Silent Quitting

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One in three people in the UK are ‘silent quitting’, according to new research from BetterUp who analysed data from nearly 3,000 employed UK citizens.


‘Silent quitting’ is a new phenomenon quickly penetrating the workforce. It is not dissimilar to the ‘great resignation’, a phrase used to describe the mass number of individuals who resigned from their job following the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic allowed people to reflect on their careers, hopes and aspirations, and many realised they want more flexibility, need better financial rewards, want a change of career or simply seek a better work-life balance. 


So, what is the difference between the ‘great resignation’ and ‘silent quitting’’?

The key difference is people aren’t actually resigning in this new phenomenon. ‘Silent quitting’ is maybe a misleading term, but it has been used to describe those doing their job, but getting by on the bare minimum: no overtime, extra hours, or duties outside of the remit of their role. Simply, completing the tasks within the rules of their employment contract and the labour code. 


So, rather than referring to this shift in attitude as ‘silent quitting’, since it is not a resignation at all, some people prefer a term that has been popularised on TikTok: “Act your wage”. 


For some, it is a logical approach, “I’m hired in a company, I do my job, I get paid and that’s it”, but for others, this approach is hard to grasp. There has been an opposing trend for many years now, around what is called the ‘hustle culture’: a term used to define those over-performing in the workplace. 


On social media, especially LinkedIn, you don’t have to look far to find a motivational video or post around ‘hustle culture’: individuals sharing their journeys on how they got to where they are today. They often include overperforming in the workplace, working extra hours, and working at 110%- 24/7, which has led them to success.


Silent quitting is maybe a bit extreme the other way, but this more sober form of work-life balance has been popularised as a response to the ‘hustle culture’. On the social platform TikTok, videos have been emerging on the subject, with some content creators becoming very well known for talking about silent quitting. For example, there have been videos of employees refusing to take calls outside of their work hours.


This movement is interesting because it illustrates a reality that some people have perhaps forgotten. Obviously you can love your work, learn through your work, grow through your work, but the primary objective when an individual takes a job is the salary. Employers are having to re-think their EVP to ensure employees feel motivated to not only do their job to the best of their ability, but to work hard, bring new ideas and support the wider business. 


The link with the salary also means, if employees don’t feel they are being paid what they are worth, they won’t work any more than necessary, and it could even spark the “great resignation”.


A French journalist, Jule Thomas, says in the French newspaper Le Monde,

“The balancing act around this term suggests a collapse of all professional commitment”.


The debate regarding balancing work and personal life has been ongoing for many years. However, new trends across social media are really bringing it to the forefront of people’s minds. Encouraging people to reflect and consider if they are happy in their role and life. In the UK, only 9% of employees say they are engaged or fulfilled in their work, according to a survey by the institute “Galop” conducted in 2022. 


And it’s not just the UK, this movement is worldwide. In 2021 the trend #Tangping (translated as “lying down”) flared up on Chinese social networks before being censored by the Chinese government. This topic was the population shouting for ‘relaxation’ – in particular, young people – opposing the government’s constant calls for working more and working harder; a discourse that speaks less and less to young people today who are leading the charge for a better work-life balance. 


It is a fascinating debate, and even here at Staffgroup there are mixed views. It would be interesting to hear from our network on what you think, and if one trend is more relevant to you and why.