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Employee Recognition

Not Just a Tiktok Fad: 3 Lessons Employers Should Learn from the Quiet Quitting Trend


The term “Quiet Quitting” has been making headlines all over the Internet and has become quite a controversial topic. Is this phenomenon a good thing? Or is it a bad thing? 

Arianna Huffington (co-founder of the Huffington Post) believes that quiet quitting “isn’t just about quitting on a job, “it’s a step toward quitting on life.”

Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary called quiet quitting a horrible approach to building a career, stating that employees should always go above and beyond because that’s “how you achieve success.”

So what exactly is “Quiet Quitting” and why exactly has it become such a trending topic of discussion? 

What is Quiet Quitting?

Formally, quiet quitting refers to the act of disengaging from a job or responsibilities without explicitly resigning or making it known. It involves a gradual withdrawal of effort and enthusiasm, often resulting in reduced productivity and minimal communication about one’s intentions to leave.

Quiet Quitting Explored: 

While the term itself is relatively new, the concept itself is not. In essence, quiet quitting describes the idea of “quitting” going above and beyond at work. The phrase has gained traction on Tiktok after @zaidleppelin shared his thoughts. 

quiet quitting
Click here to watch the viral Tiktok.

“You’re not outright quitting your job, just quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re not subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life…Your worth as a person is not defined by your labor.” – @zaidleppelin 

To date, #quietquitting has over 1.1 billion views on TikTok. Quiet quitting has come to mean different things for different people. 

On one end of the spectrum, it is seen as a rebellion against corporate America’s hustle culture and encouraging people not to go above and beyond at the expense of their own health and well-being. It’s seen as a necessary way to avoid burnout at work by drawing clear boundaries and stop saying “yes” to things, especially when you have an already overwhelming amount of responsibilities. It’s a call, especially from Millennials and Gen Z, to end toxic hustle culture and the idea that only by living to work can a person be successful and their work worthy of recognition and admiration.

On the other end of the spectrum, likely where Ariana Huffington and Kevin O’Leary stand, quiet quitting is a term that screams laziness and mediocracy, and it’s a stark refusal to do better and be better. Articles note that the most common key “symptoms” of quiet quitting that managers should watch out for are employees turning down new projects, being less proactive in volunteering for tasks or being too busy to help out their team members. 

quiet quitting

As a leader in an organization, what stance should you take? 

For many of us, the rhetoric that hard work equates to being a good person is hard to shake off. As a society, we tend to tie our self-worth and sense of identity to our job.

If you’re shaking your head and denying this habit, think about how you introduce yourself to a new person. Does the introduction include your job title or company name? 

It’s also hard to ignore the fact that hustle culture and the constant emphasis on productivity can be quite draining and unsustainable, leading to high turnover and employee retention issues. In an article by Headversity, it explains that hustle culture puts the body in a state of fight or flight. This constant stress releases the stress hormone—cortisol—in higher amounts and for more prolonged periods. To normalize these elevated cortisol levels, the body must enter a state of rest. But hustle culture is putting the message out to everyone that there is no time for rest, leaving burnout to be inevitable. 

We expect ourselves and our colleagues to go above and beyond, giving 110% to their jobs every day. Why is it not enough for people to do what they were hired to do? 

Lessons Learned From The Quiet Quitting Trend

There are 3 main lessons from this Quiet Quitting Trend to help employees thrive.

Lesson 1: The Great Reprioritization/Reevaluation 

We’ve all heard of the “Great Resignation” and the “Great Reshuffle”; concepts describing this trend of employees leaving their work in droves to find a job that aligns more closely with their lifestyles. This is especially prevalent in industries where there’s traditionally less flexibility and predictability (e.g. hospitality and retail).  

  • 70% of Gen Z and millennial Americans stated they planned to leave their jobs in 2023.
  • More than 10% of front-line/hourly wage workers (between Aug 2020 – Mar 2022) switched to software and tech-related roles. From blue-collar work to “new collar” work 
  • In 2022, a record 50.6 million U.S. workers quit their jobs, accounting for 70% of total separations
  • The business sector could see a turnover rate as high as 24% in the years to come

All the chaos around the pandemic and post pandemic life has really affected the way people look at the balance between work and their personal lives. What people want from work and what they’re willing to give in return has fundamentally changed; people’s priorities have shifted. 

  • 98% of workers want to work remote at least some of the time
  •  Two-thirds of employees would opt for better work–life balance over better pay
  •  53% of people are more likely to prioritize their health and wellbeing over work than before the pandemic
  • A survey of more than 600,000 U.S. employees found that 53% of workers want to receive more recognition from their immediate manager.

“People are finding jobs that give them the right pay, benefits and work arrangements in the longer term. There’s now a greater ability for people to fit work into their lives, instead of having lives that squeeze into their work.”

Anthony Klotz, Associate Professor of Management, Texas A&M University

92% of the people who voluntarily left their job in the first quarter of 2020 felt that “life is too short to stay in a job they weren’t passionate about.” As managers and organizational leaders, we need to make sure that our company structure, policies, and culture reflect this understanding of shifted priorities. This includes offering flexibility where possible and trusting employees to do their jobs without being able to see them in the office.

It’s time we all embraced the mentality of working to live and not living to work. 

quiet quitting

Lesson 2: Embrace the Whole Person Workplace mentality

“This idea that work is work, and your life should be separate from it, was really kind of a fiction, right? We’re all people. And employees should be valued, not just as a part of the machine.”

Scott Behson, author of “The Whole Person Workplace” 

Building a company culture that aligns with the Great Reprioritization means embracing the Whole Person Workplace philosophy. 

What is a Whole Person Workplace? 

It’s a mentality that acknowledges that individuals have lives, stressors, challenges, priorities, and things that they value outside of work and are encouraged and supported to bring more of themselves to work. After all, who we are outside of work doesn’t just disappear when we clock into work. 

Maybe we’re struggling to pay rent, or we’re having serious health issues – that stress doesn’t completely go away and can really impact our happiness and productivity during work hours. In fact, studies show that more than 50% of workers are not engaged at work as a result of stress, decreasing productivity in the workplace. 

Another way to think about this idea is with the metaphor of an invisible backpack. Imagine going through your entire day wearing a heavy backpack – this causes physical strain and makes it harder to get things done. The invisible backpack is a metaphor for all the worries we carry around with us. Carrying this stress around is like having a huge weight on your back.

Wouldn’t it be great if companies could help take some of the weight from employees’ invisible backpacks and help people thrive?  

A Whole Person Workplace implements policies and processes that honor both an employee’s work and personal life, embracing their complete identity and numerous roles. This should also be reflected in a company’s culture. Some examples of company initiatives could be: 

  • Assisting with student loans
  •  Offering child care options
  •  Giving extra wellness days or personal days for people to take care of personal matters
  •  Having a relocation policy that allows employees to work in a different region than they were hired in to suit personal circumstances 

Embracing and creating a Whole Person Workplace doesn’t have to happen overnight; employers can work with their team – a few steps at a time – to understand what they want and need to create a culture that welcomes the whole individual every day.

To discover strategies for supporting the whole human and elevating the employee experience, click the button above!

Lesson 3: Stop emphasizing hours-spent-at-work-related employee recognition

Employee recognition is a powerful tool in helping people feel engaged in the workplace. In fact, 79% of employees report that they would stop quiet quitting if they were given more recognition at work and that 78% would work harder and with more drive if their efforts were effectively rewarded.

These expressions of appreciation are a unique form of communication within a company, as it puts a bright spotlight on the recognitions being shared. Employee recognitions show the rest of the team what the desired behaviors are for a particular workplace. As such, success should not be equated to the amount of time someone spends working but rather to the outcomes of their work. 

Putting a focus on increased hours and giving little room for breaks perpetuates a workplace culture with high burnout rates, which will likely lead to high levels of employee unhappiness and turnover. Giving employee recognition for the number of hours worked is an outdated practice that needs to be changed. 

Of course, if a colleague does put in some extra hours to help a project meet its deadlines, appreciation should be given. However, there are ways to reframe employee recognition so that it’s clear that it’s not something the company takes for granted and that it’s not a behavior that’s necessary to get a promotion or bonus. Here are some ideas: 

  • Focus on how their contribution made you feel and less on the number of extra hours were put in
  • Avoid using phrases that seem to suggest that working overtime or late into the night is the main reason that this recognition is being given
  • Stop equating the act of working extra hours with “going above and beyond”

But why stop at recognizing people for the awesome work they’re doing at work? Why not celebrate our colleagues’ personal milestones together? 

Giving the team opportunities to celebrate each other’s good news is a strategic way to form genuine human connections. Personal milestones don’t need to be limited to engagements, anniversaries, graduation, birthdays, or new family members. Achieving a weekly goal, a life-long dream, or knocking off a bucket list item are equally exciting things that should be celebrated.

Employee Recognition & Retention

Employee recognition doesn’t need to be reserved for grandiose or “worthy” happenings. Often, we tend to focus on recognizing what the other person did and not how it made us feel. Anything that brings a note of positivity or makes a difference in your day is worthy of a recognition.  It’s essential to shift the focus from only acknowledging specific accomplishments to appreciating the impact on individuals and the team’s overall morale. Recognizing the positive influence of actions, regardless of scale, creates a culture of appreciation that resonates with employees. In cultivating a culture wherein employees feel seen, heard and valued, organizations will be better equipped to mitigate the turbulent trend of quiet quitting and foster more positive workplaces that will serve as examples for others.

To be successful in providing meaningful and powerful recognition, consider implementing a recognition program like Bucketlist Rewards so that employees receive regular and frequent recognition that is easy to use and engaging. Bucketlist enables organizations to motivate employees with powerful rewards like unique experiences and points towards items that employees really want. Organizations can even implement custom awards that teams can hand out to outstanding members. 

Initiatives like Bucketlist can transform the way organizations recognize employees and can go a long way in retaining valuable members and attracting new talent. Want to see how Bucketlist Rewards‘ company recognition program can help you to boost employee engagement and reduce voluntary turnover? Contact us today for a free demo. We’d love to help you build a culture of appreciation!

quiet quitting

In summary…

At its core, this trend of quiet quitting indicates a shift in employee priorities and urges us to change how we think about work. Every aspect of our lives – both professional and personal – takes up space in our minds. It’s important to redraw some lines so that our goals and dreams outside of work are being fulfilled as well. 

“The term ‘quiet quitting’ is so offensive, because it suggests that people that do their work have somehow quit their job, framing workers as some sort of villain in an equation where they’re doing exactly what they were told.”

Ed Zitron, Founder & CEO of EZPR

So let’s call it something else. I’m open to suggestions. 

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