Look: If clocking in and clocking out counts as “quitting,” then we should all be quitters. You’ve probably heard about “quiet quitting,” as well as the growing backlash to the viral term. The idea, first popularized in a TikTok from @zkchillin (now @zaidleppelin), describes “quiet quitting” as employees “quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work.” He explains that while you’re still performing your duties, the “quitting” part is that “you are no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentally that work has to be our life.” Since the term has gone mainstream, critics have pointed out the irony that this concept of “quitting” is, quite literally, doing the work you’re paid to do.
Here’s why you should look past the hype of “quiet quitting” and instead start setting healthy boundaries at your job.
Setting boundaries is not the same thing as quitting
To be frank, it utterly sucks that “meets expectations” has warped to mean “doing more work than you’re compensated to do.” Unfortunately, it’s a natural consequence of toxic hustle culture that has come to dominate so many workplaces over the years.
Sure, some of the backlash against quiet quitting could be an issue of semantics. Personally, I find the word “coasting” to more accurately describe what quiet quitting actually implies. As the term stands now, it comes with a sense of workers being passive aggressive, or even subversive. It sounds like workers doing nothing more than the bare minimum, which surely frightens managers who have come to expect their workers to go above and beyond for no additional pay.
It’s dangerous to frame quiet quitting—which, again, means doing your job—as an act of resistance. The idea that not going “above and beyond” somehow equates to “quitting” only reinforces the norm that companies expect you to do far more work than you’re compensated to do. However you interpret the viral term, it raises real-world questions of how we understand fair work and fair pay. That’s why it’s important to learn how to set boundaries around the work you were hired to do, and the personal life you deserve to have.
How to start setting work-life boundaries
Before it comes to implementing your boundaries as an employee, there’s a crucial caveat to address: For most, the ability to coast at work is a privilege. Many workers know that they may not be able to get away with the “bare minimum” depending on their race or gender.
We’ve previously covered how to set different kinds of personal boundaries, which largely comes down to knowing yourself and effectively articulating what you need.
Review your job description. This is how you can identify what you’re being compensated to do, and it gives you clear terms to identify where your boundaries should fall. Once you know what your boundaries are, it’ll be easier to assert them with the people around you.
Communicate your boundaries. Whether you need accountability to stick to your guns, or you need to clarify that your boundaries won’t catch your manager off-guard, it’s important to express your boundaries out loud. Just make sure to be clear, direct, and polite.
Silence notifications outside of work hours (if you can). Remote work has severely blurred the lines for when managers expect employees to be available to respond to emails or “hop on a quick call.” Depending on your line of work, try to make clear when your work day starts and ends.
Learn how to say no. There’s an art to saying no without outright saying the word “no” at work. For instance, if you need to decline an unproductive meeting, you could say something like “Some things have come up that need my attention” or “No, but… [I’m happy to look into it tomorrow/I can send someone in my place/I can meet next week instead].”
Of course, plenty of people truly love their job. Good for them! These people could still benefit from setting boundaries between work and the rest of their life. In fact, maybe these are the people that could benefit most from learning how to set boundaries between what is work and what is real life.
At the end of the day, you’re probably underpaid for your labor. Do what you were hired to do and go have a life.