Have you ever heard of “Quiet Quitting?”
On a particular afternoon in college, I found myself experiencing the harsh effects of Vietnamese coffee: an energy rush so strong I was bouncing off the walls. Yet, after a full day of classes and an entire thesis writing session, I still felt like I could do more. A friend eventually told me, “You’re going to crash so hard when you get home.” And it's safe to say that I did. I fell right into bed when I got home. But looking back, that saying became the best way to describe my relationship with work. And perhaps as a burnt-out professional reading this, you know where this is going.
I used to force myself to power through anything and everything, hoping to solve the problem like a jigsaw puzzle. I worked not only to prove my worth with my productivity but also to get validation from others. Working on overdrive was fun while it lasted and even got me places in college. But in the end, it turned me into a toxic workaholic the moment I entered the workforce.
You see, I never really was a “gifted kid” growing up, and many teachers told my parents I could become an honor student; I just had to apply myself. But I knew before that feeding into that system of competition would make me miserable, so I waited for college to make my move. Safe to say that it kind of backfired because I’m trying hard to make up for lost time and validation, even in the real world.
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Behind the scenes: The Honor Roll
When I passed the highly regarded Maroon Institution™, I struggled to keep up with the best of the best, barely passing my classes. But once I adjusted and got comfortable with myself, I gradually began seeing the possibility of becoming an honor student. And so I studied hard, constantly losing sleep to finish papers, taking extra time to study for exams and spending the rest of my afternoon doing org work. TL;DR: My college routine was about pushing myself to my limits, including selling my time and effort to everything school-related.
My identity heavily relied on the achievements that I made while studying. So when I started working, I made my career my entire personality, too. This unhealthy cycle of hustling and bustling stayed in my routine even when I started my first job—it didn’t even help that I started work in a 24-hour industry. Long nights, holidays-turned-workdays and weekends spent in front of a laptop screen were part of the culture, so who was I to go against it? But little did I know, that also became the secret ingredient that turned me into a burnt-out professional. Lack of boundaries, no social life and trading hobbies for crunching numbers I could deal with the following day—I was bound to crash and burn.
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The beauty and magic of “Quiet Quitting”
In all honesty, I still haven’t found the actual break in all of this. I still feel guilty when I find myself resting and not working. Two jobs and an industry switch later, I still have moments where I spend extra hours of my days trying to finish deliverables instead of making them problems for the next day. It’s not because they’re mountainous, I just felt that I should be suffering for my work. Because the rewards would come tenfold, but that’s never the case, isn’t it? So I told myself I needed to change my narrative well into my third burnout cycle as a professional. I can’t always be this miserable all the time!
There’s a concept in TikTok called “Quiet Quitting,” where burnt-out professionals, mostly Millennials and Gen Z-ers, take their jobs less seriously. According to the Wall Street Journal, “It isn’t about getting off the company payroll, these employees say. In fact, the idea is to stay on it—but focus your time on the things you do outside of the office.” TL;DR: young, burnt-out professionals find the importance of healthy work-life balance and actively set healthy boundaries with their jobs.
They now work within their scope, and if their employers demand more, they ask for just compensation. In addition, these employees realized that work ends at the end of their shift. When they mean clock out, they also mean it physically, mentally and emotionally. Others also feel content with what they have, no longer hoping to go the extra mile in climbing the corporate ladder. They no longer give in to the culture of letting their jobs consume their entire life because what’s the point of earning to live when you don’t enjoy the fruits of your labor?
@sjeddywellness Say no to burnout culture. You in?#quietquitting #quietquit #othersideofburnout #notohustleculture #graceculture #corporatehustle ♬ original sound – ❦
In all honesty, getting the hang of Quiet Quitting after being so used to operating on overdrive for years can be a challenge. But after seeing a new wave of professionals enjoying their lives after setting boundaries, you’ll inevitably want in, too. So while we’ve always written about setting healthy boundaries (and sometimes failing to follow them), having an actual term guide you through it makes the goal feel more tangible. So, get that workout in! Go for happy hour drinks after you clock out! Use up all your paid leaves! Make time to do what you *really* want!
Best of luck to you in quiet quitting, dear former honor student who reached the burnt-out professional pipeline. Having to scale back after pushing your limits for years on end proves difficult. But if that means no longer stressing yourself the moment you clock out for the day, then, by all means, instill it into your routine.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver