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Meet Hustle Culture’s Worst Enemy, Quiet Quitting

Ever heard a friend or colleague bragging about how much they’re hustling to make it big? Well, it’s time to say goodbye to the hustle culture and hello to the quiet quitting upsurge. Learn more about quiet quitting and quiet firing, and their various implications for organisations.

By Aditi Mudgal
27 August 2022

In a recent all-hands meeting at Google this month, CEO Sundar Pichai stated that “there are real concerns that our productivity as a whole is not where it needs to be for the headcount we have. We should think about how we can minimise distractions and really raise the bar on both product excellence and productivity.” The current economic situation and loss of revenues globally have forced many companies to increase employee productivity while placing hiring freezes throughout their structure.

 

However, amidst rising concerns about low employee engagement and productivity, quiet quitting has very silently been making its mark, especially among Gen Z and millennial workers, who were touted to be ‘working harder’ than their predecessors. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 report, while around 21 per cent of employees are engaged at work, and only 33 per cent of employees actually thrive holistically because of their work.

 

Certified executive coach Debeshi Chakraborty says about the quiet quitting trend, “I would say there is a variance in this trend, US vs. India, the West vs. the East, in terms of the age group where the impact is being seen and the sector where this is seen. You have to understand the work culture. The workforce is young, and the Gen Z’s are contributing to it. The attention, the expectation, the vision about work is not the same as it was for the previous generation. The definition of burnout has to be benchmarked again. What was the expectation that employees have that was not met that led to a burnt out. The framework of the definition should consider four aspects - the culture, country, sector and age. There is a trend, but it can’t be generalised.”

 

‘Quitting job’ and ‘how to care less about work’ are probably some of the most commonly searched terms on the Internet recently, especially as people realise the importance of having a good work-life balance. Here is what you should know about the quiet quitting trend and whether it applies to you:

 

Related story: Why It's Okay Not To have It All Figured Out

 

What Is Quiet Quitting?

Deriving its origins from a TikTok video, the term ‘quiet quitting’ has been quietly making the rounds, particularly among the millennial and Gen Z sect and those who are feeling the effects of constantly being in ‘work mode.’ It is meant to define a work culture where people only do what they are paid for and don’t glorify or justify overworking.

 

While the term might lead people to think that people are quietly quitting their jobs, it just means that people choose to work as much as they are being paid. A 9-5 job shouldn’t be keeping you up until 10 pm and shouldn’t have you running around on weekends. After the ‘Great Resignation,’ this could also be seen as an alternative way that employees are expressing dissatisfaction with their jobs.

 

Avoiding the hustle culture and the pressure to constantly succeed or be an overachiever might be the tactic some require to have balance in their lives. But for many others, being successful at what they do might exactly be what makes them most happy. There are many facets of quiet quitting, and unfortunately, not all of them are being conversed about enough.

 

Why Is It Becoming a Problem Now?

Here is some food for thought: why are trends like the ‘Great Resignation,’ ‘quiet quitting,’ ‘wage theft,’ and ‘burnout’ more common in today’s generation than ever before? Is it simply that our generation is more aware of maintaining a healthy balance or that our predecessors just never had to work this hard?

 

Roop Katha (24), a graphic designer, says that a combination of having a full-time job along with multiple freelancing projects may seem like hustling to many, but for her, it’s a way to get more recognition in her career and get exciting opportunities that she wouldn’t be exposed to at her job. While she completes her work-related obligations on time, it doesn’t prevent her from embracing freelance work since this may be the only time she can fully focus on her career.

 

But for many others, doing their absolute best at their job and having other side jobs is just a way to earn more money. Gen Z and millennial workers today are working harder to make ends meet as they try to cope with a higher cost of living. The inflation rate (Wholesale Price Index) for June 2022 was stated to be over 15 per cent by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, whereas the wage growth in India for 2022 is projected to be anywhere between 8 to 12 per cent, according to Michael Page Salary Report 2022. Even with jobs that pay enough for a person to live comfortably, the working hours may be unreasonable. A higher pay leads to the expectation that employees are supposed to work more, be more productive, and be motivated towards their work.

 

Related story: Overthinking: How Much Is Too Much

 

The Hustle Culture Burnout

“Yes, quiet quitting is happening, and I may be doing it too. Rather than doing the bare minimum, it is simply doing what I’m being paid to do. If I’m not getting paid for overtime, what’s the point of doing it? I can’t invest my life in a company that is bound to replace me at some point later. It’s not really quiet quitting, but quite okay!” says Jai (27), a full-time office worker.

 

The mentality that an individual must work all day every day to pursue their professional and career aspirations is what hustle culture is all about. But frankly speaking, hustle culture may just be another term for ‘overworking’ and is something that’s become like a badge of honour for millennials and Gen Z. Achieving success in a tough economic climate, the rise and grind culture is something that many individuals are aware of and know the necessity of.

 

However, constant hustling, especially after the pandemic, has also led to higher rates of burnout. A 2015 Deloitte study reveals that 77 per cent of professionals have experienced burnout at their current job, and 84 per cent of respondents were millennials. Further, the study states that burnout has no boundaries, with 91 per cent of respondents having an unmanageable amount of stress and frustration.

 

With higher rates of burnout, it may be just that quiet quitting is the only ‘normal’ response many employees can give, as they can’t quit due to financial obligations but simply don’t see the point of doing more than they should.

 

Chakraborty says, “We have always rewarded and appreciated people who are effective in their work, who are leaders. A famous story about Picasso, where a young lady asks him to draw something for her on the spot. He draws something and hands it to her, and tells her that it costs a million dollars. The young lady asks him how a drawing can cost a million dollars when it took him a few minutes. Picasso replies back saying that it took him 30 years to perfect the technique, and the price is set accordingly.” Valuing people who are putting in the effort along with time, quiet quitting is something that some employers can’t afford. For employees who want their time, effort and professionalism to be valued, quiet quitting is not an option either.

 

Related story: How To Deal With People Breaking Your Boundaries

 

Standing Up For Yourself

There have been other topics that are just as much in conversation when talking about quiet quitting. Many employees are also talking about ‘wage theft,’ the fact that quiet quitting is simply a response to not being paid adequately for the work they are doing.

 

Every individual deserves a job where the employer cares about their well-being and where they have the freedom to say no. Feeling supported at your workplace and maintaining boundaries is not asking for a lot; it’s asking for the bare minimum. A ‘soft life,’ one where you can feel at ease, be comfortable and be intentionally happy, should be the ultimate aim.

 

However, for many individuals, quiet quitting can feel like stagnation in their career, apathy from colleagues and employers, and even dissociation from work completely. It could be signing in to work in the morning and going home in the evenings having no idea if the work you did was meaningful or worth it.

 

But simultaneously, we can’t detract from those individuals who work beyond working hours, who do more than what’s being asked, because they want to succeed in their careers. Whether it’s for a promotion, a raise, or a job shift, hustling can make sense, even when compared to quiet quitting.

 

Is Quiet Quitting Justified?

While quiet quitting has been making the rounds, so has quiet firing. While we talk about employees doing simply what they are being paid to do, we don’t talk enough about employers who want their employees to quit. Quiet firing can look like being paid unfairly for your work, lack of regular appraisals and raises, and minimal sick and casual leave. It can also look like working overtime constantly with no compensation, lack of respect and communication from your employer, and constantly being on work mode.

 

By making the working environment inhospitable for employees, employers are also encouraging quiet firing when they don’t want to bother with severance pay and other exit processes. In an environment where you don’t feel supported or appreciated, quiet quitting is only the natural response.

 

Related story: How To Spot And Deal With Workplace Bullying

 

Quiet Quitting: Is it Here to Stay?

“I would refrain myself from tagging quiet quitting as a problem. It’s a diagnosis. In a culture like India where people are afraid to say no to any extra work, it is something that everyone should be aware of. Whether you are working in an organisation, freelance or consulting, when a client gives you work after paid hours, you would feel experience the same. What is it that you want to do? It is a problem of the stakeholders in different professional relationships. Since it’s 2022, it would be a good time to just think out of the corporate environment. The economy is not just relying on that. The economy is trying to unbox itself out of rigid systems and stifling environments, and this is the diagnosis of that unboxing.” says Chakraborty. The pandemic itself has revealed that many of our existing processes need to change, and how employees should be treated at work needs to evolve too. Instead of working just for the sake of working, employees need to be passionate and engaged, and the onus falls on employers to ensure that.

 

Chakraborty concludes by saying, “Something that doesn’t flow, doesn’t grow, it becomes redundant.” While quiet quitting might be trending today, it’s not necessary that it will evolve into something that will help the global working scenario be better. It’s important to realise when we have outgrown the concepts of quiet quitting and firing, and move onto the next thing.

 

While people might think that quiet quitting is a person slacking off, being lazy, or not being career oriented, it’s simply a matter of maintaining boundaries. Saying no to constant hustling is okay when that is not what you want to be doing with your life.Standing up for yourself and prioritising what matters to you is not a bad thing, and not wasting time in a job where you have to be ‘quietly quitting’ is completely fine. It’s time to think about why you’re subconsciously quitting your job and make changes to your life accordingly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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