Quiet Quitting: Checking Out or Setting Boundaries?

quiet quitting

quiet quitting

Earlier this year, a TikTok video by Zaid Khan talked about “Quiet Quitting,” and ever since the term seems to be everywhere. The term has taken on some controversy, with people on one side saying that it’s all about setting healthy boundaries for a good work-life balance and people on the other side insisting that it’s a form of checking out from your responsibilities. So, we wanted to dig in a little bit today to uncover more of what it’s about and how it relates to mental health.

What Is Quiet Quitting?

There is no specific definition of the term, which is part of where the controversy probably comes in.

Khan’s definition of it, as reported by OPB, is:

“You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is it’s not — and your worth as a person is not defined by your labor.”

Psychology Today says that people using the term on the Internet generally mean:

“Clocking in, completing the tasks assigned to you, and clocking out. That’s it. No taking on extra tasks beyond your job description—unless you’re compensated for doing so.” They go on to say: “Quiet quitting proponents counter that it’s actually just doing your job and setting firmer boundaries at work.”

So, it is about setting boundaries (internal or external) so that you have the work-life balance that you want, as well as defining your self and your worth separately from your work productivity. While Quiet Quitting generally refers to a response to work, students are also applying it to their approach to school.

work life balance

How Quiet Quitting Benefits Mental Health

There are arguably many mental health benefits of Quiet Quitting including:

  • Deriving fulfillment from more areas of life
  • Greater enjoyment of the work you do, less resentment for unpaid of “always available” work experiences
  • Improved self-esteem when celebrating your value separate from only the work you get paid to do
  • Improved relationships with others due to increased emotional availability because you’ve let work stay at work.
  • Overall improved physical and mental health due to avoiding burnout and excessive work stress.

What Quiet Quitting Might Look Like

Those who believe in the benefits of Quiet Quitting aren’t arguing for “slacking” or “checking out” or not doing your job. Instead, this is about figuring out what your true role is at work and making sure that you do just that role, rather than taking on extra tasks, unpaid overtime (including checking email at home), etc.

So, Quiet Quitting might look like:

  • Saying no more than yes
  • Taking your sick days as you need them, including as mental health days
  • Not answering emails or calls outside of normal work hours
  • Doing only the tasks that are within your job description, not volunteering for committees or extra events
  • “Working to live, not living to work.”
  • Asking yourself and others, “what excites you?” rather than “What do you do for work?”

achieve life balance

Potential Drawbacks of Quiet Quitting

If you are setting healthy work-life boundaries, still doing the job that is asked of you and that you’re paid to do, then quiet quitting can benefit your mental health. However, if you’re actually just checking out (or burning out) then it won’t help your mental health. Some potential drawbacks of Quiet Quitting include:

  • Reduced self-esteem if your work sees you as not doing enough; you may have trouble figuring out this boundary and/or separating yourself from your work in terms of personal worth
  • Less engagement with work can mean less excitement about it, which can take away from your passion for the job and reduce the fulfillment you get from it
  • Similarly, if you don’t seek out opportunities for growth at work, then you might find yourself unchallenged, and this can lead to further disengagement
  • It can potentially negatively impact relationships with co-workers, which can lead to frustration and unhappiness in the workplace.

quiet quitting

How Therapy Can Help With Quiet Quitting

The ideal that people are striving for here is to engage wholeheartedly with work while they are there but also make time and space for the other things in their lives. It’s to do work that you’re proud of but make sure that you’re entire self worth isn’t derived from a job well done.

Therapy can help you through that process. You can work through your reasons, desires and goals for Quiet Quitting. You might uncover that something else is at play (such as job dissatisfaction and a real desire for a career change.) Or you might simply discover what your clear boundaries are for the work-life balance that you desire.

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