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Quiet quitting

The silent disobedience of employees

20 Sep 2022 5 min read
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Ruby Liu MY

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In the eyes of some employees, resignation may be a long-awaited moment; after handing the resignation letter, they start counting down to the last day, deciding whether to give away “farewell cakes”, and officially saying goodbye to the company. Following the "Great Resignation" in the United States and the "Lying Flat-ism" (doing the bare minimum to get by) in China, the United States has recently been discussing an "alternative resignation", where there is no formal resignation letter and employee does not leave the company, yet employees are announcing their resignation quietly. 

What is Quiet Quitting? 

There is no formal definition of quiet quitting, but it generally refers to employees who only complete basic job responsibilities, avoid overtime work, have a clear work-life boundary, say goodbye to demanding working culture, and shift their focus back to themselves.


Why Quit Quitting? 

Comments on quiet quitting are quite polarized. Some people think that it is due to overwork and not being appreciated, or simply "acting your wage" in reaction to unsatisfactory salaries and benefits. Some people also describe it as a “lying flat” behavior with a "lack of creativity and passion". 

Maggie Perkins, a former teacher who advocates for Quiet Quitting, said in an interview with the Global Times. Before she started quiet quitting, she took 60 hours of work a week for granted, spent her income on classroom equipment, and used her private time to answer parents' questions. This also caused her to suffer from severe migraine. Until her child was born, she began to realize that she was overworked and began to resign silently. She shared, "​​No matter how hard I work, the school does not have an actual promotion or reward system, no opportunity for upward mobility. As a teacher, working beyond my duties is a norm ; if I don't quiet quit, I will only be overworking." She believes that the mentality of quiet quitting is to establish a boundary, and after completing the tasks that I can do during office hours, it is "the end of the day". 

Proponents of quiet quitting argue that it's not a bad thing to be able to fully commit to the limited work hours. Studies have shown that people who are "mentally disengaging" from work during vacation are generally more satisfied with their lives and can re-engage when they return to work. The study found that the more people can leave their work behind during vacation, the better their work performance. 

However, if quiet quitting evolves into ​​reduced personal and emotional commitment towards work, colleagues, or the company, this may lead to psychological disengagement and an apathetic attitude towards work, which will adversely affect physical and mental well-being, as well as productivity. 

differences in expectation

What is your motivation? 

There may be no right or wrong in Quiet Quitting, but a personal choice. Employees who support quiet quitting may wish to ask themselves, what is behind this attitude and behavior? Is it to establish healthy personal boundaries and decide on where to expend efforts in order of priorities in life? Or is it a self-protection method in the face of overwork? Or do you feel that your work is "chicken ribs” (a Chinese idiom referring to something being of little value yet you don’t want to give it up) ", so you decide to work reluctantly, and hold onto your job until you get a better one or are ready for a "naked resignation" (quitting a job before getting a new one)? 

Everyone has their practice and may have different reasons for quiet quitting, but it is important to understand our own underlying needs, carefully think about whether quiet quitting is the most effective way to respond, and its long-term impact on ourselves, such as career development, relationships with colleagues, reputation within the industry, working culture, our general problem solving attitudes and practices, etc. 

Research has found that when we put more effort into something, we perceive it as more valuable. For example, if we spend a lot of time practicing for a competition, it will mean more to us. Quiet quitting may reduce our workload, but it may reduce both our sense of engagement and purpose, which in turn reduces job satisfaction and affects our perception towards work. As Gandhi said, ''Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.'' 

flexible thinking

How can management turn the tide? 

Likewise, quiet quitting is an opportunity for management to reflect on how the company’s policy affects employees' sense of belonging and mental health. If employees have signs of quiet quitting, they should consider evaluating how the organization and management affect the performance of employees and the long-term development of the company, and communicate with employees the expectations of both parties regarding their duties clearly. 

A study on quiet quitting has found that management is the key to whether employees quiet quit; when employees’ supervisors could “balance getting results with a concern for others’ needs”, employees are more likely to put extra effort into their work rather than to choose quiet quitting. Management with the lowest ratings is 3-4 times more likely to lead to quiet quitting than those with the highest ratings

The study also pointed out that managers with the following characteristics are more likely to build a trusting relationship with their employees, believing that their bosses care about their working conditions and mental health, which increases a sense of connection and makes them more willing to contribute: 

  • Build positive relationships with employees (e.g., enjoy daily interactions, share common interests, or spark conversations by being open-minded and exchanging different opinions and values) 
  • Be consistent in your words and actions, deliver on what you promise 
  • Possess expertise in the field of work 

In addition, business consultant, Adrian Gostick, shared in the business magazine "Forbes" that managers should set an example for their employees and take the lead in shaping the company culture, such as: 

  • Don't message colleagues about business affairs on weekends 
  • Acknowledging the feelings and values ​​of employees, expressing encouragement and gratitude 
  • Work with employees to prioritize work and adjust workload 
  • Allow employees to spend more time on projects that interest them, express themselves, and enhance their sense of work 

The so-called "quiet quitting" seems to be silent, but it clearly reflects the huge change in the attitude of today's generation towards work. It becomes a sonorous and powerful echo, and the echoing voice asks the old question: what does work mean to you? 


Sonnentag, S. (2012). Psychological Detachment From Work During Leisure Time: The Benefits of Mentally Disengaging From Work. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(2), 114–118. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721411434979

Kahn, W. A. (1990). Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work. The Academy of Management Journal, 33(4), 692–724. https://doi.org/10.2307/256287

Inzlicht, M., Shenhav, A., & Olivola, C. Y. (2018). The Effort Paradox: Effort Is Both Costly and Valued. Trends in cognitive sciences, 22(4), 337–349. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2018.01.007

Is ‘quiet quitting’ a good idea? Here’s what workplace experts say

Quiet Quitting Is About Bad Bosses, Not Bad Employees by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman

Community mental health
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Ruby Liu MY

Well-being Promotion Officer of Jockey Club TourHeart+ Project