Quiet Quitting in Japan

As COVID-19 has brought tremendous change to what we all knew as the ordinary work life, many trends have been adopted as the result of it. Over the years these trends have created what seems to be lasting changes that have created opportunities for new businesses, and for creating a better management of work-life balance. The newest of these trends is Quiet Quitting, a term that was popularized on the viral social media platform TikTok. Quiet Quitting is when employees work within defined work hours and engage solely in activities within those hours. They do not strive for promotions, take on extra work and keep a distinct boundary between their work and personal life, prioritizing their life outside of work. Although this concept has been seamlessly integrated by workers in the western world, centralized around millennials and Gen Z in the US, how has this translated over to countries that value high work ethic like Japan? 

Is Quiet Quitting happening in Japan? Meet the Yutori Generation

Surprisingly, a similar concept to Quiet Quitting, Tang Ping or “lying flat”, was popularized in China back in 2021. Conceptualized by Chinese workers that were burned out from poor management, and began prioritizing their physical and mental well-being. Even before the concept of Tang Ping and Quiet Quitting, the initial cultural shift of the Japanese outlook on society is said to have begun with the upbringing of the “Yutori Generation”, born between the late 1980s-early 2000s.

This generation was brought up with an educational system that was more lenient and student-oriented in order to foster a safer, less stressful school environment. Due to this, many people in older generations argue that the Yutori Generation lacks grit, motivation, and self-discipline. Although this is merely speculation and criticism, there is one thing the Yutori Generation has in common – they prioritize work life balance over all other generations, including Gen Z. In a survey conducted by All About, nearly 80% of workers in their 20’s were not interested in striving for or receiving a promotion. The main reasoning behind this was not wanting additional responsibilities and work at their employment. Other reasons included prioritizing work-life balance, a factor that many people in their 20’s already felt a connection to. As for the Gen Z of Japan, they strive for a work environment that is fun and stimulating but find socializing in workplace settings to be their greatest challenge. This could very well be due to the pandemic taking place during their first few years of employment. causing a great deal of stress and anxiety which may make striving for promotions and higher positions harder to imagine. On the other hand, Gen Z and millennials partaking in Quiet Quitting in the west have done so due to burnout caused by poor management.   

Will Quiet Quitting stay or will it fade?

The possibility of Quiet Quitting being adopted in Japan is a curious concept as tradition and culture often seem to be set in stone, especially in the work scene. Many articles in Japan have explored Quiet Quitting and how it would impact the company and those within it when one partakes in this concept. In an article by Kind’s Service, a human resource service company in Japan, they debate whether people who practice Quiet Quitting are truly happy, explaining how true happiness comes from the appraisal of others and feeling useful, and with Quiet Quitting one will never feel self-fulfillment by only doing the bare minimum at their workplace. With how integrated and delicate many company roles are, when one person only does their necessary tasks, the burden is placed on another worker, ultimately resulting in a troubling situation for the entire company. The potential of burdening another person, even if unintentional, is a cultural taboo especially in Japan and may be the sole reason that Quiet Quitting is not as popularized as it is in other countries. Other critics argue that Quiet Quitting does not resolve any issues and is only a temporary solution for one person. Although the idea may be pondered especially by those who are just entering the workforce, Quiet Quitting may bring flawed management and workplace systems into light which will help bring reform, but it is safe to assume that this will merely be a timely trend for now.

The center of Quiet Quitting appears to be the ability to juggle a healthy work-life balance, whether that entails a passion project, hobby, or spending time with loved ones. To all the Quiet Quitters or busy go-getters – whichever side of the coin you are on, it’s always important to set time aside to recharge and refresh before going into work the next day. Finding the right outfit for work every morning or finding time on your limited days off to drop off workwear at the dry cleaner can take away from those precious moments. Luckily, prioritizing on the things that count is in the kay me DNA. With 2-second office wear, work-to-bar dresses, and saying goodbye to fussy dry cleaner visits, spend that extra time on what you love to do the most!