'Quiet quitting' my toxic job gave me time back to start my own business. This is how I did it.
- Georgia Gadsby March spent about two years working up to 60 hours a week in a minimum-wage job.
- She "quiet quit" in the last three months to reclaim her power and set up a business in the process.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Georgia Gadsby March, co-founder and head of PR at Unearth PR, on "quiet quitting." The concept recently emerged on social media and it has been covered extensively by the mainstream press. It gained traction after Insider published a story on "coasting culture" in March. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I got a job as a marketing assistant at a retail company in 2019. It was advertised as an admin support role working with the head of marketing but I was given a lot more responsibility than the job advert described.
I was tasked with managing millions of pounds worth of budgets and heading up massive communication strategies. I had the workload of someone in senior leadership. I was working hours and hours of overtime but only being paid a very modest salary.
There was no thought to the workload, and I was given ridiculous KPIs and targets to hit. I felt like I had no choice but to do the tasks I was assigned and work overtime. On a lot of occasions, I would get a call from senior management at the weekends and while on vacation. It felt like this was an expectation of the role.
It had a huge impact on the way I lived my life, especially when I was earning such a low salary and not being compensated correctly. I was barely able to pay my rent and bills.
There was always this idea that if you work hard, you'll get a promotion or a pay rise, but those things never materialized. There was no opportunity to progress. It was a classic case of a toxic company taking advantage of people.
I was told that the company didn't have the budget to compensate me for the additional hours and effort. So in February 2021, I felt I had to "quiet quit." It was either do that or keep working 60-hour weeks. It wasn't fair and I wasn't prepared to do it anymore. "Quiet quitting" was a way to take my power back.
I was pretty open and direct about "quiet quitting." I told my manager that I couldn't continue working at that standard without being fairly compensated. They didn't really have a leg to stand on because companies can't force you to work over your contracted hours.
When you "quiet quit," you're at that point where you just don't care anymore. For me, it meant spending half an hour in the break room and having a chat with colleagues. Other times, I would let the phone ring three or four times before I'd answer it.
"Quiet quitting" for three months gave me the time back to start my own business. I set up a business — a brand awareness agency — with my wife during that time. The company I worked at threw me in at the deep end and I learned a lot. I put all that knowledge into starting my own business in April 2019. I took back my power and chose to make money for myself instead.
I was working less and they couldn't really say anything, but I received microaggressions from management about why I was leaving at 5 p.m. or being told I went for a long lunch when I was gone for an hour.
I would take my time responding to emails or get back from my lunch break five minutes late. There's a saying in our industry that "it's PR, not ER" so it wasn't the end of the world when I was meeting the minimum requirements of the job. It improved my mental health.
"Quiet quitting" is really beneficial for workers that feel undervalued. It's not something I would recommend if you do want to have a lengthy career at a company and you want to be promoted.
But it can be a way to establish healthy work-life boundaries, especially if you're working hard and are not rewarded through pay rises or promotions.
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