Is ‘quiet stopping’ a good idea? This is what workplace experts say


Maggie Perkins said she started “quietly quitting” her job as a teacher in 2018, before it became a TikTok trend.

“There was no reason for me to worry because as a teacher there are no promotion opportunities. If you are the person who wins the Teacher of the Year award, [you’ll] earn the same salary as someone who is not,” the 30-year-old mother told CNBC.

To be clear, there is no single definition of the term silent stopping. For some, it means setting boundaries and not taking on extra work; for others, it just means not going any further. However, most would agree that this does not mean that you will leave the job.

Four years later, after quietly quitting started making waves on TikTok, Perkins also made a video about how to do that as a teacher. It means only doing your job during contract hours, not taking on extra work because you’re going to burn out or be taken advantage of, she said in her video.

“I didn’t volunteer for committees. I didn’t stay late and do extra. I just taught my classes and I was a good teacher,” she told CNBC Make It in a virtual interview.

What are employees looking for?

While the term silent stopping may be new, the concept is not.

Michael Timmes, senior specialist at Insperity, a human resources consulting firm, said there have always been workers who respond to burnout by “doing the bare minimum.”

“Today this is powered by Gen Z, however evident across all generations. It has gained steam through social media platforms,” he added.

What used to be a passive-aggressive challenge to work-life balance is now a very direct request. It’s not a request anymore. It’s a requirement.

Jaya Dass

Managing Director for Singapore and Malaysia, Randstad

For Jaya Dass, Randstad’s general manager for Singapore and Malaysia, quietly quitting is a “residual effect” of Covid-19 and the major layoff, with employees empowered to take control of their work and private lives.

“What used to be a passive-aggressive challenge to work-life balance is now becoming a very direct request,” she said.

“It’s no longer a request. It’s a requirement.”

Kelsey Wat, a career coach, agreed, saying that quitting quietly is now a way for employees to “stick it” to companies that see them “like another cog in the machine.”

The problem with the Great Resignation is that it assumes everyone has to go somewhere else, Dass added. But for people who feel they don’t have alternative jobs to go to and have to stay at work, quietly quitting has become the next available option.

“If no one asks you to leave, why not by default do less and get away with it? You buy time where you are now,” Jass added.

“It can come from this general sense of hopelessness…with what’s happening with inflation or the cost of living, a whole host of things that people haven’t recovered from.”

Is silent quitting useful and what do hiring managers think of silent quitters?

When silent stopping backfires

However, stopping calmly can look different for each individual in theory and in practice.

Experts said the concept is worrisome because it could go beyond just better work-life balance.

“Quiet quitting removes any emotional investment you might have from your job, which is sad considering most of us spend so much of our time at work,” Wat said.

“Most of us want to be proud of the work we do and the contributions we make. We want to see our impact and feel good about it. Stopping quietly won’t allow that.”

She added that it is possible to maintain healthy boundaries and stay emotionally engaged at work.

Timmes agreed, saying there’s a difference between having a better work-life balance and being “completely disconnected.”

From an office perspective, quitting quietly can cause conflict between employees as some employees feel that others are not carrying their weight.

Michael Timmes

Senior human resource specialist, Insperity

“An employee who shows up every day, goes through the hallway, turns down certain projects due to lack of interest and doesn’t feel like advancing in his current career or developing skills is very different from a case of work-life balance .”

He added that quitting quietly could be a positive trend if employees focused on maximizing their hours in the office. “The only problem: The trend doesn’t reflect this mindset right now,” Timmes said.

There are also bad traits that can be inherited from quitting quietly, such as lack of motivation, underdevelopment of skills, lack of flexibility and inability to work in a team.

“From an office perspective, quitting quietly can cause conflict between employees because some employees feel that others are not carrying their weight,” he added.

“Generally speaking, this can backfire on the worker and can also cause a wave of under-skilled and under-educated workers.”

Kevin O’Leary, an investor and star of ABC’s “Shark Tank” has also said that stopping silently is “a very bad idea.”

“People who go beyond solving problems for the organization, their teams, their managers, their bosses are the ones who succeed in life,” said O’Leary.

However, Perkins emphasized that quitting quietly doesn’t mean slacking off at work — although she acknowledged that some people can.

“I appreciate my work and I do put in hours, but I just want to respect my time and my energy,” she added.

Perkins has since retired from teaching and is now an academic advisor and full-time tutor. She now says she is willing to move beyond her current role.

“That’s because it’s a company that showed me they value me and I get very respectful feedback from my boss, it’s a healthy work environment,” she explained.

“If my boss had been really negative towards me in the past, I would have just said no.”

Perkins said she always quit “out of necessity.”

“I had my first daughter [in 2018] … If I picked her up late from daycare, they’d fine me a dollar a minute, and so if I didn’t leave work nearly as soon as my students left the building, I’d have to pay a fee.”

Why silent stopping can work

Quitting quietly can be beneficial in terms of giving employees more time to pursue passion projects, Timmes noted.

“The employee may be able to think more outside the box, feel refreshed and become more efficient in the hours they work.”

Which added that quietly quitting can give employees short-term relief from a work environment that is “too focused on results.”

Ultimately, quitting quietly is about…fighting the long-held belief that the only way to get ahead professionally is to work way beyond your limits and adopt a ‘yes man’ mentality.

“I can see how quietly stopping for a season can help them refocus on their needs outside of work and hopefully lead to recovery from their burnout and clarifying their needs and boundaries in the workplace going forward, she added.

“Ultimately, quitting quietly is about…fighting the long-held belief that the only way to get ahead professionally is to work way beyond your limits and adopt a ‘yes-man’ mentality.”

Maggie Perkins said adopting quietly quitting gave her more “personal happiness and satisfaction.”

Maggie Perkins

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