What Is Quiet Quitting?

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Quiet quitting is the practice of doing only what is required at work—no more, no less. When you quietly quit at work, you perform only the required duties of your job as stated in the job description.

Key Takeaways

  • Quiet quitting happens when you do just what you're required to do at work.
  • Workers who engage in quiet quitting might stop taking work home with them or answering requests on their own time.
  • Quiet firing is when employers stop providing direction and support, often in the hope that employees will quit their jobs.

How Quiet Quitting Works

Quiet quitting can be seen as a method of setting boundaries at work. When employees quietly quit, they meet all the requirements of their job description or employment contract but do no extra work. In practice, this may mean not performing unspoken parts of their jobs, such as answering emails after hours or taking work home with them. 

The term “quiet quitting” emerged on TikTok in the summer of 2022. In one viral video, user @zaidleppelin (formerly @zkchillin) described the practice as “not outright quitting” but “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,” he said in his video.

Quiet quitting has roots in the Chinese social movement tangping (lying flat). Tangping also emerged on social media but goes beyond merely doing the minimum at work. Practitioners describe lives structured around being instead of doing, skipping typical milestones like marriage, homeownership, or building a career. As The Washington Post reported in June 2021, some people who choose to follow the tangping lifestyle work only a few months a year or not at all and post videos of themselves resting that are often censored by the state. 

In the U.S., quiet quitting may resonate with some union organizers, who recognize it as a form of “work to rule,” a labor tactic that involves workers performing only the contractually obligated parts of their job. Work to rule is an alternative to a strike and slows down production while still allowing workers to collect their pay. 

Alternate name: work to rule

Example of Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting looks different in every job. For example, an office worker might quietly quit by refusing to answer work emails after hours or take client calls on their vacation. On the other hand, a teacher might find it challenging to restrict work to the classroom, because it’s hard to grade papers and prepare syllabi while teaching. But they might decide to restrict student meetings to their office hours or scale back accepting additional work from managers. 

Quiet Quitting: Good Boundaries or Lack of Ambition?

The debate about quiet quitting boils down to this question: is doing just what’s required an example of good boundaries, or a lack of ambition? 

Many jobs come with expectations that employees will go above and beyond what’s required. In many cultures, the U.S. included, doing so is a mark of being a good worker, even a good person. But if work responsibilities increase and real wages decline, there may be a sense among some workers that putting in the extra effort benefits only employers. 

Understandably, employers are less enthused about this trend. Employee engagement and productivity have a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. If employees do less, employers are likely to see smaller profits. 


Wages and salaries account for almost 70% of total compensation costs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Payroll is typically one of the biggest expenses for most employers.

A cultural shift to paying workers for everything they do would mean a very different budget for many employers, especially in the education and health care sectors, which typically depend on a certain amount of unpaid labor.

What Is Quiet Firing?

Critics responded to the furor around quiet quitting by pointing out that companies engage in their own covert behavior toward workers. 

Have you ever taken on additional duties at work without getting a promotion, or earned a promotion that didn’t come with a raise? Or maybe you’ve seen important projects slide off your to-do list and onto someone else’s or watched all your one-on-one meetings with your manager disappear from your calendar. If so, you may have experienced quiet firing.

Sometimes, what looks like quiet firing is just an example of corporate dysfunction, in which good workers are rewarded with more work, less direction, and no additional compensation. Other times, it may be a ploy to get workers to quit. 


Most of the time, you won’t be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if you quit your job or get fired for cause. 

Alternatives to Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting is an option if you feel like you want to take a step back from work, but not the only one. Learn how you as an employee—or even as an employer—can avoid quiet quitting.

For Employees

  • Know what good boundaries look like: In some ways, “quiet quitting” is just a trendy term for something all workers deserve: time away from work. Remember that you have a right to leisure and a need for rest. 
  • Leave before you’re pushed: Depending on your work environment, saying no to extra duties may be almost as stressful as being overloaded with work. If you find yourself in a position where quiet quitting makes sense, you might consider whether it’s time to look for another job or career that’s a better fit. 
  • Keep your options open: Regardless of your situation at work, very few jobs are forever. Keep your resume updated and your contacts in the loop. The best way to stay happy at work is to make sure you’re not stuck in one place.

For Employers

  • Set better work boundaries: Prohibit sending work emails after hours. Provide paid time off and ensure that employees are able to use it. 
  • Make a good example: Managers can set the tone by not glorifying overwork. Set a precedent for work-life balance, taking PTO, and unplugging after work. 
  • Proactively address burnout: Quiet quitting isn’t always a tactic. Sometimes, it’s a normal response to working too much. Make sure staffers have access to employee assistance programs, as well as good work boundaries. And keep your door open.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can an employer fire an employee for quiet quitting?

Many U.S. employees are considered to be employed at will, with some exceptions. This means that employers can terminate employees for no reason. If you’re an at-will employee, your employer can terminate your employment at any time. If you’re covered by an exception, such as an employment contract, public policy, or legislation that protects employee rights, for example, your employment status may be protected.

What does work to rule mean?

Work to rule means that an employee does exactly what is required by their employment contract or job description. This could mean not working extra hours, avoiding additional duties that aren’t specified in a contract, or not answering emails during evenings or weekends.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. TikTok. "@zaidleppelin, 'Quiet Quitting' July 25, 2022." 

  2. The Washington Post. "Young Chinese Take a Stand Against the Pressures of Modern Life--By Lying Down." 

  3. Thomson Reuters Practical Law. "Work To Rule.

  4. Harvard Business Review. "New Research: How Employee Engagement Hits the Bottom Line." 

  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Employer Costs for Employee Compensation Summary."

  6. NCSL. "At-Will Employment - Overview."

  7. OPSEU/SEFPO. “FAQs on Work to Rule.”

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