A tool for wellness or a risky career move? 

By: Nimisha Jain 

There is no pretending that shifting to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic was an eye-opening experience for many people. While working from home, the lines between work and home roles were blurred which generally led to employee burnout. This, along with the fact that a lot of people lost their jobs, or had to take on ‘side hustles’ to supplement their income, paved the path for ‘quiet quitting’. 

Quiet quitting is a term that went viral recently and it refers to a phenomenon where employees put in the work that’s required of them, without going above and beyond or taking on tasks outside of their job descriptions. This can be as simple as not responding to e-mails over a weekend or declining to do a task that is unrelated to your job description. 

Quiet Quitting Versus Quiet Firing

As employees have come under fire for being ‘slackers’ and not going an extra mile beyond their job description, there has also been more conversation around ‘quiet firing’. 

Quiet firing (or constructive discharge) refers to when management and leadership intentionally create negative workspaces for their employees to force them to quit. This may come from a desire to not have to pay severance. It could also simply be the result of poor leadership. If a manager is not able or willing to have conversations with their direct reports about their performance, their career trajectory, or resources that are available to them, it encourages individuals to quit (quietly or otherwise) as they may feel their career is stagnating. 

But can everyone afford to quiet quit?

 As they are often underrepresented in leadership, women and people of colour stand at higher risk for quiet firing. Thus, can they really afford to quiet quit? 

A Harvard study shows that women are more likely to volunteer (or ask to volunteer) to take on tasks that do not advance their careers (e.g., taking minutes during a minute, holding the office barbeque party, etc.; Babcock et al., 714). These are called non-promotable tasks (NPTs).

Taking on these tasks may be partially why women experience higher burnout in the workplace than men. In this case, quiet quitting may seem like the go-to answer: don’t volunteer to take on tasks you don’t need to do and decline tasks that you are asked to volunteer for. However, a Bloomberg article discusses the potential backlash women and people of colour may face from silently resisting. This can range from being berated, not being invited on new projects, to being fired (World Economic Forum). In such cases, it may be more important to evaluate where your burnout or dissatisfaction stems from and then voice your concerns to your manager. 

While quiet quitting can seem like a great answer to avoiding burnout and being overworked, it may be more effective to have an open and honest conversation about your needs and expectations with your leadership teams. Accordingly, managers would do well to check in with their employees periodically and remember that discussing job performance and career trajectories are a core component of their jobs. 

Works Cited

Babcock, Linda, et al. “Gender Differences in Accepting and Receiving Requests for Tasks with Low Promotability.” American Economic Review, vol. 107, 2017, pp. 714–47.