Quiet quitting in France: all the key information you need to understand the phenomenon and its impact on the workplace

I’m staying… but I’m quitting”… In the minds of French quiet quitters.


Quiet quitting in France: buzzword, craze or real underlying trend?

The phenomenon is a fascinating one to study, but it hasn’t yet revealed all its secrets.

In my Executive Coaching practice, I meet a growing number of leaders who are at a loss when it comes to these new challenges.

I help them to get back on track, by decoding what’s going on behind the scenes so they can deal with it more effectively.

We take a look at this phenomenon in the western world and examine the situation in France in four sections:

Quiet quitting, a social phenomenon from across the Atlantic


You’ve probably noticed the wave…

Originally from the USA, the phenomenon of quiet quitting has massively infiltrated French offices in the wake of Covid. Embedded in the big resignation wave of 2022, when nearly two million employees left their jobs in the course of the year, it is its more docile extension.

After an extraordinary buzz that spread via TikTok last August, things seem to be winding down or retreating into the shadows. In this short video, engineer and musician Zaid Khan, aka Zaidleppelin, proclaimed his refusal to do more than he had to:

“Work is not life, and a person’s worth cannot be defined by their rate of productivity”.

That was all it took for the hashtag #quietquitting to catch on.

The twentysomething defines quiet quitting as a minimal level of commitment to one’s work. In short, strict compliance with his job description.

So apparently the rebellion is subtle: terms of the working contract are respected, on the surface, there’s no bubble.

So what?

And then, the break is very real, at least in Anglo-Saxon countries.

In a corporate culture where exceeding hierarchical expectations and going the extra mile are the norm… Where working long hours, team-building and making the company a second family are implicitly expected of everyone… In a society where an individual’s productivity and professional performance seem largely to define him or her…

In such a paradigm, not constantly outdoing yourself is equivalent to… resigning, and often being labelled a loser.

In this context, refusing to make work the measure of ‘success’ is an act of resistance that has become a social phenomenon.

What is the situation in France?


Quiet quitting in France: the impact?


According to a study by the Davos Forum (World Economic Forum), almost 40% of employees worldwide have considered leaving their jobs in 2021, and many of them have opted for quiet quitting.

COVID seems to have played a key role.

With the pandemic, workers were faced with greater challenges such as remote working, burnout and mental health problems, which led them to rethink their priorities and seek more flexible and meaningful employment opportunities.

This trend is also being observed in France. However, the figures are harder to assess due to the discreet nature of the phenomenon.


What does quiet quitting means in France?


The corporate culture here is somewhat different…

If “Work myself to death? Never again” might be the motto of American quiet quitters, but “Going the extra mile? What’s the point?” could be the motto of their French counterparts.

In short, French quiet quitters refuse to:

  • take on the work of absent colleagues
  • do the menial tasks that nobody wants
  • work overtime
  • demands outside working hours
  • the pressure to perform in hope of promotion or greater recognition
  • be blackmailed into constant emergency

These employees set up strict barriers between their professional and personal lives to protect themselves against the stress of a high work pace and the disenchantment of a lack of gratitude or recognition.

Is work a French passion? A revealing poll and areas for improvement


An IFOP survey in 2023 revealed just how “passionate” the French are about their work.

58% see it as a necessary constraint to meet their needs and only 42% see it as a means of fulfilment.

What’s more, this phenomenon seems to resonate more with Generation Z and millennials, who reject the burn-out of their elders and seek a real balance between the professional and personal spheres.

Human Resources professionals must learn to deal with this new situation.

To create a working environment conducive to employee commitment, it is essential to take their expectations into account. Questionnaires and collaborative workshops can help to understand employees’ expectations in terms of quality of life at work.

Some good practices for avoiding quiet quitting might include:

  • taking greater account of employees’ wishes
  • a realistic expectation of the role of work in absolute terms (to what extent should work fulfil the individual?)
  • injecting meaning into every decision that has an impact on work organization.
  • keeping a watchful eye on the pace of organizational change (the more frequent it is, then the less sense employees make of it)
  • developing time and space for discussion between teams (strengthening everyone’s participation and inclusion)
  • the introduction of a new management model based more on trust and recognition.
  • expanding the range of flexible working options (hybrid working, flexible working hours)
  • greater involvement in CSR (social and environmental responsibility) initiatives

For a good relationship to develop, it seems that the expectations of both parties, employees and management, need to be reassessed in order to define or redefine the nature of professional obligations, as well as the place and role of work in an individual’s life.

Global pandemics, inflation, natural disasters, war on Europe’s doorstep… Changing attitudes to the relationship between work and family life are the result of a cocktail of factors that have led to the strengthening of individualism, the denunciation of abusive managerial practices and the good old “That’s the way we’ve always done it!


To conclude, an enlightening picture of the relation with work!


But make no mistake, for the French, work is still important.

The figures for those surveyed are stable, although they have fallen slightly. In 1990, 92% of respondents felt that work was important, compared with 84% in 2022.

But is work still very important? That’s the heart of the matter.

In 1990, 60% of the French considered it to be so. By 2022, the figure had dropped to only 21%… regardless of gender, age or socio-professional class. In every category, the percentage drops around the age of twenty.

Even the world’s factory, China, seems to be hit by this downward revision of career ambitions. There, Tangping, or lying on the floor, was introduced in 2021 as a form of protest against overwork and the cult of work.

In just over ten years, we have seen a radical shift in opinion.

In 2008, 62% of French people preferred to earn more money and have less free time.

In 2022, the opposite is true: 61% would rather earn less and have more free time! That’s a complete departure from the “work more to earn more” approach…

But let’s temper the facts. This new preference is very strong among employees, particularly women (64%) and those in higher categories (72%).

Key takeaways :


“I don’t do more than my job description says”. That’s what a French quiet quitter might say when asked to explain his disengagement at work.

Progressive and silent, quiet quitting is a real challenge for executives, HR and managers. Sometimes difficult to detect, it can have harmful consequences for productivity and team cohesion.

In 2022, the overwhelming majority of participants in a survey said they would prefer to have more free time and less money… So there is a clear shift in the centre of gravity of people’s motivations, which no doubt goes hand in hand with a greater affirmation of their factors of well-being.

Will a tighter separation between work and personal life, with the former no longer overlapping with the latter, develop into a new work philosophy in France?

Progressive and silent, quiet quitting is a real challenge for directors, HR and managers. Sometimes difficult to detect, it ends up having harmful consequences for productivity and team cohesion.

The role of leaders and HR is crucial in preventing the short- or long-term disengagement of French employees in the months and years to come.

Caroline Hercz

Executive Coach

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