Quiet quitting has drawn attention to genuine issues facing today’s workforce. But should you “quiet quit”? What is the biblical perspective on quiet quitting?
In 1999 a comedy film was released that centered on a character who absolutely despises his office job. Throughout the film, he progressively embraces not caring and openly flaunts doing the bare minimum at work.
At one point, when asked about his job performance, the character says: “My only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know . . . that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired” (Office Space).
What this film poked fun at 24 years ago—a dissatisfied employee putting in minimal effort—now has a popular name: quiet quitting.
What exactly is quiet quitting?
Quiet quitting has come to describe employees who express their job dissatisfaction by putting only minimum effort into it, sometimes just enough to avoid being fired. It has also been described as coasting on the job.
In other words, quiet quitters mentally disengage from their jobs. Instead of putting in their maximum effort, they do only the tasks they are explicitly paid to do in their job description. Nothing more, nothing less.
Some behaviors commonly cited as indications of quiet quitting include:
- Only putting in the required 40 hours and not a second more.
- Refusing to respond to emails outside of work hours.
- Being openly cynical toward their employer.
- Refusing to go “the extra mile” beyond the normal duties.
- Refusing to work with and interact with coworkers.
Some have creatively described this approach as “acting your wage”—in other words, doing only the amount of work you feel your pay is worth and nothing more.
The hashtag #quietquitting has become popular on the Internet, where workers explain how and why they’ve quit without actually quitting.
Why are employees quiet quitting?
A Gallup poll conducted in 2022 found that at least 50 percent of American workers practice some form of quiet quitting and 18 percent are “actively disengaged.”
But to understand this problem, we should consider some of the factors behind it:
- Insufficient pay and inflation. Many feel frustrated that their salary has not risen at a pace equal to inflation. Inflation has led them to feel they’re doing the same amount of work (or more) for less money.
- Feeling disrespected. Many employees say they feel disrespected by employers who continually ask more and more of them, but refuse to compensate them for extra duties or to respect their personal time.
- Discouragement. Many workers, especially young adults, feel that they’ve been cheated out of the things middle-class workers in previous generations enjoyed, such as owning property and being able to afford a comfortable lifestyle and retire at a reasonable age.
- Burnout. Many feel their job requirements have encroached too far into their personal lives. Because they feel their work-life balance is being compromised, they are pushing back.
These issues shouldn’t be casually dismissed. Employers should use this trend as a wake-up call and reconsider how much they are demanding of their employees and how they are compensating them.
However, employees should also understand that it’s not as simple as employers waving a magic wand and demanding less and paying more. Businesses are also facing daunting economic realities that, in many cases, make solutions difficult or impossible.
Perhaps, the first step is for both sides, in an attitude of mutual respect, to come to a better understanding of the challenges each is dealing with. Sadly, this approach is rarely practiced in our world today.
What is the biblical perspective on work-life balance?
According to its proponents, quiet quitting is merely a way to defend their work-life balance by denying demands for anything more than the proverbial nine-to-five.
The Bible does teach that balance is important in all areas of life—especially in our professional and personal lives.
In fact, God embedded this principle into the 10 Commandments. The Fourth Commandment requires us to rest on the seventh day of each week. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work” (Exodus 20:9-10).
The Sabbath’s primary purpose is to provide us a day to draw closer to God. But its secondary purpose is to provide a day of physical rest from our daily labor. Many studies have confirmed that a weekly day of rest is a key to good health.
Christians should be uncompromising in their refusal to work on the Sabbath. When the sun sets on Friday evening, normal work should cease for 24 hours. No work emails. No work stress. (To learn more, read “How to Keep the Sabbath Holy.”)
Furthermore, the other six days of the week should include leisure and rest time too. The Bible shows the value of adequate sleep every night (Psalm 4:8; Proverbs 3:24; Ecclesiastes 5:10). It also teaches that work should be balanced with time for education, hobbies and recreation (Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:4; 8:15; Proverbs 9:9; 17:22).
Jesus understood and practiced these principles by getting away from the hustle and bustle of His ministry (Matthew 14:23; Luke 5:16).
Workaholism and a lifestyle of constant anxiety are neither healthy nor biblical. The Bible encourages us to “be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6) and presents overbusyness in a negative light (Daniel 12:4; Luke 10:41).
What does the Bible say about our approach to work?
The real problem with quiet quitting is the attitude behind it. Descriptions of the phenomenon usually include words and phrases like disengaged, no longer going “the extra mile,” decreased initiative and sometimes isolation.
Even though the Bible doesn’t advocate workaholism, it does teach that having a strong work ethic is important both physically and spiritually.
The book of Proverbs uses the word diligent to describe the correct approach to work (Proverbs 10:4; 13:4; 21:5; 27:23). Merriam-Webster.com defines diligent as “characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort.” This word encapsulates the biblical approach to work:
- Steady: We should consistently give our best effort and focus on our work.
- Earnest: We should take our work seriously and value it highly.
- Energetic: We should put our full energy and effort into our work when we’re on the job.
In other words, we apply the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” Don’t just coast and do the bare minimum—put your all into your work during work time.
Employees today can face genuine challenges, but quiet quitting is not the solution.Yes, many are understandably demoralized by the realities of our age, such as inflation and increasing workloads. We know that many are discouraged because they feel trapped in jobs that provide just enough security to pay the bills, but not enough to really get ahead in life. And we absolutely know there are employers who expect more for less.
But here’s the key point: If we take the Bible seriously, then we have to be serious about applying its guidance despite our circumstances. The Bible instructs us to work with diligence by putting our best effort, energy and focus into our work. This will undoubtedly result in physical benefits and new opportunities opening up to us, but it isn’t just a physical principle.
It is primarily a spiritual issue.
Ultimately, the Bible instructs us to approach our work as if God were our employer (Ephesians 6:5-7; Colossians 3:22-23). Christians must always strive to show respect and honor when interacting with their supervisor (1 Timothy 6:1). This approach can change our perspective on the physical circumstances we find ourselves in and help us maintain a proper attitude.
It’s also an issue of example. By always working hard and maintaining an attitude of respect, our example will shine as a light and help us stand out in a positive way (Matthew 5:16).
Ultimately, Christians are striving for a far higher calling, growing in godly character and preparing to serve in God’s Kingdom. Learn more in our free booklet The World to Come: What It Will Be Like.
Four alternatives to quiet quitting
If you are struggling with your job, here are four better ways to handle a discouraging work situation:
- Be open and honest. If you feel your job isn’t allowing a healthy work-life balance, consider having an open and respectful conversation with your supervisor about the issue. If you feel your boss would be open to this conversation, you can respectfully communicate your boundaries, while also being reasonable in case of emergencies. This approach is better than bottling up frustration and passive-aggressively revealing it through your job performance.
- Don’t reject the “extra mile.” Interestingly, the “go the extra mile” principle comes from Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:40-42). He taught that if someone in authority compels you to do something, do even more. Going above and beyond is just another way of applying Ecclesiastes 9:10. Don’t reject the principle, but also be careful about letting others abuse it. Find the balance.
- Try to find meaning in your work. It’s understandable that you might struggle if you don’t find meaning in your work. With some jobs, it may take looking deeper to see how your job benefits not only your employer, but also your community and society.
- If the situation seems hopeless, move on. If your good faith efforts to set boundaries and to find meaning in your work seem ineffective, then the best option may be to search for new employment. There is no biblical principle that compels us to stay in a job that is causing bitterness or burnout.
Employees today can face genuine challenges, but quiet quitting is not the solution.