Is quiet quitting a real thing?

Every decade has its memorable alliterations.

The 90s had Best Buy.

Jamba Juice came up in the 2000s.

Barry’s Bootcamp (and RadReads) were products of the 2010s.

And the 2020s gave us Quiet Quitting.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it was impossible to make it through this week without a mainstream publication offering a “Hot Take” on Quiet Quitting.

(Heck, my dad even forwarded me a CNN article about it.)

But alas. Not only were Boomers late to the discourse, Gen X and Millennials got caught flat-footed.

Quiet Quitting emerged as a viral trend on TikTok weeks ago.

With a head scratching proposal:

We’re just going to do the bare minimum of what our job requires.

Nothing more.

Nothing less.

A rejection of hustle culture

The irony of Quiet Quitting is that people have been checked out of their jobs since the beginning of time.

Heck, I was once a Quiet Quitter.

And if we’re being honest, there are a lot of factors at play in this “movement.”

First, the pandemic showed many knowledge workers that there was a different way of working.

You were free to exercise in between meetings. Or to have lunch with your spouse. Or (god forbid) attend your child’s soccer game – guilt-free.

Quiet Quitters shed that guilt.

Then, there’s the anti-burnout movement.

It’s one thing to constantly think about work. It’s another when your entire job can be handled from a piece of glass in your pocket.

Quiet Quitters found a way to end burnout.

And there’s the vexing question of tying your identity to your achievement. (Said more cheekily, does your self-worth = your net worth?)

Quiet Quitters know that they are not their work.

Or do they?

Quiet Quitting is a cheap tactic

Every time a cultural phenomenon hits meme-like status, we’re presented with a wonderful opportunity for deeper inquiry.

We can ask the powerful question, What’s really happening here?

And if you’re disenchanted with your job or burnt-out to a post-pandemic crisp, Quiet Quitting is missing the point.

“Should I go through the motions?” is a lazy, low-value, $10 Question.

It might make you feel better in the moment. But it’s like taking sleeping pills to cure insomnia. It addresses the symptoms, but not the root cause.

Instead, the Quiet Quitting movement raises three much juicier questions. We call these needle-moving questions, $10K Questions. Here they are:

  1. What are you expecting work to provide you?
  2. Do you know how to set boundaries?
  3. Where does your self-worth come from?

1. What do you expect work to provide for you?

Quiet Quitting assumes that work’s sole purpose is to provide a paycheck.

It’s like having a one night stand with Financial Security.

And there’s NOTHING wrong with that. But a lot of professionals expect work to provide a lot more.

In my post, does the perfect job exist, I argued that a job acts as a “container” for the following human needs:

  • Identity and status
  • Flexibility
  • Craftsmanship
  • Impact and meaning
  • Learning
  • Socialization

So the first $10K Question is, “Which of these matter to me?”

Quiet Quitters – by definition – know that that they can get the ones that matter outside of work.

But is that really so?

2. Do you know how to set boundaries?

I’m a people-pleaser. I have a hard time saying no. This leads me to take on too many commitments and meetings.

This people-pleasing tendency leads to resentment and then burnout.

One thing’s for damn sure, Quiet Quitters have figured out how to set boundaries.

In fact, it’s crystal clear for them: If it involves going the extra mile – I’m out!

(And as a people-pleaser, kudos to you!)

If you hate your boss, job and company, then you shouldn’t go the extra mile.

But here’s another $10K Question:

What IS WORTH going the extra mile for?

Because everyone – even Quiet Quitters – know that there are plenty of things in life worth going extra on.

It could be relationships. Creativity. Impact. Truth.

Quiet Quitters set the boundary. But that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll find what’s worth throwing themselves wholeheartedly into.

3. Who am I, without achievement?

This $10K Question is a gut-punch.

As someone who grew up as an insecure-teen-dying-to-be-seen, I’ve used achievement (or “success” and “status”) to make me feel good about myself.

(I’ve also used achievement to stave off my existential angst and fear of death. But we’ll put a pin int that one for a later date.)

My rational brain knows that I am much more than my achievements. Yet my heart, even at age 43, remains unsure.

A gracious interpretation of Quiet Quitting is that the TikTokers have figured this one out.

If so, then I’m next on line to (quietly) tender my resignation.

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