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Working Adequately vs. Quiet Quitting

The term “Quiet Quitting” has been booming lately and generated intense media attention, resonating with employees who are redrawing boundaries back to their job descriptions so that they don’t have to think about work 24/7.

Due to the pandemic and increased conversations surrounding mental health, employees are taking

action to stave off burnout so they can dedicate time and energy to other elements of their lives that are more meaningful. The pandemic has also provided a taste of flexibility, some measure of work-life balance, and value time back to the working class due to lack of commuting for a majority of office workers.

Although “Quiet Quitting” has been coined by the younger generation, it isn’t exactly a new trend. It has been around for a long time and relates to disengagement, neglect, and withdrawal within the workspace.

The term shouldn’t be considered an act of rebellion against work in itself; it’s a rejection of long workdays, always-on presenteeism, and unpaid overtime in service of a company or organization.

And why shouldn’t employees stick to their job descriptions if they aren’t being rewarded or compensated for the work they do beyond the traditional nine-to-five work day?

Many employees today are seeking to redefine the lines between their personal lives and work. It’s about reprioritization; making time for family, friends, themselves, and their hobbies, instead of always having to be “on” even after work hours. People are becoming more attuned to the fact that outside of work, they also want a balanced, rich, and healthy life.

Working through the pandemic may also have caused a spike in employee disengagement, fuelling the quiet-quitting phenomenon as employees are tired of going above and beyond for a company or organization without much reward for the extra effort

But, this doesn’t mean that employees are slacking or diminishing their responsibilities at work. It’s about stripping back on the extra tasks and behaviours that have been seen as showing further dedication to the company such as arriving early to work or staying late, picking up phone calls after work hours, or replying to emails on the weekend.

For companies that frequently demand this level of overwork ethic, it generally stems from an overall lack of proper resource planning of a company and existing employees shouldn’t have to ask to cover that gap while the company gets to save on costs.

However, I do believe that this is different for employees working for a start-up. In a traditional nine-to-five, employees “quiet quit” because they typically don’t have equity or stake in the company so why work more than needed when there is no reward or compensation for their efforts?

But, in a start-up, employees have a stake in the growth of the company and those who are keen on being part of the potential growth of a start-up know from the beginning that they will likely work more hours or juggle tasks beyond the job description for a gain and reaping of those efforts in the future.

I believe that the term, “Quiet Quitting” is somewhat skewed towards employers giving it an unjustified negative connotation, as it makes employees feel that they should be working more to further themselves in the company but that’s not right. Especially, in a traditional nine-to-five sense; employees should only be working on what they expected to be doing, not more, and especially not without compensation or rewards.

The difference in start-ups, though, is that you tell them upfront prior to hiring that there is a lot more to do - beyond scope of the job description so potential employees are knowingly and willingly accepting of that. Not just for the potential opportunity to earn from the equity rewards, but also for the learning opportunity of getting their hands into many different tasks that a regular corporate wouldn’t do.

But, it shouldn’t be expected or required of them if they weren’t told, which is typically what happens. Then promotions and rewards are related to employees working extra hours or going one step further and that shouldn’t be the case.

Additionally, employees feel overworked and underpaid in the wake of the pandemic and amid the rising cost of living. People are fed up and are realizing that they have put in a lot more effort than their salary or benefits show.

Today, employees are reassessing what work means to them and how much space it should occupy in their lives. Being “on” all the time is unwarranted and cannot be expected from a workplace as there is more to life than achieving a KPI.

Harprem Doowa 2022


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