Why ‘quiet quitting’ is not an option for many women

As 'quiet quitting' sweeps workforces, research warns that it’s not an option for all and that it disproportionately impacts women and people of colour

“Quiet quitting” has dominated the news for the past few months as it’s Gen Z’s solution to avoiding workplace burnout. 

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, quiet quitting is performed by those who plan to only fulfil duties that are exactly stated in their job description – so, in other words, they strive to achieve the bare minimum of what their role requires. This may look like logging off dead on 5pm (or maybe a few minutes early) and refusing additional work (even if there’s the capacity for it).

"Employee engagement had been on the rise for a decade and then starting in the second half of 2021, concurrent with mass quit rates, the percentage of engaged workers dropped and the percentage that are actively disengaged grew," says researcher Jim Harter.

Burnout among women and people of colour

Although quiet quitting has received mixed reviews, many have defended the movement for safeguarding employees against workplace burnout.

However, women and people of colour are most likely to feel the highest level of burnout, yet they are often not in the position to just quietly quit.

In fact, since the COVID-19 pandemic, McKinsey and Lean In has shared that burnout levels have risen for women. In McKinsey’s Women In The Workplace 2021 report, the burnout gap between women and men has been shown to double since 2020 and burnout has been described as a response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stress.

In addition, a 2021 poll by Gallup found that women working in the US experience higher rates of career burnout, compared to men.

Quiet quitting is not an option 

It’s no secret that women and people of colour have a larger number of obstacles to overcome in the workplace, meaning they often have to work harder to see similar levels of success to their male counterparts.

For example, for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted to the same level – or 89 white women and 85 women of colour – meaning there are far fewer women to be promoted to higher levels. Largely because of these gender gaps, men end up holding 62% of manager positions, while women hold only 38%.

In her book, “Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing and Underliving,” Celeste Headlee explains how often when women or people of colour try to establish healthy boundaries to avoid workplace burnout, they’re labelled as ‘trouble makers’, and can face much more servers punishments than those who are not in a minority. 

So whether you’re an advocate of quiet quitting or not, it’s important to understand that not everyone has the luxury of ‘doing the bare minimum’.


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