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Acting Your Wage: The Quiet Quitting Culture

The “quiet quitting” phenomenon is a viral trend spurred by TikTok in which employees don’t quit their job; instead, they disengage from work. Rather than subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that “work is life,” quiet quitters perform their duties but no longer go above and beyond. Rather than the term “quiet quitting,” some people prefer the term “acting your wage.”

Quiet quitting is all about doing the bare minimum — nothing more. While some people pride themselves on being overachievers, quiet quitters set professional boundaries. Some quiet quitters mentally check out from work, while others don’t accept additional work without additional pay.

“I have heard of (employees mentally checking out from their work) after they announce that they will retire,” said Teri Sand, Capital Area Michigan Works! business services manager.

However, some employees believe they can’t quiet quit because of race or gender. Quiet quitters still want or need to keep their job; however, they don’t feel compelled to do more than required.

Michigan State University’s WorkLife Office advocates for honoring work and personal life. Director Jaimie Hutchison said the bottom line is that people are not hesitating to disengage from a workforce that does not feel like it’s accepting them as a whole person.

“When employees don’t feel supported at work — when they don’t feel supported as a whole person — they start to lose loyalty,” she said.

Caregiving challenges, flexible work challenges and toxic work environments will lend to an employee’s decreased commitment.

“It’s old-school to tell employees to leave their baggage at the door when you enter work,” Hutchison said. “We are finding that is impossible to do.”

As humans, employees have many dynamics that make up their whole person, including societal roles, emotions, experiences, diverse perspectives, diverse identities, physical and mental health issues, and the complex wheelhouse that is the brain.

“Employers need to address all aspects of their employees’ personalities,” according to Hutchison.

Once that happens, employees feel supported and can devote more attention to productivity.

In her presentations regarding recruiting, Sand includes the importance of retaining current employees.

“The proactive approach toward retention and employee engagement is to keep your workers happy and productive and employed with you,” she said. “Stay interviews are ideally done at least annually. It’s an opportunity for a worker’s supervisor to ask about the person’s goals and how the company might help. The conversation doesn’t have to be formal; in fact, the supervisor may get better information if it’s not.”