Is “Quiet Quitting” a Solution for Burnout?
By Nancy Zwiers
As the “The Great Re-Set” unfolds, traditional values and behaviors about work are getting up-ended. Recently, social media posts, amassing millions of views, have emerged referencing “quiet quitting.”
Quiet quitting happens when employees change their mindsets about what they are willing to give and/or sacrifice for their jobs. They change from an attitude of “doing the extra” to establishing more firm boundaries for themselves as they seek to balance work and the rest of their busy lives. In extreme cases, quiet quitters choose to do the bare minimum.
The polling company Gallup found that at least half of Americans—maybe more—fit the definition of quiet quitting.
The book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, written by sisters Amelia Nagoski and Emily Nagoski, thinks quiet quitting is related to burnout. Amelia was recently interviewed by Caroline Mimbs Nyce for an article in “The Atlantic.”
I was struck by Amelia’s perspective that quiet quitting can be a response to prevent or heal burnout. She contends that burnout happens in the face of “unceasing demands and unmeetable goals—the kinds that employers thrive on as they squeeze their employees not just for their time and labor, but for their obedience, their humanity, and their souls.” She thinks the new term is useful and says “This is all very familiar to me. I’m glad to see younger generations opting out of exploitative work cultures.”
As a top executive in several large corporations, I have personally experienced the constant drum beat of exhortations to “do more with less” as budgets and people were cut. Sometimes the goals did seem “unmeetable.” I remember one company professed a value of doing “whatever it takes” and my reaction was skeptical—it seemed like “a blank check” for my time, which didn’t quite square with my commitment to life balance.
I have long been a champion of setting personal boundaries. I often encouraged my people to set their own boundaries, contending that a company will never set and/or enforce your boundaries for you—companies will always want as much from you as they can get.
Before I knew it was a thing, I dabbled in quiet quitting. As someone with a high degree of intrinsic motivation to work hard and accomplish big things, I found pulling back on effort had its limitations. I discovered I’m happiest when I’m highly motivatedand doing my best…deliberately detaching robbed me of the wellspring of energy that intrinsic motivation provides. I became depressed when I was no longer playing all out. I didn’t feel fully alive. It seems to me that quiet quitting is like pulling your punches…yes, you expend less energy and effort, but do you really get the outcomes you want?
When intrinsic motivation lags, it’s signaling that something needs to change.
Bottom-line, if you’re not thriving, doing less than your best may not help you thrive. Creating or finding an opportunity that inspires you to play full out, receiving psychic rewards along the way, may be the best way to avoid burnout.
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