Short video, big debate: In the summer, a user published a 17-second video on Tiktok. Regarding everyday scenes, he explains in English: "I recently learned the term Quiet Quitting. You don't quit your job, but you say goodbye to the idea of always exceeding its requirements. You still fulfill your duties, but you no longer feel like one mentality that dictates work is your life."
Millions of people saw the clip. The term quickly made a career on the Internet: Hundreds of thousands discussed it on networks such as Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin - especially Generation Z and the younger millennials. Major newspapers such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal also took up the topic. But what exactly is the background to Quiet Quitting? And does the phenomenon have the potential to turn the labor market in Germany upside down?
Quiet Quitting literally means silent termination. However, this has nothing to do with the inner resignation, which is known above all to work psychologists and means the extensive refusal to work. Many, on the other hand, understand the trend as being about setting boundaries. This does not exclude performance - but only within the agreed framework. Without special tasks and overtime in the evenings and at weekends. Quiet acknowledgment is therefore often referred to as service to rule.
Quiet quitting strikes a chord with young people
"We're getting even closer to what is actually meant when you imagine: These are job starters," says youth researcher Klaus Hurrelmann. In the companies they come across a tradition of work ethic, work rhythm and work style shaped by the older generation. "And somehow they don't find that convincing and good." Hurrelmann assumes that this will strike a chord with many young people - including in Germany.
This attitude is vastly different from that of many older people. "Here it was still said: The job is progressing, you have to persevere and put the family back if necessary," says the researcher. But the boys are afraid of being exploited around the clock. "They prefer to close the bulkheads in good time, so they cut back on their jobs and invest in their own quality of life."
The trend in Germany is favored by the current situation on the labor market. There is almost full employment - this will also be shown by the labor market figures for October, which will be presented this Wednesday. Many companies are desperately looking for skilled workers. According to data from the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), there were 1.9 million vacancies in the second quarter of this year - more than ever before. At the same time, baby boomers are gradually leaving the world of work. According to a study by the Institute of German Economics, by 2035 there could be a shortage of more than three million workers.
The following years cannot close this gap - an imbalance arises. "The well-qualified young people feel that. And they notice: The market has turned, market power is increasing, labor market power, so to speak. It is now up to them," says Hurrelmann. This is an impertinence for many companies.
"During the debate, we have already heard statements from company managements that reacted in a really insulting, moralizing and derogatory way," says Hurrelmann. But that doesn't hit the nerve at all. Rather, companies should react with care and interest, allow leeway, arouse motivation and offer responsibility. "But that can be solved," said the researcher.
Quiet quitting has not yet been systematically researched. According to the polling institute Gallup, only around a third of all workers in the USA are still engaged in their job. A good 50 percent worked to rule. A decline in commitment and employer satisfaction can be observed, especially among the under 35s. A careers study by the insurer HDI showed that the commitment to work in Germany is declining, especially among boys: 58 percent of those under 25 said that they could not imagine life without a job, in 2020 it was 69 percent .
Don't work less, work differently
However, labor market researcher Enzo Weber from the IAB has his doubts as to whether the Tiktok trend has much in common with the reality on the German labor market. "The desire for the length of working hours hasn't changed at all. So that people today somehow no longer feel like working and want to work less is not obvious when you collect a representative survey," he explains. According to Weber, other indicators in his field, such as the part-time quota and the number of overtime hours worked, do not yet point to such a trend.
According to Weber, the younger generation doesn't want to work less, but rather differently: "People today have different and sometimes higher demands. They want more individual working hours that adapt more to their own lives and not the other way around." The same applies to the place of work. After the experiences of the corona pandemic, mobile working is a standard requirement that no employer can avoid in corresponding jobs.
"So the requirement is not that every company has to install any kind of feel-good landscape. These are clichés from Silicon Valley that German medium-sized companies don't have to deal with," said Weber. The first priority is practical questions, such as whether you can make a career with 35 hours a week, adjust working hours flexibly and have a say in the work content. "So the wishes and demands are there, but they don't seem to be well described with Quiet Quitting," he sums up.