Last July, Zaid Khan uploaded a 17-second TikTok video about “quitting the idea of going above and beyond” and the term “quiet quitting” has been on the tip of workers’ tongues since.
After discovering the term, the 25-year-old engineer’s video explanation captured the attention of more than 3.6 million people worldwide.
“You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that work has to be your life. The reality is it’s not. And your worth as a person is not defined by your labor,” he says in the viral video.
Soon after the clip was posted, the #quietquitting hashtag caught fire and reached workers in most corners of the globe, from the U.K. and Europe to the U.S.
Today, over 858 million people have glazed their eyes over content using the #quietquitting hashtag on TikTok alone.
But now it looks like Khan is backtracking on the “anti-capitalist slam dunk” that he “inadvertently” made a viral sensation last summer.
The novelty of quiet quitting soon wore off
“I was all for the idea of withholding labor from companies who don’t care about us,” Khan said in an updated video on his TikTok channel last month.
In practice, this looked like being less responsive, taking on less work, and not working full eight-hour days. But the novelty of quiet quitting soon wore off and was replaced by paranoia.
Despite, by his own account, having an under-the-radar job that meant he could get away with underperforming, he found himself troubled with a “looming fear that you’re going to be found out and fired”.
This, he claims, was followed by an existential dread of: “What am I actually doing with my life?”
Khan tried to use the energy and mental load freed from not pouring his all into his job into extra curriculum activities. But spending more time creating music and producing TikTok content didn’t leave him feeling any more content than he was before he embarked on quiet quitting.
What’s more, his team started raising suspicion about how much work he was, or wasn’t, doing.
It was then that he realized that the only way out of his career slump, was out the front door.
“It wasn’t until I made the decision to actually leave my job that I just felt this enormous weight lifted off my shoulders,” he told Insider.
“It’s a decision that I wish more people could make because I do think life is too short to be dissatisfied wherever you are. Because the reality is work does consume so many hours of our lives.”
The onus is on management
Since stepping away from the corporate world (Khan is now reportedly working on freelance projects) he has distanced himself from any blame that sparked the ‘quiet quitting’ movement.
“I learned that poor management is truly to blame for disengaged employees,” Khan said in his recent video. “If you don’t feel like you’re part of a team or in some sense connected to your work, of course, you’re gonna be alienated. You are not the problem.”
What’s more, new research suggests that like Khan, thousands of workers have given up on the idea of quiet quitting. Instead, they are turning their frustrations to management by “loudly” tossing in the towel.
“These employees take actions that directly harm the organization, undercutting its goals and opposing its leaders,” Gallup wrote of the trend in its 2023 State of the Global Workplace Report.