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#trending: 'Quiet quitting' a misnomer for those seeking work-life balance, say netizens

SINGAPORE — The latest work trend taking over TikTok, "quiet quitting" stands as an antithesis to the infamous "hustle culture" popularised by tech giants. But, netizens argue, the negative connotations of the label may be doing more harm than good.

#trending: 'Quiet quitting' a misnomer for those seeking work-life balance, say netizens
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  • The term "quiet quitting" has been trending on TikTok
  • It is "not outright quitting your job, but ... quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work", says a TikToker who started using the term
  • However, many netizens, including those in Singapore, say the term is not helpful
  • Terming it as quitting, they argue, normalises going the extra mile at work and frames work-life balance as a negative

SINGAPORE — If you haven't heard of "quiet quitting" yet, this latest hashtag trending on TikTok is the opposite of the infamous "hustle culture" associated with working at tech giants.

It has generated more debate on how people view their career and whether a term such as "quiet quitting" does more harm than good to those seeking worklife balance.   

According to TikTok user "zaidleppelin", whose viral video on the topic kickstarted this conversation last month, quiet quitting is "not outright quitting your job, but ... quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work".

For some, this might mean putting a hard stop to working overtime, or checking emails and taking calls outside of working hours. For others, it might mean learning to say no to extra projects, or even simply taking a proper, restful lunch break instead of sporadic bites between assignments.

"You're still performing your duties, but you're no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life," zaidleppelin the TikToker explains in his video.

"The reality is it's not, and your worth as a person is not defined by your labour."

Many have described quiet quitting as a way to safeguard one's mental health and prevent burnout. One commenter wrote: "I quiet quit six months ago and guess what, same pay.

"Same recognition, same everything, but less stress."

As netizens have noted, this is far from a new phenomenon. The clamour for a healthy work-life balance has been ongoing for years, and the Covid-19 pandemic has given it greater impetus, especially among younger workers,

Over in China, a 2021 movement called "躺平 (tang ping)" or "lying flat" marked a similar response from local employees to the country's "996" culture of working from 9am to 9pm, six days a week.

Inspired by online discourse and "Great Resignation" anthems such as Beyoncé's "Break My Soul", employees all over the world are taking a stand against "hustling", and Singapore is no exception.

A recent survey of the Singaporean workforce found that two in five workers would not accept a job if it did not offer remote working or flexible working hours.

Just this week, a Reddit thread started on Tuesday (Aug 16) gathered a like-minded group of Singaporeans who espoused the benefits of these anti-hustle movements. 

Most commenters on the thread felt that for the average employee, putting in extra work is simply not worth it, especially when they see peers or colleagues who appear to work less but earn more.

Noting that quiet quitting still involves doing everything one is required to, many also felt it was a dangerous misnomer.

To term it a form of quitting, they argued, normalises going the extra mile at work and frames work-life balance as a negative.

As Reddit user "zilla_faster" wrote in a comment: "My opinion is that 'quietly quitting' is the stupidest possible name for 'continuing to do your job to a sufficient level that might not get you promoted but doesn't get you fired'. It is also called 'doing your job'.

"It is absurd to try to craft a narrative around averagely-motivated people staying in their jobs as 'quitting', it's the opposite."

And these Singaporean Redditors are not alone.

Over the past month, the use of the term "quiet quitting" to describe what many consider "literally just doing (one's) job" has riled up netizens across social media globally.

"Isn't that just... called working?" asks TikTok user "baobao.farm" in a video on her account last Thursday.

"Like, doing your job properly with a healthy boundary? Can we just call it what it is?

"It sounds very... disengaging? I'm still showing up to my work, I'm still putting (in) a fair amount of effort to do my job right, I'm just saying no to things that don't bring value."

@baobao.farm Someone please let me know when I can ACTUALLY not show up to work and still get paid #quietquitting #antiwork #corporate #corporatelife #career #boundaries ♬ original sound - Bao Bao Farm

On Twitter, the top tweets on quiet quitting are those argue that the idea of seeking healthy work-life balance should be the norm rather than a trend. 

And a majority of them point to one crucial fact — that it doesn't actually involve quitting, and should not be named as such.

One user, based in America, explains the discrepancy in a tweet posted on Thursday: "It's kind of reinforcing the idea that ... (not going above and beyond in a job) is synonymous with quitting? Odd verbiage for choosing not to be taken advantage of."

Another agrees: "That's not what's being described. When I first heard the term I was thinking of people who were going into full-blown coasting mode, not people who were reasonably enforcing work-life boundaries."

Others have called it "a phrase that some employer made up" or "a term that is being pushed by business owners into the media" in order to fire people who are simply doing their job without going above and beyond.

In the Singaporean Reddit thread on the topic, users also spoke of the "double standards" for employer and employee, pointing out that when companies "lie flat", it is seen as "profit maximising" rather than doing the bare minimum.

In contrast, media reports have described how the "lying flat" movement in China has been curbed, with mentions of the term censored online by the authorities.

International Twitter users have also turned the "quiet quitting" label back on employers, presenting a case for "quiet firing" as the current status quo that needs to be dismantled instead.

Quiet quitting puts the onus on the employee to exceed expectations, they say, when it should be the employer who makes the effort to provide wages and benefits that warrant extra work.

And, more often than not, it appears to be companies that take advantage of the transactional relationship by expecting employees to take on more responsibilities and heavier workloads on the same pay, or a minimal raise.

"It's not #QuietQuitting," said one American user in a Twitter thread last Sunday. "It's quietly no longer allowing your employer to commit wage theft."

In fact, Singaporean Reddit user "notsocoolnow" declared in the thread on Tuesday, "rejecting employer abuse" is precisely what these anti-hustle movements are about.

"The truth is, employers should NOT be expecting employees to go above and beyond for the company," he said, listing unpaid overtime, long hours and labour crunches as examples of this.

"We don't owe them anything more than what they pay us for."

He also noted that "job-hoppers report an astounding rate of pay increases compared to people who remain in the same company for more than two years".

Employees who stay in one job for a long time are more susceptible to abuse, he claimed, as employers will not be afraid of them quitting.

"Don't 'lie flat' when it comes to looking for new opportunities," he concluded. "The real work that pays is the art of getting new jobs, not staying in them."

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