Many young workers are "quiet quitting," meaning they don't leave their jobs, but instead reject the idea of "going above and beyond" in the workplace so they can focus on life beyond the office. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Lindsay Ellis and Angela Yang explain why younger workers aren't going the extra mile.
What is 'quiet quitting'?
In just two weeks, a viral TikTok posted by Zaid Khan, a 24-year-old engineer in New York, gained 3 million views. In the TikTok, Khan explained a concept called "quiet quitting," which encourages workers to rethink their approaches to their careers.
"You're quitting the idea of going above and beyond," Khan explained. "You're no longer subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that work has to be your life."
When employees are "quiet quitting," they are not actually quitting their jobs. Instead, they shift their focus to life outside the office.
Another TikTok user, 41-year-old Clayton Farris, said when he heard the term, he realized he had already been "quiet quitting" by refusing to let work stress dominate his life any longer.
"The most interesting part about it is nothing's changed," he said in his TikTok video. "I still work just as hard. I still get just as much accomplished. I just don't stress and internally rip myself to shreds."
Gen Z, younger millennial worker engagement is down
Recent survey data from Gallup found that U.S. employee engagement is falling across all generations. However, worker engagement was lowest among Gen Z and younger millennial workers who were born no earlier than 1989, at just 31%.
According to Jim Harter, chief scientist for Gallup's workplace and well-being research, the definition of "quiet quitting" aligns with a large category of survey respondents that were classified as "not engaged," which included workers who go to work and only fulfill their minimum requirements. Notably, 54% of workers included in the Gallup survey who were born after 1989 were classified as workers who are "not engaged."
One measure Gallup uses to determine worker engagement is whether an employee feels their work has a purpose—and the data show that younger employees do not typically feel that way. According to Harter, the workers that fall into this category are more likely to work passively and care more about themselves than their employers.
For instance, less than a year into 24-year-old Paige West's job as a transportation analyst, she was so overwhelmed by work stress that she could no longer sleep and her hair started falling out. While she searched for a new job, she stopped working more than 40 hours a week, stopped signing up for additional training, and stopped trying to socialize withcolleagues.
"I took a step back and said, 'I'm just going to work the hours I'm supposed to work, that I'm really getting paid to work,'" West said. "Besides that, I'm not going to go extra."
While some experts have criticized the movement—saying that it gives workers an excuse to be less productive at work—Elise Freedman, a senior client partner at consulting firm Korn Ferry, noted that workers who do the bare minimum have been around for decades. However, she added that "quiet quitting" may be easier for less-invested employees who are remote workers.
Still, an economic downturn could place less-engaged workers at an increased risk of layoffs. "It's perfectly appropriate that we expect our employees to give their all," Freedman said.
Separately, Josh Bittinger, a 32-year-old market research director at a management consulting company, said some people have assumed that the phrase "quiet quitting" encourages workers to be lazy, when its goal is to encourage workers to mitigate burnout.
After saying "yes" to everything for years, with the hope of standing out, Bittinger said he learned how to say "no" more. Now, he prioritizes himself in the evenings and on vacations.
"I get my job done, my projects done. I'm performing well and I get good feedback," Bittinger said. "And I'm able to still take time to just step away from everything." (Ellis/Yang, Wall Street Journal)