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“QUIET” LITERALLY: Fathoming the noise about ‘quiet quitting’

By Saumya Seth and Sanya Seth

This article demystifies the myriad interpretations and manifestations of the term “Quiet Quitting”. Inchoately, the phrase attracted the public eye through a tik tok video, while over time it has become relevant in discourses, especially anent work-life balance. While we can beget arguments to justify the case for quiet quitting, this article strives to corroborate why (even though quiet) plugging in of the concept in the work life isn’t arrantly feasible, owing to the socio-economic conditions encircling the work environment.

When my alarm went off on a frigid Wednesday morning, I made a decision. My mind was active while I calculated my busy schedule, despite my body being desperate for more sleep. I called my supervisor to plead for sick leave in a feeble voice. It was authorized, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t briefly consider being labeled a work shirker. Fortunately, sleep quickly came in, and I put those thoughts to rest. The following Saturday, was part of overtime, and just as I was leaving for home, a coworker invited me to dinner. To my rescue, I hatched a family get-together plan, with the only thing on my mind, not wanting to spend another hour discussing work, after work. This too was followed by the afterthought, “Perhaps I may be an uninspired employee or a lousy team player.” 

Most people have faced forks in the road affecting their work-life balance. These aren’t perceived as simple decisions, but rather guilt trips since prioritizing one’s health (especially mental health) over the profession and preferring alone time over networking have long been stigmatized. Though debates over work-life balance have existed for some time, individuals have always fled towards the first hint of safety. Perhaps this human proclivity explains why people seeking the best explanation for their actions, sought refuge behind the moniker “Quiet Quitters”. They cited it as a remedy to their dissatisfying and increasingly demanding work settings. Thus, since being coined in a Tik Tok video, the concept of ‘Quiet Quitting’ has spread like wildfire. But the trend raises a question: Have we understood the concept of quiet quitting correctly? Or did its essence disappear as it gained popularity? 


In currently popular discourse, the expression ‘Quiet-Quitters’ (frequently employed as a verb or gerund) has been defined in a plethora of ways by dilettantes as well as professionals on social media platforms. It has been used to signify dissent to hustle/crunch culture in the workplace. It includes a variety of employee actions aimed at rationalising their work-life balance, as a form of protest against the exploitation of sweatshops (an infamous term for workplaces). Employees who quietly quit are individuals who simply carry out their paid employment and do their obligations during predetermined hours. A pejorative also broadens its definition to include

employees who are dissatisfied with their positions and disengaged from their work. However, this phrase raises issues for employers because it justifies prioritising family, avoiding socialising at work, and not returning calls after office hours. 


The terms “quiet-quitting” and “disengagement,” which are erroneously used interchangeably for the purpose of ease by employees (mostly to cite a trendy concept as an excuse); do not nearly represent similar behavioral characteristics. Disengagement serves as an ersatz for resignation, although quiet quitting and resignation are two mutually exclusive employee actions that do not share a behavioral cliche. Quiet-quitting and disengagement, therefore, are not supplicants. Additionally, disengagement is understood as the withdrawal of involvement from an activity or group in literary contexts (definition). However, according to the New York Times, “Quiet Quitting” refers to productive and effective involvement in paid occupations, within the strict working hours restrictions. 

The former (disengagement), which is similar to stealing a company’s financial assets, is glaringly terrible for an employee’s productivity. The reason for this is that they would be compensated with a salary despite not contributing to the best of their capacities. The latter (silent quitting) is acceptable because it is a coping strategy used by employees to lessen their personal involvement in an exploitative work arrangement. 

This stance is bolstered by the example of the gaming industry, where long hours and a crunch culture have been constant elements of daily work for 15 years, leading to an extremely unbalanced work-life schedule for employees. 


The issues of exploitation at the workplace and dissatisfaction of coworkers were discussed and publicly disclosed for the first time when EA Spouse issued an open letter to the gaming industry. It stated the following: 

“The love of my life comes home late at night complaining of a headache that will not go away and a chronically upset stomach, and my happy supportive smile is running out.” 

Through out-of-court settlements and compensations, the studios were able to prevent their mismanagement and disorganization from becoming public. Albeit, the days of using additional pay and compensation as a panacea for the health problems associated with overworking are a thing of the past.

The trauma caused by the pandemic undoubtedly played a part in appreciating the value of solipsism (particularly in matters of health, family life, etc.) and the real essence of the millennial catchphrase “having a life.” This brings a pertinent question, “What is the way out?” 

In the post-COVID age, at a time of fierce competition in the labor market, quitting your job to buy yourself some time is not considered a wise move. Nevertheless, they banked upon self-assurance to avoid overworking, which has been driven by an insatiable desire for additional money. Even if receiving perks (not exclusively monetary) as a result of working longer hours is a benefit, research shows that this is not the only reason people overwork. In reality, there are numerous reasons beyond the control of the employee and, unexpectedly, even the control of the employer that places people in such trying situations. The second-best course of action besides resigning is to file an appeal through a labor union, which the game development industry regretfully lacks. Quietly leaving is, therefore, the best and safest bargain in workplaces that are exploitative and lack redressal channels for workers. 


The noise around quiet quitting has been deafening. There is no denying it, but what’s the cost? The cost is the warning of the impending (and relatively bigger) threats going unheeded. Though the gaming business serves as an example to placate the critics and prevents us from outright rejecting the use of the concept of quiet quitting, there exist imminent dangers that prohibit us from accepting it in its totality (or in accepting it as the ultimate solution). 

1. No official band to lie within: 

Each job description includes a rule book, yet it might be argued that the rule book is inherently restrictive. It contains detailed explanations of the rights, obligations, tasks, incentives, etc. of the employees. These descriptions may point you in the proper direction for your work life, but there is no standard for determining how much work an individual should do. So there’s the question, “How much is too much?” And “How less is too less?” 

The duty of mastering one’s field is given to employees in the age of specialization, which is currently in full swing. As a result of specialization, job descriptions for employees have become narrower to increase production and efficiency. As a result, the workforce’s scope of responsibility has shrunk, and they have started to sense incessant micromanagement. The majority of workers avoid or opt-out of jobs they deem unnecessary since they don’t want to work any less or any more than is essential for their job description. Surprisingly, there is also no accurate way to evaluate the work performed by employees because the customary method of evaluating work based on

outcomes does not properly account for the efforts that the person puts in, the potential mental stress that they may have suffered, etc. 

When we examine the complete case in one frame, i.e. the lack of quantification of required work combined with the already constrained scope of work, the flaw in the quiet quitting notion becomes clear. Because there are no formally established lower limitations, employees are unaware of how far they have come in the process of refusing to work on non-incentivized activities and avoiding anything extraneous. They might end up making poor decisions and compromising even the most important components of their work as a result of this. To put it simply, the concept of quiet quitting becomes specious due to weaknesses in the employment framework, such as the lack of a set work band wherein the employee might comfortably be. 

2. The threat of polarization in the workplace: 

People communicate with one another at work for both professional and personal reasons. These two types of relationships are not mutually exclusive, and it is actually impossible to draw a firm boundary between them. This causes workplace factions to arise and coexist, which may be driven by a variety of factors. While factionism adds to organizational volatility, its negative impacts start to manifest when significant disagreements result from a shift in the balance of power brought on by problems with job delegation, autonomy, and incentivization. Since all three of these issues are raised, at least occasionally, in the discussion of quiet quitting, it becomes clear that quiet quitting might be considered a fair idea at work because, if implemented, it could result in disadvantaged and favored groups. Many factors could account for this: 


As an upshot of many diabolic discussions, reservations in accordance with caste, gender, and race differences were entrenched in the candidate selection criteria. This was done with the primary purpose of establishing equity at the workplace as well as in the allocation of work. Little did the advocates know that bolstering reservation for the essence of bestowing them rights would, in the long run, culminate in taking away their fundamental rights, i.e., the right to a peaceful life and the right to escape suffering. Expounding on this idea, -for instance- both in government and private jobs in India, the reservations for OBCs, SCs, STs, women, domicile reservation (Haryana), etc. are trite. The option of quiet quitting cannot be availed of by people recruited through these reservations. Mainly because they are already in an advantageous position, and, availing themselves of alternatives like them—as they call ‘shrug-off’ responsibilities—would make them come across as swindlers (receiving just unilateral transfers from employers)

and result in backlash. Furthermore, this would make the top management adamant about breaking the reservation restrictions since, particularly in the situation of women, they would be convinced that women wouldn’t be able to shoulder the dual burden, i.e., both work and home responsibilities. Therefore, for those who profit from reserve, quitting quietly could undermine the principle of reservation, which is workplace equality. The reason for this vulnerability is that applying the idea of quiet quitting could not be an option available to all, which will ultimately result in winners and losers. 


In every organization, employees are assigned tasks and responsibilities based on their backgrounds and abilities. Hierarchies result from the distribution of labor in this way. Not only do these hierarchies affect pay, but they also have an impact on how free employees are to make decisions. The worker’s position within the organization has an impact on how the quiet quitting notion is applied. This is so because junior talent is replaceable. Thus, the idea of quiet resignation appears to encourage elitism in the workplace, allowing senior executives to work on their terms while remaining a pipe dream for others. As a result, the idea may backfire, leading to greater employee dissatisfaction. Additionally, they are forced to comply with the demands of superiors out of fear of being let go. Quitting quietly is therefore not a viable solution for many people, despite being a lucrative idea. 

3. Profession specific: 

Quitting quietly won’t help one escape the culture of exploitation that permeates all fields of work and industry. The degree to which these employee activities have an influence on the customers of the business and the company’s top management varies. For example, the productivity of the industry would be impacted by the quiet quitting of employees in the FMCG sector because production gaps can be filled in by adjusting the speed of the machines, etc. Thus, it may not severely impact the willingness of the management to accommodate employee demands. Regardless of their position in the labor hierarchy, when employees of the health sector quietly quit their jobs, it has an adverse effect on patient care and the standard of health. According to a discussion in Parliament on April 5, 2022, the only cause is the subpar doctor-to-patient ratio, or 1:834. The lack of healthcare professionals would undermine persistent efforts in public health policy. Unfortunately, despite the strain this puts on top management and customers alike, there are no benefits to quietly quitting as there aren’t enough resources to compensate doctors for the extra hours they must put in daily due to a staffing shortfall.

Additionally, in all other professions, quiet-quitting is seen as an acceptable way out, but in the case of health professionals, the Hippocratic Oath views it as unethical. Thus, due to the guilt that their conscience breeds, doctors experience more stress and physical damage as a result of limiting their working hours instead of feeling relieved. While such restrictions on the use of concepts like quiet quitting only occasionally appeared in discussions or articles in the short term, their effects may be deleterious in the long term. There may be a transition in the workforce’s preferences in favor of offering employees more autonomy and negotiating power. As a result, we can see a lopsided sectoral mix, which could endanger the efficient delivery of essential services.

Saumya Seth and Sanya Seth are students at Ashoka University, Sonipat.

Image Source: Mohamed Hassan/Pixabay

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