February 7

What does quiet quit your job mean (and why you might not want to quit yet)


The day I quiet quitted

I remember the day I quiet quitted my job.

It was the day my manager told me,

John, maybe sometimes, you should just follow your job description before trying to do anything else.

It was February 2021, and I still had 8 months to go before my contract ended. But I was too tired to find a new job, and I was too tired to fight back.

I just wanted to draw my salary, do the bare minimum, and go home.

What does quiet quit your job mean
Sometimes it’s okay not to constantly want to climb the corporate ladder, super fast

I had had enough.

And that may be you today.

After 2 years of COVID-19, the world seems to be finally emerging from the shadow of COVID. But somehow, it doesn’t feel that way for you.

You’re tired.

You’re still getting messages from your boss at 11pm. You’ve had that feeling. After stretching out on the couch after a beautiful Netflix show, you get a Whatsapp message from your boss or client telling you that their computers have exploded.

That’s a joke.

But you get the idea.

There’s no boundaries between work and home.

And more than that, you’re still expected to contribute more and more, even though you’ve given everything you’ve got over the past few years.

What does quiet quit your job mean
Nah it’s okay, you can forget about your boss for now

In the office, you hear bosses telling staff about how they need to band together and put in effort, or asking for volunteers to organise the ‘staff welfare’ lunch. (Why would you need to put in more work to organise your own welfare lunch?!)

So what’s quiet quitting?

Driven by many of the same underlying factors as actual resignations, quiet quitting refers to opting out of tasks beyond one’s assigned duties and/or becoming less psychologically invested in work.

Quiet quitters continue to fulfill their primary responsibilities, but they’re less willing to engage in activities known as citizenship behaviors:

no more staying late,

showing up early,

or attending non-mandatory meetings.

Anthony C. Klotz and Mark C. Bolino, in Harvard Business Review

Sounds like you?

Why does this happen?

This is no Freudian analysis.

But you’re just tired.

Plain old tired.

The pandemic has taken something out of everyone. We can refer to the same reasons most people give – a lack of work-life boundaries, more work, rapidly changing pieces of work, causing constant stress, but there’s one big reason that many don’t talk about.


Yup, good old, sob on your shoulder grief. We’ve all lost something from COVID.

But in re-emerging from COVID, we’ve all also lost what was comforting about COVID. It may have been the times when you were able to not dress up for work. Or the times when you didn’t have to pretend to like your colleague, spending long hours at lunch with them.

Or the times when you were finally able to start your side hustle, after realising that much of the time spent in the office was actually time spent pretending to work, rather than working.

And now, going back is a time of re-adjustment, when you think,

Is this job really what I want with life?

What should you do?

Well, I quitted my job and went onto work fulltime in my own company.

But you may not want to do the same.

Recognise that it’s okay not to give extra

Sometimes, a job is just a job. You don’t have to wake up everyday pumping your chest like Tony Robbins, being passionate and fired up for your job.

It’s okay not to stay back late. Or to volunteer for every project your boss asks for help with.

Who cares what your colleague does? It’s your journey, your job.

If your boss is ‘siao-on’ (a Singaporean slang for the over-enthusiastic types), then you might want to step back, breathe, and realise,

Hey, maybe I’m not after that promotion.

It’s okay not to want those things that society sees as important.

It’s important to see what’s important to you.

Accept that it will be frustrating to not want more from your job

In February 2021, I was also issued with a Performance Improvement Plan (a get better or get sacked plan). You basically have a series of competencies you haven’t met, and you’re supposed to meet them… or get sacked.

It frustrated me that I was seen as this deviant, bad, worker, even thought I wanted to contribute so much.

For much of my life, I had demanded more of myself, in every single area. It pained me to see that in a job, I now wanted nothing more than to finish the work, collect the paycheck, and go home.

Those were the kind of people I used to laugh at when I was an intern, telling myself that I would never degrade to such a point.

Well, it did happen.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Forgive yourself for not wanting more from your job. Or not wanting to put more.

This is not just nice-sounding self compassion, but it is being self-boundaried.

It’s realising that there are times in your life where there are things that are okay, and not okay for you.

And unfortunately, this is one of those times when working your ass off, is just not okay anymore.

What’s a practical thing to do? Write a letter of forgiveness to yourself. For example,

Dear John, I forgive you. I know there are times when you haven’t wanted to give more to your job. That’s okay. I still admire you for turning up at your job, even though you hate it.

Quit your job

I suggest this as the absolute last option, when you’ve exhausted all other options. You should only do this when it’s absolutely sure what you’re going to do with all that spare time.

You could quite possibly rot at home. It’d be extremely difficult to get out of that rut, because you might not actually have it better, even after quitting your job.

I’ve worked with young adults who’ve quitted, only to realise that life on the other side is not necessarily better. With a job, as much as you hate it, there’s still a structure and routine to go to.

And without that structure, it’s difficult to get into the swing of things, of trying to discover what you actually want from life.

I’m of the belief that life is best lived, and not that great being ‘reflected on’, because there is a limit to how much introspection you can have whilst mulling at home.

Quiet quitting is not a bad thing

Quiet quitting can help you see that sometimes, life is more than your job.

Right, you knew that already.

But that life is also about life.

These are the moments we live for. Where we step under a shower, and feel the warm water wash over our heads.

Or when we feel the gentle cloths beneath our backs, as we lie to rest.

Or the laughter in a work group.

Or the camaraderie fighting together.

Quiet quitting doesn’t have to all that bad. It’s realising that there can be good that comes out of it.



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