This summer, ‘quiet quitting’ took the internet by storm. TikTok and media outlets were abuzz with talk about the official resignation from hustle culture.
A pledge to do the bare minimum. No more above and beyond. In at 9 and out by 5. The rise in quiet quitting comes in parallel to workers' growing frustration with low salaries and unhealthy work cultures. Although meant for the workforce, a recent survey shows college students have embraced the phenomenon too. More than half of students say they put less effort into their schoolwork in order to preserve their mental health.
Our generation has made great progress in destigmatizing mental health. Thirty years ago, mental health would not have been a valid reason for taking time off of work or missing school. Now, bosses and professors are becoming more accommodating of mental health needs.
I understand that stress and burnout can cause mental health issues. That’s not what I'm talking about. The issue is that mental health has been added to the laundry list of reasons that are generally accepted but difficult to prove for excused absences or late assignments: sickness, family emergencies, etc.
Mental health is not and should not be an excuse for everything. By taking advantage of this seemingly unconditional acceptance of mental health, a disservice is done to those who actually struggle.
School can be difficult. That is a given, but lowering your effort is not the solution. Clubs centered around wellness and mental health awareness do important work. But that shouldn’t come at the expense of success or the hard work required to achieve it. Too often the narrative is that you sacrifice your mental health by working too hard, so the logical alternative is to work less hard as a form of self-care. The key is finding balance. Which is, of course, easier said than done. Time management, increasing efficiency and not overextending yourself with commitments are ways to find that balance.
Perhaps Penn’s unofficial motto can offer some guidance: work hard, play hard. When it’s time to work, you give your full effort. When it’s time to play, you focus on only that.
Besides, there are benefits to working hard and going beyond the bare minimum. For one, you learn and understand more if you take the time to complete optional readings or practice problems. And it’s pretty obvious to professors when you put in that extra effort: which means a potential recommendation letter in the future or maybe the opportunity to work on research.
In fact, quiet quitting has actually backfired in the workplace with the emergence of quiet firing. Bosses give employees less work and responsibilities because they associate their minimal effort with minimal potential.
Penn students chase after prestigious jobs in banking and consulting, coming with hefty hours and compensations. If you quiet quit now, the transition to the workplace will be especially challenging.
When you quiet quit at work, you are grinding for someone else who may not appreciate your work or compensate you well. But if you quiet quit in college, you are quitting on you and your own future. This is the time when you acquire life long skills and knowledge. If you quiet quit now, you are only hurting yourself.
This is especially true at a school like Penn. After all, the admissions office says “Penn is a place that’s known for firsts. For greats. For sparking revolutionary ideas. For Ivy League prestige and Philly spirit. And for nurturing innovative thinkers who see that the way things are isn’t the way things have to be.”
Quiet quitting is seeing and accepting that the way things are is the way things have to be. It certainly doesn’t produce firsts or greats because the bare minimum can only yield results that others have reached before.
As revolutionary as quiet quitting may seem for your mental health, you will never be revolutionary if you choose to do so.
YOMI ABDI is a Wharton sophomore studying finance from Chicago. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.