You may have heard of “quiet quitting,” a term that is creating a lot of buzz around setting boundaries at work. The idea is that rather than leave a job, some workers are deciding to keep doing their duties but not go above and beyond, sparking debates about what’s “normal” when roles shift and more responsibilities are presumed to be assumed.
“Quiet quitting” is making its rounds on social media and web forums everywhere for good reason. Imagine that your manager wants you to take on more responsibility at work, but doesn’t give you a promotion. ( It’s not an uncommon story. After all, according to the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD), U.S. workers work an average of 1,791 hours per year versus an OECD country average of 1,716.) You can do one of the following:
- Grin and bear it
- Demand perks, a salary bump, or a bonus for your work
- Desperately search for guidance because no one told you how to handle this situation.
Your answer will likely vary depending on what led to the change.
Team dynamics can shift for any number of reasons. A coworker could be taking leave or a new job, the company might be downsizing, or your employer could simply decide to change your role. Whatever the catalyst, you’ll want to have a chat with your manager to define your new responsibilities, set boundaries, and ensure that you’re treated fairly.
Understand the terms
Before deciding whether or not to ask for more money or a better title, find out if your new responsibilities are permanent and what prompted them.
For example, if you’re shouldering the workload of a coworker who will be out for parental leave, you might be able to negotiate an interim salary adjustment or bonus for your temporary workload adjustment. On the other hand, if your company is cutting costs after a round of layoffs, it’s probably not a good time to ask for a raise.
Read the room and think about how your needs and the company’s needs overlap, and then you can make your move.
Ask for more
No matter how much you like to think of yourself as a “team player,” you don’t work for free. If your increased workload is due to temporary changes, like a colleague taking a sabbatical or medical leave, you should be paid for the additional work you’ll be doing. Be sure to ask for a specific number, whether it’s a raise or a bonus, and quantify that number with data.
If your workload is increasing because a colleague is leaving permanently, find out if the company is planning to fill the vacancy. If you’re absorbing duties for a vacant role that could be a promotion, ask for the promotion, or even an “acting” title to demonstrate your skills.
In situations where a raise or a title change are out of the question, get creative. Explore perks like additional paid time off or even a one-time bonus. If the company offers educational reimbursement, you could even request more tuition or training reimbursement.
In either situation, don’t let negotiations continue indefinitely. If your manager asks for more time to figure out a plan, schedule a follow-up meeting right away.
Your employer shouldn’t expect you to do the jobs of two or three people in the same amount of time for the same pay. It’s neither fair nor sustainable. Setting reasonable expectations up front for your redefined role can help you avoid burnout later.
As you discuss your workload with your manager, try to create realistic estimates for how much time you’ll need to perform each task well and ask about reassigning some of your existing workload — or pieces of the new workload — to other team members. Before leaving the meeting, set a check-in date so you can reassess the situation after you’ve had time to adapt to your new role. Some of your new duties may be easier than you expected, but you may need more training or mentorship to thrive in other areas.
Put it in writing
Ideally, you’ll be completely aligned with your manager on expectations, but it’s always best to have written terms that you can reference. That doesn’t mean you have to ask your manager to draft a to-do list for you. Instead, take notes as you discuss expectations and new assignments — plus any changes to your compensation, benefits, or title — and send your manager a follow-up email outlining what you discussed. If the company tries to renege later, you can point back to your email documenting the terms you agreed to.
While taking on extra work is challenging, it’s also a chance to show that you’re ready for bigger roles. Setting expectations and boundaries with your manager before you jump into an expanded role can help position you for success.
Whether you use the opportunity to move up the ranks within your current company or seek another position with a new employer, shifts in your workload can sometimes be stepping stones to advance your career. Embrace the change.
If you need help deciding what you will or won’t tolerate, explore our guide to setting boundaries at work.