The Art of Quiet Quitting: Why is Everyone “Doing the Least” and What Does it Mean Financially?

Emma Lam

Emma Lam

Last updated 07 September, 2022

Building boundaries or slacking off? Besides its catchy alliteration, the “quiet quitting” trend has created quite the buzz and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. See how this new-age attitude has changed our workplace environments.

Before the world started assimilating into the endemic phase now, unemployment was at an all-time high during the height of the pandemic. Employees were either being retrenched or personally resigning from their jobs in droves.

If the pandemic has collectively taught us anything, it’s that more of us are valuing the importance of a work-life balance. Given that flexi-work arrangements (e.g. work-from-home) have permeated into the new norm, it’s become a non-negotiable for many when seeking employment.

While the term “quiet quitting” isn’t new, its meaning has evolved on social media (thanks to this viral TikTok!). It’s significantly changing our approach to work and our attitudes within our work environments. 

What is quiet quitting?

Following greater demands for work flexibility and setting boundaries, quiet quitting is the newest phenomenon to hit Millennials and Gen Zs.

To put simply, quiet quitting refers to “clocking in and doing the bare minimum” as an aversion to hustle culture and an inclination to healthier job boundaries instead. You’re still performing your job scope’s expectations but just not exceeding these duties.

While this proposition sounds fair enough, it’s not without its criticisms. 

For instance, folks from the older generations chastise this behaviour as “rooted in excuses”. They accuse younger employees of being entitled, and lazy, reinforcing the undercurrent narrative of the “strawberry” generation being selfish and weak-willed. Doing the bare minimum and not performing above and beyond is shameful or disrespectful towards your colleagues and company.

So just what is the consensus here? Is there a middle ground?

See also: The Great Resignation 2021: How Do You Know When It’s Time to Quit Your Job?

The intergenerational conflict regarding work: Gen Zs vs. Boomers

Source: RICE Media

Every new generation brings about its season of changes; the two groups that everyone loves to pit against each other are Gen Zs versus Boomers

With the considerable age gap, those decades in between have definitely facilitated changes in mentality and opinions. Some say it’s even driven a hard wedge between the two generations.

For the Boomers, prioritising work to provide for the family and rebuild the post-war economy were their main concerns. Needless to say, this bred a hardy and resilient group of workers simply because of the nature of hardships endured during their time. 

Conversely, Gen Zs are the new-emerging workers where we see duality in their work attitudes. On one hand, you have the hustle culture where ambition and relentlessness in the pursuit of money, career advancement and success are celebrated and glorified. 

On another hand, you have the quiet quitting culture where greater emphasis is placed on work-life balance and personal pursuits and fulfilment outside of work. More people are vocalising their workplace grievances and retaliating against overstepped boundaries.

Meanwhile, the Millennials could be considered the “sandwich generation” where they’re stuck between these two conflicting principles.

Here are some examples of generic assertions made:

Boomers Gen Zs
“Working outside of office hours, when necessary, is acceptable.” “There should be fair compensation for overtime (OT) either in extra pay or off-in-lieu.”
“Going above and beyond is a good reflection of work attitude and character. Such employees usually perform well. ” “Overworking is neither equivalent nor a reflection of performance.”
“Attitude affects performance bonus.” “Performance bonus should be defined by the quality of work.”
“Loyalty to the company earns the best pay.” “Meaningful job hopping is a form of career building.”
“Unless you’re formally diagnosed or incapacitated, mental health is not an excuse for poor work.” “Prioritising mental health actually contributes to better productivity and performance overall.”
Disclaimer: These statements are not reflective of SingSaver's stance.

There are always two sides to every argument. Who’s right or wrong is subjective to personal values and opinions. With that said, how is quiet quitting redefining current work culture in the foreseeable future?

Why has quiet quitting gone viral?

There has been an abundance of arguments put forth for quiet quitting, but one overarching statement unites them all: Physical and mental health should take precedence over work.

In general, quiet quitting can be seen as the response (or backlash) to the toxic aspect of hustle culture. The ramifications of the 24/7 grind have amplified problems such as deteriorating mental health, overworking, and burnout.

See also: Did You Know Impostor Syndrome is Costing You Money Without You Realising, Here's Why

In Mercer’s 2022 Global Talent Trends Study, it was reported that 20% of Singaporeans feel de-energised at work, with 85% of employees on the verge of burnout. Out of the 85%, half of them intended to quit their job within the year.

“It is almost direct resistance and disruption of hustle culture.”

Nadia De Ala, founder of Real You Leadership

Too often, we’ve seen businesses and corporations working their employees to the bone with demanding KPIs and deadlines to adhere to. Ultimately, stress accumulates to an overwhelming breaking point where workers either tender their resignation first or get fired for failing to perform. It’s a lose-lose situation both ways.

If these statistics don’t prove burnout can be costly for both individuals and the company, we don’t know what does.

That’s why we can’t exactly blame the sudden rise of quiet quitting. Not that it's a convenient excuse to slack off or underperform at work, on the contrary, creating such work boundaries could help you become more sustainable at work. 

Dare we say, it could even lead to improved financial gains.

The financial benefits of quiet quitting

At first glance, alarm bells might be ringing in your head: quiet quitting can contribute positively to finances? That sounds so ironic.

But hear us out. When practised correctly, both the employee and employer can stand to benefit financially. 

#1 Overall productivity and quality of work improves

Don’t wish to work beyond office hours? That’s fine, but deadlines and KPIs still have to be met though. Well, in order to accomplish tasks within that time frame, that just means time spent at work becomes more productive and efficient.

Employees with this mindset better prioritise tasks at work, producing greater and more meaningful output. Logically, this leads to better KPI results, better output for the company, overall growth in the business and hence, more profit.

Adhering to office hours should have no detriment to productivity. After all, working hours function as employee guidelines, not a “suggestion”.

If a company can’t respect such simple workers’ rights, are they upholding their end of the bargain as benefactors to employees? Or do they treat employees as dispensable cogs in the wheel? 

#2 More time to chase passion projects and side hustles

Invest in yourself. 

Contrary to traditional beliefs, passions and interests are not a waste of time. As a matter of fact, this generation has innovated in monetising their skill or content

With the emphasis on #supportlocal, the barriers to entry for entrepreneurship and starting your own small business have been lowered. Similarly, the field of content creation has never been easier to get into thanks to the proliferation of social media and the internet. 

But it would not be possible to pursue these passions if you’re overly committed to your job. When working overtime, you might receive compliments and gift commendations for the extra effort but the amount of time sacrificed for the company could’ve been better invested into your own capital.

Whether it’s your social or financial capital, it’s rewarding regardless. And setting up a potential side hustle acts as an additional income stream, increasing your passive income earned overall.

💡 Pro-tip: Complement your income channels with a diverse and robust investment portfolio. 

Read more:
How to Effectively Set Rates as a Freelancer to Succeed
School Didn’t Teach Me: How to Turn a Hobby Into a Career (Without Losing the Passion For It)
Alternative Careers During the Pandemic — How Much Can You Earn?
How to Make Investing Interesting (and Work For You)

#3 More time to upskill yourself

Apart from pursuing passions, the extra time enables individuals to upgrade and learn new skills too. Particularly, Singaporeans aged 25 and above are entitled to SkillsFuture Credits to which they can subscribe to a wide variety of online learning packages.

The categories available span data analytics, coding, financial services and more! This is useful for those looking for a mid-career switch in the future too. In fact, learning fundamentals through these courses provide a gateway into industries outside of your original niche. 

For example, a lot of newly-emerged occupations in the last decade (e.g. full stack developer, blockchain analyst, cloud infrastructure engineer) leverage such tech-related skills. So why not give them a shot to level up your knowledge and capabilities?

Who knows, these additional skills in your repertoire could broaden your current role's scope — unlocking more opportunities to value add to your company and increase your pay. 

💡 Pro-tip: Coursera, Skillshare, and Udemy are other online course learning platforms to check out.

Read more:
Here are 7 Stable Jobs That Pay Surprisingly Well in Singapore
2022 Salary List For Singapore’s Top 10 High-Paying Roles

So, should you quietly quit?

The elephant in the room lingers on: should you be quietly quitting? Obviously, no one should be quiet quitting for the sake of it. There must be a valid reason why you’ve chosen to adopt this practice or attitude at work.

As forewarned, this principle can be misconstrued as an excuse for laziness and sloppy work if taken advantage of. Moreover, it shouldn’t be conflated with quiet firing. Although they sound similar, their starting points, rationales, and motivating factors are completely different.

🔍 Did you know: Quiet firing is the more sinister counterpart of quiet quitting, involving passive-aggressive and underhanded tactics to wrongfully persuade or force an employee out --- making it seem as if they left entirely on their own accord.

On paper, this might appear true but behind the scenes tell a different story. In some cases, it might almost be borderline manipulation or gaslighting.

But if you’ve been working dutifully at your job without sufficient acknowledgement, support systems, opportunities or compensation, quiet quitting would be justifiable.

However, the onus also falls on you as the individual to communicate your needs and concerns.

Your supervisors/superiors aren’t mindreaders. They might not always be aware of your struggles all the time with their own share of responsibilities on their plate. So give them a chance to help work you through any work difficulties, and go from there.

Last but not least, always remember, work is not your life. You work to live, live to work. It’s okay if it’s a top priority, but you shouldn’t let it overwhelm your existence. Your worth is not defined by your productive output.

Although quiet quitting might entail “doing the bare minimum”, your saving habits shouldn’t be. Open a high-yield savings account to stash your hard-earned cash away, for both regular withdrawals and emergency funds. A tight budget isn't an excuse for not saving either.

With the recent interest rate hikes (e.g. DBS/POSB, UOB, OCBC), now’s the opportune time to reallocate your savings.

Help yourself to better financial shape in the new norm, with SingSaver's all-new Ultimate Savings Guide! Got your free copy yet?

Read these next:
Money Confessions: I’m a Tech Executive by Day, and Run a 7-Figure F&B Business by Night
How to Talk Money When Talking About Career
School Didn’t Teach Me: Which is More Important — Education or Experience?
School Didn’t Teach Me: How to Rock the Salary Talk if You’re an Introvert


Although she struggles *slightly* in resisting good deals and sales, Emma is on a lifelong journey to understand what financial independence as a Z-llennial means. That said, her inner child is still very much alive… with animals and gaming being her weaknesses.


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