The Truth About Quiet Quitting

Brad Stulberg
4 min readSep 6, 2022

The term “quiet quitting” has become a thing. It all started with a seventeen second TikTok video that went viral, in which the narrator says “it is not outright quitting your job but quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work.” Since then, quiet quitting has been covered by The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other major media outlets. Aside from jumping on the zeitgeist click-wagon of a new term (but not a new phenomenon, more on this in a bit) and exploiting the momentum of a budding “anti-work” movement, the coverage to date doesn’t really say much of anything at all.

For some people work is just a job. You do it, you leave it, you live your life. For other people work is craft and mastery — it’s a large part of your identity and a big source of fulfillment. Both are totally fine. The truth is that people have phoned it in on the job since the beginning of time. Every workplace has at least a few individuals who master the art of creating the illusion of doing work while actually doing nothing at all. Sometimes these people are vice presidents, presidents, and executives.

While phoning it on stuff that actually matters is probably not good for anyone involved, there is nothing wrong with refusing to do meaningless work and attend meaningless meetings. If anything, it’s the sane thing to do. The anthropologist David Graeber found that over 40 percent of jobs are “bullshit,” providing no value to anyone. If you are in one of Graeber’s many bullshit jobs then quiet quitting makes a lot of sense. Why run around like crazy doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff? The problem here isn’t the people who are quietly quitting. The problem is there are way too many bullshit jobs.

Another issue is that many bosses and employers want their employees to treat work like it’s a craft but then they treat those same employees like they are just doing a job. You can’t really expect people to give their all if you don’t treat them like they are giving their all. Large swaths of research show that the best jobs (where people work hard and derive meaning and fulfillment from that work) all involve three characteristics:

  1. Autonomy: at least some control over how you spend time and energy.
  2. Mastery: a sense of concrete progress in which the…
Brad Stulberg

Bestselling author of The Practice of Groundedness ( Co-Creator of The Growth Equation. Coach to executives, entrepreneurs, and MDs.