Quiet Quitting: A Symptom of Toxic WorkplacesAug 31, 2022
by Megan Winkler, The Good Business Witch
Quiet quitting is a gaslighting term. Burnout is at an all-time high, and now we have business experts trying to guilt people over their boundary setting. So let’s unpack what’s going on here.
What is Quiet Quitting?
When I first heard the term “quiet quitting,” I thought it was similar to ghosting, as in, an employee just doesn’t show up one day and quietly quits their job and leaves people in the lurch. If you go back and watch what people are actually saying quiet quitting is, you’ll quickly see that it’s the rejection of hustle culture. (See @zaidleppelin on TikTok for a great explanation and the viral video that arguably kicked off the conversation around it.)
The pandemic taught us many things – and not all of them were good. One of the positive lessons of the pandemic is that remote work actually does work. In addition, we learned that there’s more to life than our jobs, with over a million American deaths from Covid-19 as a grim reminder of how quickly life can be snatched away from us.
Quiet Quitting Only in Toxic Workplaces?
As Amina Kilpatrick reported for NPR, “quiet quitting” is a misnomer and, in my opinion, casts boundary setting in a negative light. Heaven forbid we wait until the following day to answer work emails! In reality, the only thing that people are quitting is the idea that we have to go above and beyond our duties to be good at our jobs.
I also hate that the word “quitting” implies that when you’re not busting your butt to do more than assigned, stay longer, answer your emails at 9 pm, etc. that you’ve quit your job.
If you want to get down to it, when managers ask their team to do more work without compensation, they’re expecting them the volunteer their free time for the company. And at this point in the calendar, we’re just not willing to do that. This is a huge symptom of a toxic work environment and leads to burnout.
By the way, I include myself in the “we” above, because I viciously guard my boundaries and encourage my clients to do the same. For me, those boundaries are more energetic than based on certain hours of the day. Yet, all my clients know that I’m unlikely to respond to anything over the weekend and if I get a message after 5 pm my time (not their time, mind you!) that I’ll get back to them first thing in the morning.
It's important to prioritize yourself first AND let your team/employees/clients know that you prioritize them. This simple communication that you’ll get back with them soon, that you take their concerns seriously, and that they’re important to you help ease their stress and take the pressure off you.
At the same time, organizations need to rethink how they interact with employees. Communication is the most important aspect of managing a team, and it’s vital that that communication goes both ways. Good managers tune into how their team feels, what they’re worried about, and how new working trends will influence what they want.
And, some workplaces will not change. If you’re in a toxic work environment, it’s time to find somewhere else where to be, where they’ll value you and your work.
How to Spot a Toxic Work Environment
Toxic workplaces show some or all of these signs:
- Managers asking/expecting you to work evenings or weekends without extra compensation.
- Employees who feel obligated to answer work-related messages, calls, and emails off the clock.
- The gossip mill is never-ending.
- There’s an obvious lack of enthusiasm at work.
- The fear of failure is pervasive.
- Managers don’t communicate expectations well, and employees are often left shrugging over what to do next.
- There’s a lot of drama.
- The employee turnover is higher than 48 percent.
As for organizations and reporters using the term “quiet quitting,” let’s find something else to call it. We should never shame someone for taking care of themselves.