Understanding Quiet Quitting Burnout

by | Nov 5, 2023 | Advices

With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, how people worked dramatically changed. As work from home (WFH) became the new norm, another phenomenon was brewing: quiet quitting. 

While not necessarily quitting the job, the phenomenon of quiet quitting brought forth a change in the attitude of workers in the US and many other places. They just don’t want to go the extra mile and just do enough to get by and draw a salary. Common reasons for quiet quitting include burnout, unfair wages, and bad managers. 

This article dives deep into quiet quitting, its causes, and its strong yet often unnoticed link with mental health. We’ll also discuss what employees and employers can do to fix the issues that result in this change of attitude towards work. 

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What Is Quiet Quitting, Really?

First mentioned on TikTok, picked up by BuzzFeed, and then spread all over digital media, the term quiet quitting was coined by a Nashville-based recruiter, Bryan Creely. It refers to doing the bare minimum on the job: doing what your job requires, not staying late, and not actively participating in meetings or at times even attending them. 

People don’t quit their jobs. Instead, they just do the work they’re paid to do and don’t show any enthusiasm or initiative. 

Some may argue that quiet quitting is just work at the end of the day. But in a competitive market such as the US, just doing your job isn’t seen as good enough. 

Quiet quitting became a trend later during the pandemic in 2022, when many people had switched to an all-remote or hybrid work model. It was talked about extensively on social media. However, the trend continued and became even more widespread when workers returned to the office. 

According to Gallup, as much as half the US workforce is quiet quitting. You can even find tutorials online on how to do it. 

The response from management and leadership has been mixed, with most criticizing it, some working to address it, and the remaining just turning a blind eye to it.  

Why Are People Quiet Quitting?

You may have seen funny TikTok videos about it or read stories of people doing it. However, it’s not merely a trend but a serious issue that reflects poorly on the working conditions workers are exposed to today. 

Of course, most workers don’t do the bare minimum because they just don’t want to work more than they need to, they do it because of grievances with their work, colleagues, or bosses. According to the same Gallup survey, burnout is common in workplaces, causing employees to do less for their mental health. 

Burnout Is Real

Burnout, a serious blow to mental wellness, refers to complete mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. When workers are pushed to work extra hours, meet unrealistic deadlines, and have no vacations, they’re bound to feel stressed and reach a breaking point. 

This burnout is a primary reason behind many American workers, and later Chinese, too, taking up quiet quitting. In response to their work and environment stressing them out, they’re taking a step back and deciding not to push too hard. 

Ideally, the workplace culture shouldn’t have come to this point, where work-related stress pushes people to complete mental exhaustion. However, the unfortunate reality is that quiet quitting is the direct result of decades of a culture of getting overworked. 

Quiet quitting burnout is a very real thing in today’s workplace, even for those who are working remotely. The need for their work to be tracked and be ‘always on’ has only contributed to the problem. 

Work-related stress impacts workers in virtually every industry and at every level. A survey by the American Psychological Association in 2021 found that 71 percent of respondents feel stressed out during the workday. Moreover, the survey found that the main causes of stress were low salaries, heavy workloads, and unrealistic job expectations. 

Similarly, a Gallup survey found that three out of four employees feel burned out at least some of the time at work. These numbers are alarming, to say the least. 

Bad Managers Make Bad Employees

Managers have a direct impact on employees’ job satisfaction. Poor managers often cause employees to show lackluster performance or seek employment elsewhere. Research and surveys support this hypothesis. 

A recent survey conducted in the UK found that one in three employees quit their jobs because of bad management. The underlying cause behind this issue is a lack of training. The same survey found that 82 percent of managers haven’t received training. 

Managers are responsible for keeping the morale of teams up. They need to have effective communication and conflict-resolution skills. Not every employee promoted to the management position has these skills, costing teams who get overworked, fatigued, and underappreciated by their managers. 

Many of the quiet quitter stories are also about bad managers. When workers see their manager not appreciating their work, they stop putting in extra effort. 

Unfair Compensation

Another ubiquitous reason for people, especially those under 30, to adopt quiet quitting is low wages. The work that they do isn’t compensated fairly by employers. That’s why quiet quitting is also sometimes called ‘acting your wage.’

The effect was compounded in the latter half of 2022, with inflation high and salaries stagnant. As employees’ monthly budgets dwindled, so did their efforts at the workplace. 

The higher cost of living has only worsened the issue for employees who felt underpaid. So, while they do want to keep getting a paycheck, they don’t want to make any extra effort that won’t get rewarded. 

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Workplace and Mental Health

If we look closely, there’s an undeniable connection between quiet quitting and mental health. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the phenomenon of doing the bare minimum resulted from years of ignorance toward employee mental health. 

While many modern companies have made employee well-being central to their business objectives, the larger corporate sector has failed to consider it. Exhaustion from working too much, bad managers not recognizing work, and salary not enough to pay bills– it all impacts one’s mental health at the end of the day. 

Quiet quitting in itself is not an indication of an underlying mental issue. However, the underlying causes indicate a lack of care for mental wellness from employers. It’s a coping mechanism for many workers who can’t afford to quit but don’t want to stress themselves out with too much work. Of course, it’s not the most effective or sustainable approach to mental wellness at work. 

The workplace environment is also a big influencer on mental health. Employees spend over 40 hours a week at their workplace, a significant chunk of their time. A work environment that negatively impacts their mind is going to have an impact on their overall wellness. 

How Can Companies Address Quiet Quitting?

Studies and surveys prove that quiet quitting is employers’ own making. The answer to quiet quitting isn’t quiet or loud firing– it’s making reforms to address employee concerns, promote a healthy work-life balance, and compensate fairly. 

Companies should provide a safe environment for workers to communicate their concerns. This is the first step that will enable managers and other leadership to hear directly from their reports. 

It’s essential to set realistic workloads and deadlines for employees so they’re not fatigued at the end of the day. When they do work more, ensure that they’re compensated for it. 

Recognition is extremely important for good employee morale. Managers should recognize and reward good work whenever possible. It doesn’t have to be an award– even a verbal appreciation for little things can go a long way in boosting employee confidence and morale.

Overall, employers need to cultivate an environment of trust, openness, and security so employees can grow and be more productive while feeling mentally well. 

Striving for a Healthy Work Environment

Both employers and employees can work together to create a healthy, conducive work environment that doesn’t equate productivity to fatigue. Quiet quitting also teaches the importance of setting boundaries at work. Instead of underperforming, perform your best within the boundaries of your job. 

Again, it all goes back to mental health. If a work environment has a positive impact on employees’ mental health, they will not only do their best but also stick around for longer. It’s high time mental wellness became a priority in workplaces throughout the US and worldwide. 


To support the work of the people working on TherapyHunter.com, we may receive compensation if you sign up for online counseling through the links provided.

Looking for a therapist? Get matched with a therapist today.


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