Sometimes, at work or in life or both, things kind of suck. Maybe, like tons of other people, you’re sick of your job and you’ve come to the conclusion that something’s gotta give. Maybe you’ve decided to quiet quit.
Ah yes… quiet quitting. It’s all anyone wants to argue about. We’d like to point out, though, that this concept isn’t new—it just has a sexy new name now.
If you’re considering (or have already started) quiet quitting your job, we’re not here to shame you. In fact, the term itself (sexy sounding or not) isn’t really accurate. Consciously choosing to do the work you’ve been hired for—no more, no less—isn’t quitting. What you’re quitting is the idea that we live to work, not work to live. Fair enough, if you ask us. But it’s no permanent solution! If your heart isn’t in the work that you do for 40 hours a week, you’re settling for “meh”. Long term? You’re likely to turn into a desk zombie.
But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom! We’ll help you avoid joining the working undead with a few steps you can take to breathe life back into your career.
Step 1: Reflect & ask hard questions
Let’s start this process like the main character of so many movies. The camera pans in on your zombie face, sitting in defeat on the floor, while your voiceover proclaims: “It wasn’t always this bad. How did it come to this?”
It’s time to ask yourself how you ended up in a funk. When did you start feeling stressed/exhausted/useless/unmotivated about work? Has something changed that made you realize that you’re unhappy? That might seem like an obvious place to start, but try to dig deep. It might not be as simple as: “My job is boring,” or “my job is too stressful”. Maybe it’s “my current role has become obsolete, which means I have less to do and no longer feel needed,” or “I’ve taken on more responsibilities than I can handle right now because I don’t have enough support”—or maybe it’s something in between.
You shouldn’t just focus on finding the problem though. The other side of that is remembering what you used to like about your job, or why you started your job in the first place. Ask yourself: What gives me a sense of purpose at work? What motivates me? What am I particularly good at? What are the most important skills I’ve learned and enjoy using in my career and life? How does my job match my personal values?
We know—it’s a lot to think about. You won’t have all the answers, but write down the ones you do and add to them if anything comes to mind later. It’s your first step towards reviving your interest in work and away from a desk zombie existence. Let’s keep going!
Step 2: Look at your options
If you’ve got an idea about why work has led you to the brink of quiet quitting, you can take a step back from the edge. Even if you’re not quite sure how you got there, knowing why you used to like your job can do the trick too. It’s time to look at your (non-quiet quitting) options.
Did you realize that work currently sucks because you’re bored or don’t have enough to do? Check out your career development and internal mobility options! Are there some interesting skills you’d like to learn that could lead to a more fulfilling role at your company? Is there another way to put your already-awesome skill set to the test? Or maybe another team or project group you’d like to join? Look for a role or learning opportunity that can get you excited about challenging yourself again. Good employers keep their people engaged by giving them plenty of opportunities to grow, so have a look around.
Maybe you’ve come to the opposite conclusion about why work isn’t working: you’re on the brink of burnout. You’re only human, so it’s totally normal to slip into quiet quitting if your job has pushed you to your breaking point. Catch your breath and wallow for a moment—just don’t let it become your permanent coping mechanism. Instead, think about what you can do to relieve your work stress: Can you reduce your working hours? Should your company hire another person to take on the extra responsibilities that’re weighing you down? Can you hand off one of your projects to a colleague?
Taking the time to look for and consider your options doesn’t mean you’ll figure out what to do in a heartbeat. In fact, that shouldn’t even be the goal here. It’s about looking up from your daily grind and realizing that you don’t have to sink into a desk zombie existence. Now it’s time to talk to someone about it.
Step 3: Talk to another human
You can’t do it all on your own: Time to bring in people who can help make the changes you need a reality. Let’s set up a chat with your supervisor and/or HR.
We’ve made this step 3 for a reason—it’s good to spend some time with yourself to think about what you need, what you’re missing and what kind of change you could benefit from before talking to others about it. That way, you and your HR person or boss can meet each other in the middle to find the best way to get you out of your funk.
Not sure how to prepare for a talk like this? Don’t worry! Your company will be grateful that you’re being proactive and letting them know that you’re not happy rather than keeping it bottled up. You don’t need to prepare a 50-slide presentation to explain yourself or know the answers to all possible questions they might ask.
Go in with these few simple things in mind:
- You’re prepared! Talk about the things you wrote down while you looked inward and ask for help with the questions and problems you don’t have answers for yet.
- It’s important to be honest. There’s no point in playing things down and trying to make your situation sound better (or worse) than it is. The more honest you are, the better your chances of getting some good out of this chat.
- Leave with an action plan. Once you’ve talked through your challenges and exchanged ideas about your options, make sure you leave with a concrete plan. Even if that plan just involves setting up a second meeting, it’ll help you and your company focus on finding a solution.
Step 4: Build connections
Planning concrete actions that dig you out of your job funk is the name of the game—but it’s not the only thing you can do. While you’re working on the job part, you can also work on your relationships with your colleagues. Even introverts (including yours truly) need human connections to keep them sane. Chances are, if your motivation on the job has been fading, your connections with people have too.
You can start with really small things. If you hit a low point during the work day, try chatting with (or messaging) a friendly coworker. Wish people happy birthday, say good morning and ask about weekends, chat up the smokers when they go out for smoke breaks, or send thank you messages when someone helps you out. Try to see the conversations you have during the day as opportunities to make connections. When you open up a little more, your coworkers will open up too. It just makes work seem a little nicer when you remember that you’re not alone.
And that’s what we’ll leave you with: You’re not alone! People everywhere are struggling with their jobs, and that’s okay—it doesn’t have to stay that way. There’s light beyond the quiet quitting tunnel.
Oh and one more thing: If you go through these steps and make the effort to kill your inner desk zombie—only to realize that your company isn’t interested in helping you do so—then it’s not time to quiet quit. It’s time to quit quit! Find a workplace where your employer cares about your development and your job gives you a sense of purpose.