Quiet Quitting is not about work

I learned a new work-related term recently, Quiet Quitting.  

As all of us are getting busy with work, especially after 2 years of Work From Home (WFH) mode, Quiet Quitting has a particular interest in our life.

During the pandemic, there were many discussions about our work, mode (WFH, hybrid), and focus on personal life. They were about physical and mental health, family life, and overhauling one’s lifestyle (aka great resignation.)  

So it was interesting to learn about another concept in our changed working mode; quiet quitting. It turns out that it is not actually “quitting” the job but treating the work as a secondary or minor priority.


It is a new mode of working for younger generations to prioritize their life outside work. Those priorities could be about their physical/ mental health, family time, etc.  

The accurate definition for quiet quitting is described as employers stop doing “going above and beyond.”  

In other words, employees do the “minimal” to keep their jobs. At least, that is how employers perceive this new mode of working.  

Learning Quiet Quitting reminds me of when I was an employee at an architecture firm after my architecture graduate school a gazillion years ago.  

Like many of my classmates, I had several jobs in architecture firms after my education. My work experience during those years was varied: good, not so good, and really bad(wanting to quit), and the final option – do the minimal (to not get fired).

It turns out I had a Quiet Quitting moment, and I did not know the term for what I was doing at the time.

As I struggled with doing minimal work and feeling unhappy in the work setting, I met the most incredible boss of my entire architecture career.

Well, more as I ran into him on that fateful fall afternoon gazillion years ago.

Open to new opportunities

He was different from all the bosses I had. He was open to new ways of doing things….including hiring decisions.  

He welcomed risk-taking in his dealing with people.  

He took a risk without knowing all the facts…in this case, the risk (aka me) for his upcoming project. We were complete strangers in a vast architecture firm setting where we had no interactions before this unexpected (to him) visit by a stranger (me).

At the time, I felt restless after finishing one architecture project. I also felt apprehensive about being assigned to another random project without my input, which made me question the unthinkable, quitting

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However, I had a vague(but wise) idea that the work situation would not be that different in other architecture firms. I was hearing from my graduate school classmates that their work situations were not that different. Some practiced the “do minimal to not get fired” work mode.  

I realized I had to do something about my unhappy and unproductive work situations.  

First, I decided to look for the project I wanted to get involved in and then I had to look for the person in charge so they could put me on that team. The entire research took me less than 10 minutes…however, the execution took much longer.

After learning the name of the partner in charge of the project, I headed to his office. Although taking the elevator was easy, knocking on his door was not.  

After walking around his office for some time, I took a deep breath and knocked on his door.  

There were many “what if” scenarios playing in my head. What if he asked me why I came to his office rather than going to the HR office, or worse, what if he did not plan to add a junior team member. There were many what if’s, and none of them sounded positive.

However, I decided to knock on his door anyway. I could no longer face the restlessness/unhappiness/ boredom I felt about my work.  

I still remember the conversation I had with my partner. Instead of asking me to come back at a different time (which typically happens in the boss/worker setting), he asked me to come in. 

After explaining my reasons for the visit and listening to my introduction (since we had never met), he was quiet for some time. 

While regretting my decision to visit and having to look for a new job potentially, he finally spoke.  

I was expecting the usual questions about my experience, background, etc., to assess my abilities for the project. However, none of those questions came up. Instead, he uttered these words:

“I really appreciate your interest in the project and also your initiative. It would be great to have you on our team.”

What! Wait a minute…appreciate it! I was expecting many forms of NO; instead, he “appreciated” my initiative.

Generous with his time/compliment

With his “appreciation,” I became his new team member on the project I wanted to work on.  

Many great adjectives to describe my boss: decisive, curious, open, articulate, and generous. Within these qualities, I associate him with generosity the most.

He always described his team as “illustrious” when he introduced the team to other people: other project teams, clients, 

I did not feel particularly “illustrious” working on the project. There were mistakes made and corrected, things had to change, and feeling stuck in the face of design issues I could not resolve… 

All of us in the team knew we did not deserve the description, illustrious.  (Ok, maybe some did)

However, our boss always used the “I” word.  

Photo by Kevin Malik on Pexels.com

With his generous compliment, I wanted to live up to his expectation. (I am pretty sure other team members felt that also). I wanted my work to be at the level deserving “illustrious” comment. I strived to produce the work to a higher level.  

It was no longer the “minimal, just get done” sentiment I had with previous projects I worked on.  

Although I did not have many interactions with him once the project started, I was aware of his trust in the team, including yours truly. 

We all wanted to be the “illustrious” team members our boss thought we were. 

Leads with truthfulness

I witnessed his authentic leadership during one of those all-nighters we had to prepare for the client meeting the following morning. We have worked on the project for several months, constantly making changes and updates and wishing for the presentation time to pass.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

While All of us were working late one night, planning for another takeout dinner option, our boss showed up with pizza boxes. He told us he could not stay home preparing presentations since he was nervous. He thought it would be better to practice presentations with us and get feedback on his presentations.

Besides, he said it would be fun to have dinner together to get out of the stress we have been feeling.  

The time I met him for the first time in his office, I was utterly blown away by his genuine approach to people’s relationships.  

Not only admitting that he was nervous about the presentation and also wanting to get feedback from his employees (including his junior staff) blew me away. 

With his vulnerability, we all became ONE team who wanted the project and the presentation to succeed. While munching on our pizza, we “slowly” shared feedback on his presentation skills.  

At one point, I raised my hand to point out that certain parts of the presentation needed more explanations for better client comprehension.  

With his “excellent point” comment in my direction, he started practicing the presentation with my feedback incorporated.  

While seeing him practice the presentation in front of us, I felt the unfamiliar and energetic feeling of us truly becoming the ONE team.  

I wanted him to nail the presentation the following day. It was no longer HIS presentation but OURS, and we were all looting for him to succeed.   

Final Thought

Quiet quitting is not a new phenomenon. 

It is not only about younger generations and their new ways of working. The concept existed in the past, although the number of people willing to practice it might be smaller. 

Work challenges tend to be not about work itself, but rather it is about people. It is about interactions and relationships among people who create difficulties and challenges and can lead to wanting to quit our jobs.

Therefore, it is wrong to assume that Quiet Quitting has to do with generation differences. Still, the underlying reason is the universal dilemma about people’s interactions and relationships. 

As we all are experiencing many changes in this new time, the human relationship in the work setting remains the same.  

Personally, it just took an act of courage to “knock on the door,” which led me to find a fantastic boss to prevent my quiet quitting.  

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