January 10, 2023

GenZ: The Quiet Quitters – Saying No to “Hustle Culture”

Lauren Kemp

What is “quiet quitting”?

The term, “quiet quitting,” surfaced in late 2022. This term described the recent trend of employees setting boundaries with work-life balance by limiting their workload to the bare minimum of what is required from them. Quiet quitting is the idea that work should not overreach into other areas of your life and that doing more work than is needed is unnecessary. This phenomenon has built off the Great Resignation, which was motivated by issues building up to the COVID-19 pandemic, and furthered due to excess job opportunities. Quiet quitting became more popular as it spread through social media, specifically TikTok platforms, and it appears to only be gaining traction. 

The concept of desiring a healthy work-life balance is not new; instead, it has been rebranded through social media, giving a new name to an old idea. Gallup’s recent State of the Global Workplace report for 2022 found that 21% of employees are engaged at work, and 33% are thriving overall. 44% of employees stated they felt stress during the workday. Some believe that quiet quitting may be a coping mechanism that is producing unhealthy results.

Who are quiet quitters? 

Gen Z makes up the majority of quiet quitters, as they are vocal about their disinterest in giving 110% at work. Some Gen Z believe that overperforming does not yield the same benefits today as it has previously. This change is somewhat indicative of the market, as unemployment is historically low, and there is a surplus of job openings industry-wide. Only now is the market appearing to shift, with many companies proactively establishing hiring freezes. This shift in the market may lead to a decline in quiet quitters, as jobs may no longer be readily available and financial security becomes more prioritized. 

Some Gen Z participate in quiet quitting because of other factors in the market, including inflation. Some included in this demographic have shared that they do not foresee ever being able to purchase a house (a sought achievement) due to inflation and high housing prices, thus leading to a discouraged and disgruntled workforce that sees their goals as unachievable. 

Gen Z's power in the workforce is one reason that quiet quitting has recently gained much traction. Gen Z is projected to hold 30% of the workforce by 2030.

Why are people quietly quitting? 

Millions of workers quit their jobs during the Great Resignation, which quickly became the Great Regret. Workers were dissatisfied with their jobs, and even as inflation climbs and the associated cost of living increases, they seem to prioritize work-life balance over traditional hustle-culture.  

What is “hustle culture”?

Hustle culture involves work consuming much of someone’s time, where one’s career becomes their lifestyle and a top priority. This work often exceeds the 40-hour workweek, as seen in a 2021 survey by the ADP Research Institute, where 1 in 10 employees across 17 countries said they had completed more than 20 hours of free work per week. In summary, hustle culture is a lifestyle that connotes that overworking is the only path to success and the best way to earn the respect of others.

Is there a happy medium? 

Hustle culture and quiet quitters fall on opposite ends of the spectrum. So, is there a happy medium where workers do not experience burnout from their job overarching their lives, but not to the point that they produce the bare minimum required of them? 

Fortunately, the answer is yes. The following action items help employees to retain work-life balance and reduce the risk of burnout. 

  1. Redefine success: Each person’s perception of success is different; therefore, clearly understanding what success means to you is essential. Hustle culture tends to lump the idea of success into a category that others view as appropriate. By forming a personal view of success, you are more likely to follow a path that is meaningful to you, not one that is expected by others in your professional life. 
  2. Set lower and upper boundaries: Saying “yes” to opportunities is critical, especially early in one’s career. However, taking on too many responsibilities is possible, producing lesser quality work. Setting sustainable goals and understanding the ebbs and flows of the industry you operate within is vital in establishing acceptable upper and lower levels of productivity and performance. 
  3. Consider habits: Introspectively analyzing whether your hobbies bring you closer to whom you want to be and how you wish to operate is essential. It is easy to fall into the cycle of thinking that life will “start” after a particular event or achievement. This can be dangerous, as life comprises small moments between significant achievements. Approaching each day intentionally by establishing routine or daily practices that need to be met can help invite joy and stability into your life. 
  4. Set defined boundaries: Hustle culture can appear to be “on” all day. Replying to emails instantly, being available for calls anytime, and letting your job consume your life. Be realistic with your boundaries and focus on the quality of work produced.

Who is being hired instead? 

Some companies have seen discrepancies between older employees and those entering the workforce. Some have begun a shift toward hiring employees who are later in their careers than working to attract young talent. Forbes shared the following on hiring employees that are 50 years or older: 

  • Loyalty and Stability: Workers 50 years or older are more settled and less likely to jump roles when a new opportunity is presented. Low employee retention rates are extremely costly because of the price associated with recruiting and onboarding new employees. 
  • Mojo: Older employees tend to have more poise and self-assurance than Gen Z. Employees that provide a mix of confidence and knowledge in their area of expertise shine in their industries and are common in a more mature workforce. 
  • Attitude: Older workers are more proactive in anticipating problems and opportunities and are positive and practical. Generally, those who fall in the 50+ age group have overcome most challenges related to raising children, securing a mortgage, and other costly life events. During this phase of life, they can immerse themselves in their jobs and love the career they created. 
  • Collaboration: Mature workers are accustomed to reaching out to other departments, working with cross-functional teams, and gathering information from diverse sources. They tend to value teamwork but are also highly functional in working independently. 
  • Productivity: Age can be associated with improved organizational performance. Studies continue to find that the productivity of mature and younger workers improves with mixed-age work teams, meaning that employing young talent in addition to tenured, mature employees is beneficial. 
  • Mentorship: Older workers are essential in providing skills and guidance to those new to their industry. This is beneficial for the mentee, and the mentor will also be exposed to new ideas and processes that are beneficial company-wide. 

What are the signs of quiet quitting?

For employers, knowing the signs of quiet quitting can help address situations as they arrive. It may be apparent that worker enthusiasm has decreased, participation in projects may be low, voluntary help may be low, and productivity may decline. Employers may notice an absence of punctuality and refusal to work extra without overtime pay, and employees might stop responding to emails or phone calls. 

How to stop quiet quitting 

The critical factor in avoiding quiet quitting or addressing an already present situation is to be proactive and aware of factors that lead to quiet quitting or address the factors that arose prior. Allowing for an appropriate level of work-life balance, valuing employees’ physical and mental health, and making employees aware of career growth opportunities, proper compensation, and good benefits are all areas that can put a stop to quiet quitting. 

Some action items that you can implement to avoid quiet quitting include:

  • Facilitate wellbeing meetings: One-on-one meetings between employees and managers allow leadership to discover how employees feel. You can include regular check-ins on an employee’s satisfaction and fulfillment at work in regular sessions that discuss performance and results. Integrating these talking points shows appreciation and can reverse issues that lead to burnout. 
  • Organize collaboration among teams: Ensuring that employees are encouraged to seek help when needed, offer appropriate support, and have a process for cooperation helps prevent burnout and instills a sense of togetherness in employee culture. 
  • Make wellbeing a part of company culture: Integrating employee well-being into the company culture efficiently reduces burnout and quiet quitting. Employee benefits, workplace layout, and regularly showing appreciation can integrate employee wellbeing into your company culture. 

Employees are a company’s most valuable asset and should be treated as such. With the shift away from hustle culture, it appears the issue has been overcorrected and is leaning toward more quiet quitting. Indications in the market regarding who is being hired and companies beginning hiring freezes show that the trend of quiet quitters may be slowing down. Still, it is essential that companies help employees feel valued, needed, and appreciated by leadership to improve happiness at work, increasing work-life balance.

Written by Lauren Kemp

Lauren Kemp, Communications and Marketing Specialist at J2T, earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management with a minor in Latin American studies and a Master of Science in Innovation and Management from Montana State University. Lauren hails from Montana and enjoys reading about the history of her home state. Her bucket-list items include touring the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, and taking an immersion trip to Chile to experience Latin American culture first-hand.

J2T is a recruiting and staffing firm that solely focuses on accounting and finance roles. J2T Flex facilitates all operational accounting needs, including all contract or contract-to-hire needs. On the direct hire side, J2T Recruiting specializes in Sr. Accountants/Analysts through CFO and touches everything in the corporate accounting and finance organizational chart. J2T is a women-owned business exclusively serving the Colorado and Montana markets with the overarching goal to serve you in all areas of the hiring experience.