having given it their all for perhaps 15 years.

Simply being released from work or sent to part-time work does not leave a good feeling and often leads to the consideration of whether all the sacrifices made were worth it at all or whether it might not have been better to perform only the absolute minimum at work. 

So it is rather unsurprising that many come to exactly this conclusion.

Another reason why quiet quitting is becoming increasingly popular is the ongoing generational shift. With the retirement of the baby boomer generation from the labor market, certain values and beliefs are also flowing away. Instead, the beliefs of Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly present. These include, for example, the clear separation between work and leisure and the motto "work to live," while older generations often (consciously or unconsciously) "live to work."

Related article: Why low income is often so despised

For example, Lukas and I often have conversations with our father about working life. The thought of changing employers frequently is something that causes him nervousness and a sense of insecurity, let alone the thought of changing industries. He is extremely tolerant of our beliefs, but his idea of the ideal professional life is shaped by long tenure with the company. To exaggerate: completing an apprenticeship with good grades, being taken on by the company and slowly climbing the career ladder over the years.

In fact, however, reality suggests a different picture: earnings stagnate in most cases when employees stay with the company for a long time, while people who change employers more frequently often see their salaries jump considerably. Between 5 and 20% more salary can come with a change of employer, career platforms show (see example here https://karrierebibel.de/jobwechsel-gehalt/).

So it's a mix that leads to more and more Quiet Quitting. But...

Remember the pin and find it again quickly later 🙂

Is Quiet Quitting morally acceptable?

If you're like me, the description of Quiet Quitting triggers a certain feeling of unease. Almost as if such behavior is not okay toward the employer. But is Quiet Quitting actually inappropriate or even immoral?

Employees should not generally only perform the minimum. If the work is fun or you receive appropriate recognition (be it in the form of praise/feedback, monetary, additional free time or other fringe benefits such as a company car), it may well suit both parties and they are happy to do a little more for the company.

But if this is not the case, I believe that it is completely legitimate and definitely morally justifiable to provide what is agreed - and no more.

I'll even go a step further (and perhaps go a bit to the extreme), but I think that the "Yes, boss. But of course. I'll be happy to do it over the weekend" attitude is an antiquated holdover from the Industrial Revolution, when people were seen as cheap and replaceable labor that could be easily exploited, and employees would do almost anything to avoid losing their jobs.

Nowadays, no one should feel they have to do something that doesn't fit into the agreed-upon performance picture of the job.

Especially since it almost never happens that employers do more for employees than contractually stipulated. I personally don't know of a single example where that would be the case. If you know of one, Lukas and I would love to hear about it. Feel free to send us a quick email.

But whether it is okay to lean back at work in such a way that the employer sooner or later hands over the notice so that one has a casual last time in the job and to make sure that one gets a severance pay and/or corresponding claims to unemployment benefits after an actually self-inflicted/self-inflicted unemployment, everyone must decide for himself.

Other Perspectives on Quiet Quitting

In the last few months, this topic has become something big. When I wrote this article, there was next to nothing to be found on Google about this phenomenon. Now there are tons of articles about it. Even from the really big ones like Fortune, finance.yahoo and so on.

Therefore, it is not surprising that this topic is also gaining attention in social media. There are countless discussions about whether quiet quitting is okay or not, what the actual causes are, or whether it is nothing more than a misunderstanding on the part of employers that their employees are simply being set limits on how The Times wrote on Twitter:

There is also a BBC articlewhich I found very interesting as it points out that Quiet Quitting is actually nothing new. In the article, Professor Anthony Klotz is quoted:

"Although this is coming from a younger generation and in new packaging, this trend has been studied for decades under different names: Disengagement, Neglect, Withdrawal."

And indeed, there have always been coping mechanisms when you no longer feel fit for the job. I find that the reason this labor phenomenon is so incredibly visible is simply the stark contrast to the last decade, when hustle culture was lauded.

Is the emergence of Quiet Quitting a generational thing?

This is a common assumption, as it seems to be mostly people in their twenties and thirties who quit without notice.

There are a few arguments that support this theory, but I want to quickly refute two of them:

It is often said that young people are only in it for the money, but are not willing to work. However, when you look at the statistics of which generations are more willing to work for startups (which tend to have comparatively low wages for the amount of work they do), Gen Z and Millenials are right out in front, as studies have found (e.g., these Study). Of course, these generations are naturally more exposed to innovative fields, which explains why they make up the majority of employees in startups, but it shows that it is not a lack of willingness to work that promotes quiet quitting.

The second argument is that today's generation is more narcissistic. However, there is no evidence for this, as studies have shown that Millennials are actually less narcissistic than previous generations (and even are more willing to volunteer) IF compares the generations at the same age. It is quite obvious that young people are more narcissistic than at older ages, and it used to be no different for older generations. Narcissism is simply something that tends to decline with age. So if anything, it's a reason why younger generations are younger.

So what is the real reason for the recent rise in Quiet Quitting?

The answer could be very simple: The Internet.

With the advent of social media, job boards and other online tools, finding a new job has become very easy. You can apply for jobs without even talking to the employer. The whole process is much more anonymous, which makes it much easier to quit without notice.

Also, the Internet has made it much easier to find information about summary dismissal. 10 years ago, you would have had a hard time finding articles or discussions on this topic. Now there are tons of resources available with just a few clicks.

Last but not least, the Internet has made it much easier to network with like-minded people. If you feel like you're the only one thinking about quitting without notice, you can now easily find others who have done the same or are considering it. This makes it much less scary and helps normalize the idea.

As a result, Quiet Quitting went viral and it seems it's not slowing down yet.

So what does the future of Quiet Quitting look like?

It's hard to say. The Internet is a powerful tool and has already changed the way we quit our jobs. It's very likely that the trend will continue to grow in the coming years.

However, it is also possible that employers will begin to educate themselves and change their policies. For example, some companies have started requiring a two-week notice period.

So the future of Quiet Quitting is uncertain. But one thing is certain: the Internet has made it much easier to quit without notice, and this trend is here to stay.

I hope the article has given you a good overview and answered many questions. On this blog you will learn everything possible about how to live well and especially satisfied. We draw on many philosophical concepts that have proven to be very effective. Want an example? Quotes Explained: Lao Tzu About Good Leaders (Reading time 2 minutes)

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  1. There are Gen Xers who still have the work ethic of the Baby Boomers. Why did you fail to mention the Gen X generation? You DO know the difference, right?

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks a lot for your input. Highly appreciated.

      I like the idea of including a part about the generational differences. I will try to add one soon.


  2. This disgusts me!! I'm a retired self-employed business owner, and I find these statements appalling! I employed staff that was totally dedicated and I rewarded them above and beyond for their loyalty and hard work ..they have become life long friends of mine. I never took advantage of their work ethic... treating employees as you would want to be treated ..known as...the golden rule!!! What you give is what you get back!!! You should give it a try! Being productive is more rewarding than just going through the motions , so you won't get fired...but can still benefit from the employer or system your screwing...the ME generation...This new trend saddens me to say the least!!!

  3. Hi Nella,

    Thanks a lot for adding your perspective. We highly appreciate it.

    It sure sounds that your work relationships with your staff were awesome (and it is lovely to hear that they transformed to true friendships).

    It seems you had created the situation I described here:

    "Employees should not generally only perform the minimum. If the work is fun or you receive appropriate recognition (be it in the form of praise/feedback, monetary, additional free time or other fringe benefits such as a company car), it may well suit both parties and they are happy to do a little more for the company."

    Yet, I think you will agree that there are a lot of examples of employers who are... different from this( to say it in a diplomatic way).

    This is why I tried to write the article as "it depends". If an employer does NOT value ones work it is okay to do the agreed minimum. As per contract. Why should staff do more while the employer is not?
    However, if an employer DOES value one's work giving a little bit more should be perfectly fine (and in my personal opinion adds to a fullfilling work-life) - even though it is not necessary. Again, as per contract.

    We wish you all the best and thank you for being a role-model in this regard.


  4. Melanie Meyer says:

    The shift from "living in order to work" to "working in order to live" was already observed among Generation Y. It is therefore not a completely new invention of Generation Z.

    1. Hi Melanie

      We see it that way, too.
      It's just that it's become particularly popular recently.

      In any case, it's always nice when people decide that they don't want to wear themselves out for their job 🙂

  5. I have only now come across the idea of quiet quitting. My employer hired me because of my language skills. I have two diplomas and speak three languages. They pay me the absolute minimum. Of course I didn't agree, but it was only for the first half year. Now contract extension, of course, because they need me, but no salary increase. So no motivation, no recognition. And with my language skills and personal commitment, I kept so many customers in line. Next year I'll be doing another job, and until then there's "quiet quitting".

  6. Hi Jutta

    Thank you for your experience report with Quiet Quitting.

    Sorry to hear, but glad if you already have something new in the works.

    We're keeping our fingers crossed 🙂

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