Office Space, Mike Judge’s cult-classic workplace comedy from 1999, offers a prescient example of the current “ghost quitting” trend. Early in the film, Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), a waitress at a kitschy diner, is confronted by her boss (Judge) over her lack of ambition in regards to her “flair.” At Chotchkie’s, staff are required to wear a minimum of 15 pieces of “flair” (colourful pins and badges), meant to demonstrate their personality. While Jonna is wearing the requisite 15 pieces, her boss chastises her for only doing the bare minimum required for her job.
“Now if you feel that the bare minimum is enough, then okay,” he concedes in a disappointing tone. “But some people choose to wear more and we encourage that, okay?” Fed up with the restaurant’s nebulous expectations that seem to be punishing her for doing her job properly, Joanna quits on the spot. In her mind, no menial job is worth this level of painstaking oversight and second-guessing.
Looking at the scenario today, Jonna may have been “quiet quitting” her job for some time – doing the minimum amount of work to avoid being fired, without ever going above and beyond. That “quiet quitting” attitude may have led to her “ghost quitting” – walking off the job with no notice.
Sometimes used interchangeably, “ghost quitting” and “quiet quitting” are terms that have sprung up in the post-COVID business world. Remote work has increased dramatically, and workers have begun placing a larger emphasis on their mental health and work-life balance.