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You’ve heard of ‘quiet quitting.’ Now try ‘quiet thriving.’

Advocate for a cause, find one thing to love, craft your job and cultivate a best friend at work. These and other ways can help you feel more engaged on the job.

A woman looking out the window from her office desk. The reflection shows a pink sky and bright sunshine.
(Celia Jacobs for The Washington Post)
5 min

I’m trained as a psychotherapist, but sometimes I consider pursuing a degree in career counseling. About half my session time is spent helping patients process their frustrations with bad bosses, cranky colleagues, unrealistic workloads, microaggressions, feeling out of the loop and other vexing work problems.

It makes sense that patients bring their work issues to therapy: Americans spend 40-plus hours a week on the job, our identities are often tied to our careers, and workplaces (real or virtual) and the people in them can be hair-raisingly annoying. Just 33 percent of employees feel fully engaged at work, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce: 2022 Report.

The coronavirus pandemic switched up the traditional frustrations. Suddenly employees were rethinking their relationship to work. They were quitting, forming unions, enjoying newfound flexibility and refusing to return to the office — even when they were urged to do so.

“We’re having conversations that we never had before,” said Lindsey Cameron, assistant professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “When workers compare how they are doing now to, say, 10 to 15 years ago, a lot has changed and improved.”

If you’re frustrated at work — and who isn’t some of the time — quiet quitting, where you essentially disengage and do the bare minimum, is not the only answer. You can also try “quiet thriving,” which involves taking specific actions and making mental shifts that help you to feel more engaged on the job.

“When you’re feeling stuck in your job, and miserable every weekday morning, it’s easy to assume that everything stinks — and will never get better,” writes Shana Lebowitz Gaynor in her new book, “Don’t Call it Quits.” “This is rarely true.”

Here are 10 steps you can take to thrive at work.

Advocate for a cause. People tend to feel better when they take action. Find something that’s important to you and talk to your manager in a friendly collaborative way about making a change. Could meetings be shorter? Could hybrid work schedules be more accessible? Could the company offer a fun diversion such as a softball team? If you get shot down, follow up to understand why.

Find one thing to love or like. Our brains are designed to dwell on the negative, on what’s going wrong instead of what’s going right. Hit override. Focus on what you like about your job, write it on a Post-it, review and update daily.

Craft your job. The concept of job crafting, which was developed by organizational psychologists Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane E. Dutton, encourages employees to “craft” a job that’s more appealing to them, either with the help of a manager or on their own. What part of your job do you want to amplify — such as working on pro bono projects, being on a diversity task force or running focus groups? Maybe there’s something that’s not even part of your job — such as being a resource for new employees or starting an employee newsletter — that would make your days feel more meaningful.

“When people take initiative out of a sense of curiosity and enjoyment rather than external pressure, they tend to perform better,” says Samir Nurmohamed, an associate professor of management at the Wharton School, who has studied the issue.

Cultivate a best friend at work. Research by Gallup says that employees who have a close work pal are significantly more likely to innovate, feel engaged and have fun on the job. Start conversations with colleagues.

Set intentions. “I don’t like goals,” says Julia Erickson, an executive coach and co-author of “Betrayed by Work.” “When you don’t reach them, then you end up feeling bad about yourself.” Instead set daily, weekly or yearly positive intentions for yourself. For example, you might say to yourself on Monday morning, “I am not going to let the job raise my blood pressure. When I start to feel an adrenaline response, I am going to take three deep breaths and a short walk.”

Join a group. If you feel like an outsider in your workplace, look for, or start, a group of like-minded colleagues. If your company has employee resource groups, consider joining. If not, look for such a group outside work, Cameron suggests.

Set boundaries. Being ultra-busy has been glorified in corporate life and 28 percent of employees in the United States say they feel burned out at work often or always. If you’re a remote worker, give yourself a firm deadline. At the end of her work day, a colleague throws a tablecloth over her computer and cellphone, and disengages.

Insert fun breaks. Taking even 10 minutes to do something pleasurable can help you be more productive afterward, according to a study published in the Journal of Labor Economics. Have a sketch pad by your desk and doodle, listen to energizing music, or — if at home — play fetch with your dog. Schedule breaks on your calendar and mix it up day-to-day.

Make an accomplishments list. This activity serves two purposes, says employee coach Erickson. You will feel better about yourself and have material for your résumé. “One of the main reasons people get stuck in jobs they don’t like is they don’t have the confidence to leave,” Erickson says. Boost yourself up. Review and update your list weekly.

Seek expert advice. If you’re feeling trapped, excluded or ready to quit, seek advice from a trusted mentor, career consultant, employee coach or a therapist who specializes in professional challenges. An expert can help you draw a job improvement plan or a job-change strategy.

Jobs are still plentiful, and opportunities for change abound. There’s no need to be miserable at work.

Lesley Alderman is a psychotherapist based in Brooklyn.

We welcome your comments on this column at

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