"The Oldie is an incredible magazine - perhaps the best magazine in the world right now" Graydon Carter, founder of Air Mail and former Editor of Vanity Fair

Subscribe to the Oldie and get a free cartoon book

Subscribe

Modern Life - What is Quiet Quitting? By Richard Godwin

Features |

Picture by Jamain

Richard Godwin explains the new phenomenon of Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting is when your mind checks out of a job while your body still goes through the motions.

It is not to be confused with slacking. You are sitting at your terminal. You are hitting your quotas. You are doing everything your contract demands of you.

But you are doing nothing more. No answering emails at weekends, no fetching the boss’s dry-cleaning – and probably no chipping in for a Colin the Caterpillar cake on Kelly’s birthday, either. The quiet quitter would prefer not to.

tang ping – literally ‘lying flat’. The phrase surfaced on Chinese social media as younger workers began to question the value of the 100-hour weeks that national productivity targets and Western consumers demand of them.>span class="Apple-converted-space">

A ‘manifesto for lying down’ posted on the discussion site Douban listed accepting one’s shortcomings, daring not to equate money with happiness, and refusing to worry too much about existential questions as key tenets of the movement. The post has since been censored; one dreads to think what happened to its author.

But the sentiment has chimed with youths in Britain and America. Quiet quitting has become a popular topic on the Antiwork forum of the discussion site Reddit and on TikTok, the social media of choice for teens and 20-somethings.

Apprentice contestants promising to give 110 per cent and tech bros boasting about getting up at 4am. A few of the sharper ones have noticed that the promotion of this neo-Stakhanovite capitalist ethos has coincided with the steady erosion of workplace rights, falling wages and ever-more-enraging levels of inequality. And so, they are learning not to define themselves solely by work.>span class="Apple-converted-space">

So slacking is the new hustling: giving it your 78 per cent is the new giving 110 per cent; bringing down capitalism is the new launching a start-up. People who formerly boasted about how much they could get done are now boasting about how little they can get away with. Even the formerly workaholic singer Beyoncé has caught the anti-work mood. Her recent single Break My Soul talks of quitting her job and finding a ‘new foundation’.

Quiet quitting is also part of a post-pandemic re-evaluation of all aspects of work culture. The lockdowns gave millions of people the time and space to reassess what they want from life.

Then again, note how meek the protest is. Quiet quitting is a far cry from smashing up spinning-jennies – or even common-or-garden strike action. It’s a measure of how imbalanced things have become that just doing your job is seen as tantamount to giving up.

Richard Godwin


This story was from October 2022 issue. Subscribe Now