The phrase “quiet quitting” has generated quite the media buzz over the last few weeks.
It all began with a TikTok video posted by @zaidleppelin describing the phrase. “You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond at work. You’re still performing your duties but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality where work has to be your life,” the TikTok video explains.
The post immediately resonated with thousands of people who felt disillusioned by the grind or hustle culture. Going above and beyond for your employer doesn’t necessarily lead to better pay, recognition, and career development. Many also shared that since adopting a quiet quitting mindset, they are less stressed and feel happier.
Dozens of articles have popped up in defense of quiet quitting, like What is ‘quiet quitting,’ and how it may be a misnomer for setting boundaries at work. Some proposed to rename it to acting your wage since people aren’t really leaving their jobs. They’re just choosing to work to live, not to live to work. It’s not a fireable offense to act your wage, is it?
Employees in pursuit of a better work-life balance should be celebrated instead of disparaged by their employers. Or the media for that matter.
Meanwhile, batting for the other side of the controversy are articles like How to prevent quiet quitting from infecting your company. As if employees who do what is asked of them are carriers of an epidemic that must be quelled immediately.
If you haven’t been paying attention, you best believe that bosses everywhere, including yours, are taking a careful inspection of their offices and their employees’ attitude towards their workplace culture.
The Office‘s Stanley Hudson Embodied the Quiet Quitting Mindset
I have to admit that my understanding of an “American workplace” is limited. My first introduction to it came from watching random episodes of NBC’s The Office. The sitcom wasn’t designed to be a case study of modern office cultures but a satire of it.
But since it first aired in 2005 and several rewatches later, too many things about The Office hit too close to home. And by home, I mean how workplaces brand themselves as their employee’s home or family.
From ineffective management to poor pay and benefits, the show is painfully relatable for today’s workers. The Office also depicted a character that best exemplifies a quiet quitter before it even became a trend: Stanley Hudson.
Portrayed by Leslie David Baker, Stanley is one of the salespeople of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch. He rarely got along with his co-workers and was always the first one out the door.
When I first saw The Office, I thought the point of Stanley’s character was to represent slackers in American workplaces who somehow survive corporate shake-ups and terminations. I’ve since changed my mind and believe he represents thousands of workers who are simply tired of the grind culture and are choosing to act their wage. In other words, Stanley Hudson from The Office is the poster child for quiet quitting.
Stanley Hudson Didn’t Do Work if He Didn’t Have To
It’s easy to assume Stanley Hudson was the slacker in The Office, a negative synonym that’s been used for people who practice quiet quitting. Slackers are characterized by their apathy and aimlessness. They do less work than they should.
Quiet quitters, on the other hand, do what is asked of them. They’re not the type to come in early and leave late, answer emails or phone calls outside work hours, and never take vacation days. That’s part of the hustle culture that Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) subscribes to — the workplace culture that quiet quitting aims to subvert.
“I never take vacations. I never get sick. And I don’t celebrate major holidays,” the branch’s top salesman says proudly. This kind of commitment usually goes unrecognized. If it does get acknowledged, many agree that the reward is not worth it.
Recall an episode of The Office where Dwight says, “I have been salesman of the month for 13 out of the last 12 months. You heard me right. I did so well last February, corporate gave me two plaques in lieu of a pay raise.”
Stanley Hudson may have been a crossword puzzle devotee but a slacker he was not. He cared about money (he was working to retire comfortably) and had a dream (to own a decommissioned lighthouse). He was really more of a quiet quitter who did the job that was outlined for him.
Unlike Dwight, he didn’t pursue a managerial position and was content being a salesman. It might have looked like he was coasting on the job but it was out of his own design.
Over the course of The Office, we do come to recognize Stanley as a good salesman. “Did you know that he has the most consistently high sales numbers in this office,” Andy Bernard (Ed Helms), the regional manager who replaced Michael Scott (Steve Carell), proclaims in defense of Stanley. He cared about his clients, was always personable, and clearly knew how to sell to them.
Stanley worked on commission and wasn’t paid by the hour. Once he hit his targets, he technically had the freedom to do whatever he wanted (usually, that’s finishing his crosswords).
The company also put a commission cap for salespeople. It wouldn’t have been fair for Stanley to keep pushing paper if he wasn’t going to get a cut of the sale. That’s free labor. This is essentially what the trend of quiet quitting is resisting: not getting paid for the work you do.
Stanley Hudson Rarely Participated in Meetings
Critics of the trend say that one of the tell-tale signs of quiet quitting in the office is low participation in meetings. They’re not enthusiastic in sharing any ideas and often just agree with whatever’s been decided by everyone else.
Fine, Stanley Hudson is guilty of this. He often spent meetings with his head buried in his newspaper, or took naps as Michael or Andy spoke about a hot topic. Quiet quitters would not be so blatant. They’re not disrespectful — they won’t yell at their boss, “Did I stutter?” They’re just disengaged.
To be fair to Stanley, meetings at Dunder Mifflin were plenty and rarely concerned work. For instance, Michael once called them all into the conference room to discuss his foot injury. He also spent work hours going over things he couldn’t be mocked for, like falling into a Koi pond.
In another episode, Andy led an impromptu sex education session — an incredibly inappropriate meeting probing into people’s personal lives.
That’s not to say that real-world company meetings venture into similar topics but they do tend to be productivity wasters. In fact, meetings were found to be one of the leading time sucks for companies. Surveys found that 90% of participants daydream and 73% do other things. Leaders think they’re being productive when they’re actually not open to feedback from their employees.
It’s more than understandable why so many people who have adopted a quiet quitting mindset don’t speak up in meetings. Their bosses or colleagues don’t listen, so they might as well reserve their feedback and ideas for people who will.
Stanley Hudson Did Not Care For Workplace Relationships
Workers who quiet quit have long resisted the idea that their place of work is their home and their colleagues their family. They’re setting healthier boundaries by sticking to professional relationships and not allowing them to spill into their personal lives.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Stanley Hudson certainly subscribed to this mindset and refrained from getting too close to his co-workers. He wasn’t always successful. Michael and everyone else still found a way to get involved in his personal life, at one point revealing to Stanley’s wife that he was having an affair.
For quiet quitting followers, maintaining a professional distance is crucial to setting a healthy work-life balance. They don’t get paid to make friends, participate in after-work hangs, or even join team-building activities. So long as they’re able to collaborate with their co-workers, why should they be pressured to build deeper connections with anyone?
The Office highlighted how involved co-workers can become in each others’ lives. They went to parties together, attended each other’s weddings, even developed romantic relationships. Stanley was dubbed the office grump and only attended these events because Michael made it mandatory to do so, which should never be the case.
Work really isn’t your family. Quiet quitters see it simply as a place of business where they get paid to perform specific tasks. And you know what? Experts argue that it’s healthier that way. You stop giving out free labor out of loyalty. It also becomes easier to separate yourself from your job without feeling like you’re betraying your family.
Stanley Hudson Knew His Labor’s Worth
Workers who practice quiet quitting understand their worth better than anyone, and they’re not willing to work for free. They see work as a transaction and only want to perform duties they’ll get compensated for. Why should that be considered slacking?
Out of all The Office characters, Stanley Hudson understood his value as a salesperson the most. He brought in money to the branch as one of the top salesmen and knew it. “I am not doing a lick more work until I get my full bonus check,” he says one time to Michael.
That went unrewarded by the Scranton branch but other managers noticed. He received an offer to transfer to the Utica branch for more money and Stanley was going to use it as leverage for higher pay or accept the offer.
Michael did what any other employer would do and tried to persuade Stanley to stay out of loyalty. In fact, he felt so betrayed that the salesman would be leaving their family that he plotted a prank against the other branch. (This one, no other employer would do.)
The trend of quiet quitting — which can be seen as an extension of the larger antiwork movement gaining steam in the U.S. — isn’t just about improving work-life balance. It also rejects the idea that employees should go above and beyond for their employers without being compensated for that extra effort.
If your employer normalizes after-work phone calls and emails, expects you to perform tasks way beyond your job description, and calls your place work a family, then it might be time to quit for good. And if another employer is willing to pay for the value of your labor, take their offer. Resist wage theft — join Stanley Hudson and thousands of other workers in quiet quitting.