Why Quiet Quitting Is the Trend Parents Need To Know

Quiet quitting is trending on TikTok. But it's nothing new. Here's what it is and what experts want parents to know.

Kid Playing While Her Mom Working At Home
Photo: Ani Dimi / Stocksy

You've probably heard of the Great Resignation, which saw "quit rates" reach a 20-year high at the end of 2020.

But there's a new trend circulating on TikTok, which doesn't involve resignation letters or exit interviews. It's called quiet quitting, and videos with the hashtag have racked up more than 32 million views on the platform.

"Quiet quitting refers to giving up the 24/7 hustle and grind culture," says Amy Morin, LCSW, a psychotherapist and editor-in-chief at Verywell Mind. "An employee who engages in quiet quitting may decide to go back to meeting the expectations of the job, rather than worry about exceeding them."

But should parents hop on the bandwagon? Experts say it's tricky. Though it's good to set boundaries, not communicating them has potential consequences. Here's what to know before you quietly quit.

Why Are People Quiet Quitting?

In one recent video, a user @zaidleppelin explains quiet quitting as "quitting the idea of going above and beyond." It is a way to stop "subscribing to the hustle culture mentality" and realize that work does not need to be your life.

In another, @saraisthreads gives a visual explanation of the trend. She shows up to work at 8:59 a.m., sees she has 500 calls, decides she's doing 50, and heads to the break room for breakfast and a lengthy discussion about The Bachelorette. When her boss gives her a tight deadline for a bunch of extra work, she respectfully declines. "It's 2022. We're acting our wage, so don't give me extra work."

Another, from @drkimhires, who says she's a leadership burnout coach, is embracing the idea. "I think it's a good thing. The youngest generations at work are rejecting the idea of hustle culture or framing your entire life around some dream job…If the inflation rate is 8.5% and you get a 1% raise, what do employers expect?"

"I don't have a dream job because I don't dream of labor," commented one user, Lori Poole.

"We all just watched millions of people die in a global pandemic. We lost loved ones. We realized there's more to life when we almost lost ours," replied another, Shelby.

Amina AlTai, a holistic entrepreneur and executive coach, agrees. "Thanks to the global pandemic, recession, and social uprisings of the last few years—people are burned out and exhausted," says AlTai. "This is a way to pull back on our contribution at work without having to completely quit or transition our jobs."

Parents Already Knew About Quiet Quitting

The secret may be out about quiet quitting, but it's nothing new.

"Quiet quitting is essentially a new term for an old phenomenon—what we've previously called employee disengagement," Kendall Browne, Ph.D., the program manager of workforce transformation at Lyra Health. "In many ways, this can be an act of self-preservation. Some employees are navigating a problematic work environment or working the 'double shift' as a parent."

Over the years, working late has been a badge of honor and resume builder. But parents, especially working mothers, had to balance their desire to impress employers with the need to care for children.

"For a long time, there's been pressure for many people to be the first one to show up and the last one to leave the office so you can get promoted," says Morin. "Clearly, a lot of working moms weren't able to do that as they had child care obligations. But it's likely that many people assumed that working moms weren't necessarily trying to advance their careers but instead were trying to juggle home and family."

Then, schools went virtual, and daycares closed—and parents had to juggle Zoom calls without child care assistance.

It's not that there hasn't been research ringing the alarm about the challenges of working mothers and the mental load. The parent carrying the mental load, typically the mom in heterosexual couples, does more parenting without realizing it. Examples of the mental load include washing baby clothes before a little one arrives and realizing it's time for your child's flu shot, and calling the pediatrician to schedule it.

It has heavy consequences. Studies show mothers experience more work-family guilt than fathers and are less happy and more stressed.

But, as schools and daycares loosen COVID-19 protocols and businesses return to offices, employees want change.

"People are seeing the importance of having a rich life outside of work, and the best way to do that is to establish healthy boundaries with work," says Morin.

That said, parents are getting an assist from a younger generation: Gen-Z, or people born between 1997-2012. Many of the people in this group don't have children yet, but they're—ironically—being more vocal about quiet quitting.

"Gen-Z is less willing than other generations to sacrifice their well-being for work—because it's not reciprocal enough," says AlTai. "They've really amplified this term on TikTok and shone a light on the inequities in the workplace."

 Amy Morin, psychotherapist and editor-in-chief at Verywell Mind

People are seeing the importance of having a rich life outside of work, and the best way to do that is to establish healthy boundaries with work.

—  Amy Morin, psychotherapist and editor-in-chief at Verywell Mind

Does Quiet Quitting Work?

Doing what you're paid for sounds fair enough. But it can backfire.

"The employer or boss might actually notice that you're not doing things up to par compared to how you have been doing it before," says Whitney Casares, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, the founder and CEO of the Modern Mamas Club, an app geared toward helping busy moms. "Even though sometimes people feel like they're quietly quitting, they're not really at all. It's actually a pretty loud statement to their bosses."

Discussing and implementing boundaries may be the better way to go. But communicating boundaries with a boss can feel intimidating, especially for women, people in marginalized communities, and working moms who already face discrimination, including lower wages, in the workplace.

The emotional labor of having a conversation about boundaries that workers may feel should be common sense, such as not expecting e-mails to get answered on weekends, can also weigh on employees.

"I believe a feedback conversation is usually helpful in situations like this," says AlTai. "However, that asks us to do even more emotional labor which folks, at this moment, might be too exhausted to lift."

How To Set Boundaries

Set boundaries with your boss—and even in your personal life—in a "compassionately" assertive way, suggests Dr. Casares. These expert tips may help you not-so-quietly establish boundaries.

Understand current boundaries

Dr. Casares says weak boundaries are ones we don't keep or are too rigid. "Basically, every time someone asks you to do something or flex, you have an absolute 'no,'" she says. "Healthy boundaries are when you're able to take everything into context and set limits around what's helpful for you and what's going to be healthy for you in the long run while considering the needs of other people."

Be mindful

Learn to become more aware of how your body reacts when a boundary is crossed. "If we have a hard time with boundaries and we feel like a boundary's being crossed, a lot of times our bodies will let us know by raising our heart rates, or we may get sweaty," says Dr. Casares.

Communicate the boundary

Set boundaries with people at work by letting them know why. "Communicate in a way that helps them see the big picture of how everyone involved will ultimately benefit from the boundary being put in place," says Dr. Browne. For example, "The quality of my communication will improve if I can refrain from answering e-mails and Slacks not sent between 9-5."

Employers Need to Step Up

Employees can be as open, hard-working, and professional as possible, but individuals can't completely overhaul workplace culture by themselves. Quiet quitting—or actual resignations—won't stop until the system changes, and that means employers need to look inward. Dr. Browne says solutions to quiet quitting include:

  • Encouraging—and respecting—breaks
  • Acknowledging challenges (For example, if a boss is a parent, they can share their struggles and best practices)
  • Flexibility in schedules and workloads
  • Creating environments where employees feel able and willing to ask for help without fear of retribution, such as during periods of limited child care

These practices can not only benefit employees but businesses too.

"Disengagement can spread as employees discuss their work lives and hear their coworkers begin to question if the effort they are putting in is worthwhile," says Dr. Browne. "The financial cost is created by diminished productivity, greater rates of mental health leave, and even increased turnover."

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