The Dark Side of Quiet Quitting

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You’ve all heard of the Great Resignation, but recently, there’s a more fashionable, inconspicuous quitting style called “quiet quitting”.

What is “Quiet Quitting”?

Instead of quitting your job and losing out on a severance package, why not just do the bare minimum? Welcome to Quiet Quitting.

Inspired by the Chinese Lying Flat (躺平) movement, this idea came about after employee burn-out during the pandemic. Employees grew sick and tired of not getting paid to do extra work outside their responsibilities or taking on the double load from their ex-colleagues after the Great Resignation. This was their way of fighting back.

Some argue quiet quitting isn’t about doing the bare minimum, it’s about just doing your job, but not going above and beyond and/or climbing the corporate ladder.

Quiet Quitting vs. Quiet Firing

Employers may see it differently though. In their eyes, “not going above and beyond” and “doing the bare minimum” are no different. Back when I was working, saying “I’m happy where I am” when asked to take on extra work to get to the next level was seen as slacking rather than choosing work/life balance. Because, let’s face it, you’re not at your job to be happy. You’re there to make the company money. And if they can replace you with an outsourced worker working twice as hard for ½ your pay and missing the birth of their own child (yup, this happened), they will.

Even Wanderer, who loved his job, boss, and co-workers, was still being pushed to “get to the next level” even when he’d just gotten a promotion. So, this was not unique to my job.   

You might be wondering then, how do employers deal with the rising popularity of “quiet quitting”?

Well, here’s the thing. Employers can be just as passive aggressive and retaliate with something called “quiet firing”.

What is “Quiet Firing”?

This is when the employer creates an intolerable work environment to force the employee to quit on their own rather than risk a wrongful dismissal lawsuit or paying severance. 

You may have been “quiet fired” if…

  • You’ve had important responsibilities re-assigned to other co-workers without being consulted.
  • You’ve been set up to fail with unattainable performance targets
  • You’ve been passed over for raises and promotions regardless of your performance
  • You’ve had new opportunities to advance your career withheld
  • You’ve been forced to relocate to an undesirable office location, forced to commute or had other perks like a corner office or a parking spot taken away
  • You’ve been excluded from important meetings

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Usually, when you’ve been “quiet fired” there’s so much evidence you just know it.  

For example, a friend of mine realized she’d been “quiet fired” when all her direct reports got moved to another manager and she was only managing one person. Also, when everyone else was called back into the office after the pandemic, she was told to continue working from home. And finally, her boss told her not to bother aiming for any performance rating above “satisfactory” because it won’t happen.

If this all sounds like an episode of Mean Girls where everyone’s acting like passive aggressive 14-year-olds high schoolers fake-liking each other on social media while trying to steal each other’s boyfriends in real life, that’s exactly what it is. And it isn’t new. The legal term for “quiet quitting” is “constructive dismissal” and it’s been around for a long time.

Quiet Quitting Works A Lot Better When You’re Close To FI

I remember one director trying to “quiet fire” me in my last job. I’d dared to question her advice of forcing everyone at work to get rid of their desktop in favor of a laptop and “efficiently multitasking” by answering e-mails while walking to meetings, literally by balancing the laptop with one hand and typing with the other as you walked. I thought that was stupid and said so.

At the time, she had just transferred to the department and was trying to assert her authority. Naturally, she saw an opinionated employee unafraid to speak her mind as a threat. So, she tried to get rid of me.

Soon, I found myself excluded from important client meetings and listening to passive aggressive comments about my colleague who she’d fired the week before, about “corporate restructuring” rumours coming down the pipe, trying to instill fear.

Unfortunately for her, I was too useful to the projects I was on and my clients kept asking where I was since no work was being done. Eventually, she had no choice but to relent and add me back.

Also unfortunately for her, at that point I was less than a year from FI and had one foot out the door. So the worst she could do was send me off with enough Employment Insurance payments to get me across the finish line. So, I honestly could not give a crap about her intimidation tactics.

Unless you’re close to FI, don’t show your cards and don’t “quiet quit.” You might just end up “quiet fired” rather than FIRE’d. A better way is to switch to a more tolerable job and keep building your portfolio until you’re less than a year from FIRE. Then quiet quitting is like getting a company-sponsored paid vacation!

Just be aware that switching your identity isn’t going to be easy. Quiet quitting could be mentally challenging unless you have Teflon skin and are confident enough to deal with the ego blow. That’s why it makes sense to start thinking about your next identity 3-5 years out from becoming FI. And if you like your job, there’s no need to quit. You’re simply building your portfolio so that you’re invincible.

But remember, no matter how much you love your job, you have no control over who buys it and takes it over.

Case in point, here’s what happened at Twitter recently:

“…To build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0…we will need to be extremely hardcore. This will mean working long hours at high intensity. Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.”

This was the ultimatum given by Elon Musk, top contender for world’s worst boss and the newest owner of Twitter, to his employees, with a careful, considerate, and well thought-out 24 hours to respond. The message was clear: “give up your relationships, health, and sanity to work for me, or get the hell out.”

This sparked a mass exodus, but even many of the employees who choose to stay were still fired. Hopefully many of those fired Twitter engineers were close to FI, but who knows?

This is why you need to build your portfolio and work towards FI so that if Elon ever buys your company and asks you to be “hardcore” you can choose to be “softcore or ex-hardcore engineers” instead, get that sweet sweet severance package, and flip him the bird (buh-dum CHING!) on the way out.

What do you think? Have you ever “quiet quit” or been “quiet fired”?


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38 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Quiet Quitting”

  1. Yeah, maybe I qualify for one or two of those ‘quiet firing’ categories already. At least I’m supporting substantial revenue-generating work. If they’re trying to get me to quit to avoid paying out severance, the joke’s on them — I’m plenty content. I guess we’ll see how involved I am when we tackle new projects next year!

    Incidentally, ‘quiet quitting’ as a term is trendy, but ‘work-to-rule’ has been a thing for decades. I’ve got teacher friends who do no more work than is required when it’s time for union negotiations. It’s not their fault the system fails unless they spend their own money on necessary supplies or spend unpaid hours every night doing admin work on top of the contracted time they put in at school. Ugh.

    1. Oh please don’t talk to me about teachers – overpaid and over compensated never mind the golden pension they have along with all those sick days!
      Total abuse – I know I have three siblings in my family who are teachers.
      There living their dreams and eating their cake too!

      They couldn’t get a job in the real world for half the pay and compensation.

      1. Teaching can be tough on many folks. To deal with today’s young children & teens daily? Rethink some of your comments.

        Part of my job for past 5 years has been teaching adult employees, for 4 different courses.. I enjoy it, but of course there are people who aren’t paying enough attention. They just don’t act up/out like children.

  2. “Elon Musk, top contender for world’s worst boss “

    No, he’s a good honest boss but he’s top contender for the world’s worst investment ever.

    Why would anyone pay top dollar $44B to own such a social media cesspool.

  3. Love this post! While the RE of FIRE is entirely optional, the FI part is something all employees should strive for to the best of their abilities. Having a portfolio that can replace one’s income is one of very few tools available to employees whose work lives have become intolerable. No one says you have to retire early if you don’t want to, but a nice, fat cash cushion ensures you don’t have to eat sh*t when things go south at work.

    1. I can’t agree more, having the ability to walk away from any job without worrying about how to pay the bills is critical..
      I had a previous experience when a manager tried to force the discussion about the potential of career risk with me… .. I told him that why I keep a healthy saving to ensure I don’t need to worry about such risk, following that discussion he never try to give me any BS or Crap .. till he left the group. so FI can give you power even before you leave your job…

  4. Being quiet fired sounds like a dream! I think that’s the GOAL! I should have worked towards this and kept my salary before I fired 🤣

  5. “This was the ultimatum given by Elon Musk, top contender for world’s worst boss and the newest owner of Twitter, to his employees, with a careful, considerate, and well thought-out 24 hours to respond. The message was clear: “give up your relationships, health, and sanity to work for me, or get the hell out.””

    Elon Musk is the best boss. It’s just that he speaks the truth. While other bosses tell you they care about you until they find out you are not submissive enough for them and then get rid of you without a 24 hours notice.

    Which is worst / best ? Dealing with reality or living in a fantasy world ?

    I agree with quiet quitting only if you can afford to go on your own within less than a year. Before that, it’s better to just focus on doing the maximum at work and with your investments.

  6. There is already a term for Quiet Firing – it’s Constructive Dismissal. A friend actually did Quiet Quitting with the objective of getting laid off with severance.

  7. ” top contender for world’s worst boss ”

    Hmm.

    I think he’s more like top contender for world’s worst A*hole.

    #BoycottTwitter
    #BoycottTesla

    1. Thats right. Musk has become a self obsessed mean spirited jerk of the worst kind

      The stinky MuskRat snatched that title of “A*hole of the Year” from Vishal Garg, the CEO of Better.com

  8. Yesss…, that is essentially what happened! Initially, I was aiming for a QQ but to ensure I receive the severance package, I methodically opted to be QF instead.

    It is like being a ROBOT – the key is to be perfectly “consistent” in your approach so they have absolutely nothing against you (much similar to the discipline you have developed in tracking and maintaining your monthly GAP). Only then, it becomes a matter of when NOT if – a waiting game of who folds first! The reward is at the end of the rainbow afterwards when you call the lawyer to optimize on the terms and conditions of the separation.

    BTW, that list is sooo accurate! Are you sure we didn’t work for the same boss?!?

    ImmigrantOnFIRE

  9. “remember, no matter how much you love your job, you have no control over who buys it and takes it over” OMG can I relate. I used to have an awesome boss, but he moved to a better role and was recently replaced by the most unqualified person possible (even HR complained, because they had to boost the new guy’s salary way beyond normal raise amounts to make it work). Well guess what? I had been FI for a while, but scared to RE, so I just gave my notice, with no small amount of glee (and gratitude that I had an awesome boss for long enough to get to FI in the first place). I hear through the grapevine they can’t find a decent replacement for me, shocker!! Morale of the story: folks, protect yourselves. You never know how long a good job and/or work environment may last 😊

  10. I have agreed with most of the advice on this blog. But this one just doesn’t resonate with me. If anything I am all about quite quitting / cruising in your job. That’s the only way to survive in this cut throat corporate culture.

    I also think that giving yours, wanderer and twitter example doesn’t statistically reflect most people experience in their jobs.

    I have been doing quiet quitting since I started my career. I treat it like dating. If a guy becomes desperate the girl takes advantage that he’ll always be there for me. Similar to an employer if you show you need the job too much they will think you’ll stay no matter what. You got to have FU kind of attitude and for that the most important thing you need is FU money. Then you can do more than quite quitting.

    1. I like that approach. Don’t act desperate for promotions etc. if you have a don’t give a Fuk attitude bosses an take it personally like they aren’t doing a good job or something and try to make you happy with whatever you want. Or they just hate you. I’ve seen both.

  11. I was quiet fired years ago, it was horrible at the time, but ended up being for the best – I moved to a much better job and learned about the importance of having a sizable savings buffer, and whilst I was learning to save I found out about FIRE!

    I quiet quit before it was a thing, once I’d saved up two years expenses I felt able to. Since then I haven’t been quiet fired, I’m not sure if that’s just luck, or if I now give off a ‘you don’t want to mess with me’ vibe!

  12. !!you’re not at your job to be happy!!! So true!!
    I’d love to be quiet fired, doing the bare minimum but maintain my salary and all…but right now I’m working my butts of still to get to FIRE

  13. If you find yourself getting “quiet-fired” and are at an established company, document everything you can including what you find are supporting facts that you are being pushed out. This can prove useful if you try to negotiate a severance, many don’t want to go the wrongful termination route.

    1. You are so right. They did everything to quiet firing me. I never knew it was that. The environment was so toxic that I ask for a pause. They fire me. Unfortunately for them, I document everything, as I have a sense that something i wrong. I love my job and I always do my best to give the best. So results were there. When they fire me, I complained. I come back within the enterprise and then put my FI strategy in place. Now they start the game again (quiet firing me). In response after 2 years, I am the one now who is quiet quitting (I mean, not getting a fuck of them). But I will do it until they fire me and I will complain. They is no way I will give them my notice. They have to pay me the severance package. I am having now too much fun. And I am using my free time learning different things. No ego blow for me. It was hard at the beginning, but now that I discover what I could use my time for, it is heaven on earth. It is like I bring Heaven in Hell.

  14. Sigh…..yet another term for something that has existed since before our simian ancestors started rudimentary tool making… I estimate about 25% of the homo erectus’s were sandbagging and goldbricking when they were supposed to be carving pointy sticks out of dried out old bones….even back then nobody wanted to work !

    That being said, I do support quiet quitting. I quite quit from my previous job several years before I FIRE’d, but I didn’t know it at the time. It sort of just happened.

  15. Yes. I quiet quit in my last year FI. I just did my job, not much more. I was still professional about my responsibilities but I stopped doing anything extra. I even submitted a stress leave note for a month off. But that was legitimate, I was a mess!

    Eventually they let me work from home. Which I was grateful for how accommodating they were. Then the company got bought out and new management wanted us all back on site, I said no so they laid me off with a severance then EI.

    That worked out well but 6 months into retirement I got covid and now long covid for 18 months+ so I can’t live out my retirement dreams, for now anyway. But at least I have the money and security to recover stress free instead of having money stress on top.

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s karma for quiet quitting. But just do the right thing in life and life will reward you. Or play with fire and get burned a little.

  16. I held many jobs over the years, and I have yet came across a business owner or a company leadership that created a toxic environment that kill the most value asset of business or a company, the labor.

    It is best not to participate in the “Quiet” this and the “Quiet” that. In most cases, it is nothing more than office monkey trying to shift responsibility to others closest to him/her.

    Before you have reached FI, it is best to SINCERITY come to work with 101% of you (mind and body) and let the power to be at work place determines your worthiness.

    If you can SINCERITY bring 101% of you to the last day of work, you will have closure “relationship” with your last employer and you will begin your “relationship” with the new employer on the right track.

    This 101% mind and body into anything that you do will take you to FI faster than you can ever imagine.

    Food for thought!

  17. LOL at the idea of answering emails while walking to meetings. I’ve heard some weird stuff at work, but I think that really takes the cake for idiotic things I’ve heard!

  18. Life is short. You should enjoy every moment which to me means putting in a full effort into whatever you’re doing. When I read quiet quitting, I just think loser. It means you didn’t maximize your personal potential. It means you did a disservice to yourself in wasting your limited precious time on this earth numbing yourself. Sad.

    When I sloth, I’m putting in a full effort into maximizing that feeling of slothiness because it can be a wonderful feeling and experience.

    If your employer decides its ok to treat you poorly and/or do a constructive dismissal, then you should maximize your efforts to still get the best possible experience regardless. I got a great severance package from my employer as part of a mass layoff. Mid 6 figures. It was fantastic! When I got the sense that the constructive dismissal was underway, I focused my energy on myself. The employer didn’t think it needed me anymore. Made me feel unwanted. Was hoping I’d quit so they wouldn’t pay me severance. I didn’t. I waited. I spent the time organizing what my life would be like post-FIRE. I’d already invested time into but now I was drilling down into nitty gritty specifics. It was time well spent. And then I got my package. Yay!

    Quiet quitting or firing – maximize each potential experience.

  19. Quiet quitting has been around forever. I’d say that 75% of employees do it. They’ve figured out how to do their job with the minimum amount of effort and drama while still keeping the boss happy. The reason for this is that they don’t have a career, they have a job. Time for money. Nothing more. Now, the ones who can maintain focus and drive throughout their careers tend to be the ones who rise to the top, but not always. Many quiet quitters were “all-in” at one point, but got burned out, disillusioned, caught in a rut, “trapped” in a certain skillset, you name it.

  20. I’ve been quiet fired before so this article really hit home for me. I really enjoyed reading it. .

    Twitter employees stopped getting facials during work hours and started working. I don’t think the company misses any of them really. I would have done the exact same thing. …Just sayin….

    Thanks for the great post.

  21. Unrealized gains don’t pay my rent, and unrealized losses don’t make me lose sleep. The market is more driven by emotion than logic and has exhibited volatility from time to time. Stocks drop hard when investors are afraid, and they rally when the fear subsides. I don’t base my retirement on the unpredictability of the stock market, nor do I want to spend my retirement trying to buy low and sell high. Instead, I build my retirement on the income generation potential of my portfolio. Companies that pay dividends are generally more mature with better fundamentals than their non-dividend-paying counterparts.

  22. I can’t agree more, having the ability to walk away from any job without worrying about how to pay the bills is critical..
    I had a previous experience when a manager tried to force the discussion about the potential of career risk with me… .. I told him that why I keep a healthy saving to ensure I don’t need to worry about such risk, following that discussion he never try to give me any BS or Crap .. till he left the group. so FI can give you power even before you leave your job…

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