'Quiet quitting,' 'quiet firing': The year the workplace grew quiet

For many American workers, 2022 was the year the workplace grew quiet. 

As workers reconsidered their post-pandemic workplace and young Generation Z hires entered the scene, the term "quiet quitting" hit headlines from Bloomberg to The Wall Street Journal. The phrase became a favorite of burnt out workers and fresh faces with new demands, claiming they need not go above and beyond at the workplace without additional compensation. Some managers loathed the concept, while others said it's been here all along under different guises. 

A timeline of the workplace's quiet year, told through Becker's coverage: 

Aug. 12: The phrase "quiet quitting" began gaining traction on TikTok as the workforce's youngest members ruminated on work-life balance. Fifty-four percent of millennial and Gen Z workers — born between 1981 and 2012 — identified as "quiet quitters" in a Gallup poll. 

Aug. 25: Some professionals began speaking out against quiet quitting, encouraging workers to actually quit if they find their job unfulfilling. Ariana Huffington, founder of health and wellness startup Thrive Global, encouraged workers not to succumb to boring quietly quit workdays and to simply find a new career in the midst of the "Great Resignation." 

Aug. 30: Fortune reported on the passive-aggressive phenomenon of quiet firing, in which managers ignore employees' requests for pay raises or promotions in hopes they will choose to leave on their own. 

Jeremy Sadlier, executive director of the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration, said quiet quitting is nothing new to hospitals. Healthcare professionals often find themselves burnt out from the demanding nature of their work, and short-staffing due to cost cuts can cause frustration. This leads to disengagement, according to Mr. Sadlier. 

Sept. 7: Quiet quitting extended beyond millennials and Generation Z, according to a September Gallup poll. More than half of the U.S. workforce reported they are "not engaged" at work, with an additional 18 percent saying they are "actively disengaged" at work. 

Sept. 16: "What the kids are now calling 'quiet quitting' was, in previous and simpler decades, simply known as 'having a job,'" workforce reporter Derek Thompson wrote in The Atlantic. According to Mr. Thompson, quiet quitting is just another name for burnout, and worker engagement in 2022 was still higher than any year from 2000 to 2014. 

Sept. 22: Eighty-two percent of millennial and Generation Z workers find quiet quitting appealing, according to a study conducted by Axios and the research firm the Generation Lab. 

Oct. 5: Workers are not wholly responsible when they quietly quit, according to a Time article; rather, they are reorienting their lives outside the workplace and recognizing low wages and low benefits as problematic. Expectant employers and American workaholic culture should shoulder some blame, according to Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez, a journalist covering ambition. 

Oct. 10: Quiet quitting escalated to quick quitting, with a LinkedIn economic graph finding a peak in the short tenure rate. 

Oct. 20: The U.S. surgeon general addressed quiet quitting, urging employers to promote the health and well-being of their workers to retain them. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, provided a five-step framework for workplace mental health, emphasizing connection and balance. 

Nov. 14: The workforce has lost about half a million workers in their early 20s, whose labor-force participation rates have continued to fall post-pandemic. The Wall Street Journal attributed this to an increase in high school dropout rates during COVID-19, a rise in graduate school enrollment and general shifts in the age group's mindset toward traditional work — referencing movements like quiet quitting and "work your wage." 

Dec. 8: Employees began "career cushioning" —  silently looking for plan-B jobs while continuing to work their current ones, propelled by high-publicity tech layoffs and fears of a pending recession. 

Dec. 12: Fifty-seven percent of workers identifying as quiet quitters say their work-life balance has improved, according to a LendingTree survey. This number springs to 65 percent among working parents with children under 18. 

Dec. 15: Jessica Melton, president and COO of Bethesda, Md.-based Johns Hopkins Suburban Hospital, said she quiet quit five years ago in a blog post for the American College of Healthcare Executives. By "quiet quit," she means she said "no" to requests that did not serve her or her organization and was more deliberate in the tasks she took on. Ms. Melton says quiet quitting is a "poorly conceived" term that blames victims for systemic issues, such as increased demands on healthcare workers without sufficient clarity. 

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