- If a culture of quiet quitting has already taken root in your company, it can be reversed with some digging to understand why it’s happening.
- The cycle of quiet quitting/firing can be intercepted and eliminated through conscious and clear communication on both sides
- To find out why people quit and fire quietly, and to learn some strategies for how to break the quiet quitting and firing cycle, Allwork.Space spoke to three HR experts.
Quiet quitting and quiet firing are still dominating ‘future of work’ discourse. But in case you’ve somehow managed to evade these topics, here’s a quick definition of each:
Quiet quitting is when you do what your job demands, within the hours you’re contracted — nothing more, nothing less. Fair enough, many would argue.
Quiet firing feels a little more passive-aggressive.
It’s when a manager wants to let go of a worker, but doesn’t have the nerve or resources to do it overtly. Instead, they stop managing them in the hope that they’ll catch on and quit.
So, how do we put a stop to these workplace practices? Is quiet quitting fair game, or is it indicative of a flaw in company culture? And why is quiet firing in the limelight now?
To find out why people quit and fire quietly, and to learn some strategies for how to break the quiet quitting and firing cycle, we asked these three HR experts to share their thoughts:
Quiet quitting was the first buzzword in the series of quiets, so let’s start with that.
Why employers need to take quiet quitting seriously
If your employees are quietly quitting, perhaps it’s time to reassess your expectations. Are you expecting too much?
“Quiet quitting is the rebellion against unrealistic demands from employers, where the expectation of a 60-hour work week has become a norm, or where work demands are unrelenting,” says Jo Deal, Chief Human Resources Officer at GoTo.
“While employees may like their jobs and their colleagues, they also like having time for other things outside of work. Quiet quitting suggests that those employers have a bigger cultural problem to solve, and these businesses’ leaders need to take it seriously.”
“For some companies, it could be a sign of waning engagement, and that is not something to be ignored, as a slow erosion can do a lot of damage over time.”
Maintaining a supportive and flexible workplace culture
Deal believes that employers who “did right” by their employees during the pandemic are probably experiencing less quiet quitting than those who cut back, laid off, didn’t recognize the growing mental health or isolation challenges, and failed to support their people.
“I also see this trend being more prevalent in those companies that are forcing a return to the office, even when they had previously been supportive of remote and flexible work.
“There weren’t many silver linings in the pandemic, but one was certainly the ability to maintain a flexible work schedule and spend time during the traditional work day taking care of personal tasks, with the opportunity to finish work after the kid’s soccer game, for example.”
Employees who tend to be engaged in their work, says Deal, are the ones who feel like their workplace fulfils their needs in terms of salary, benefits, flexibility and support.
“As long as the work expectations are reasonable, I don’t think those cultures that are built for employees to thrive will see quiet quitters in their workplace.
“The ones with excessive demands and unreasonable deadlines, where you are a number or a job, not a person with a life, experiences, and unique needs and characteristics, are the ones most likely to produce disengaged employees.”
How to root out quiet quitting if it’s already happening
If a culture of quiet quitting has already taken root in your company, it can be reversed, says Deal. First, you need to do some digging to understand why it’s happening.
Deal suggests starting with exit interviews, looking at engagement survey data, and having frequent conversations with employees.
“The fix for quiet quitting doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul of the company, or even an investment of a ton of money. Often, it is the little actions that matter,” says Deal.
Put yourself in your employee’s shoes, and ask yourself (for example):
- Does my manager ask me how my weekend was?
- Do they know my daughter has sports on Wednesdays and I may be offline?
- Do they themselves work flexibly and act as a role model for balanced behavior?
“Building a strong culture of inclusion and engagement, where employees are respected as individuals and afforded balance in their lives, means they will bring their A-game in return.”
How do quiet quitting and quiet firing intersect?
Quiet quitting and quiet firing are not mutually exclusive, explains Leslie Tarnacki, SVP of Human Resources at WorkForce Software.
Both are rooted in a disconnect between the employer and the employee; a disconnect that can breed further discontent on both sides.
But what does this look like, exactly? Tarnacki uses the “seemingly simple” workplace task of scheduling to illustrate how quiet quitting can lead to quiet firing, and vice versa.
“If an employee leaves a note by the timeclock requesting not to be scheduled on a specific day and that notice is repeatedly overlooked, or possibly not even seen by the manager, it can lead to the employee feeling unheard, undervalued and then ‘quiet quit’ by doing the bare minimum at work.
“A good manager can sense this happening, course-correct through a conversation and get to the root of the disconnect. Or better yet, be alerted in a digital application of the time off request to simply make the scheduling adjustments and keep the business moving forward.
“On the other hand with quiet firing, a manager may see that an employee is always late for their shift, and instead of reaching out to the employee to understand why, they may cut back on scheduling the employee assuming they are struggling with the current workload.
“The employee may perceive the cut back in hours as ‘quiet firing’.
“Again, with proper digital technology in place to alert managers to issues like late starts, they will be able to see the pattern develop (or get notified from a workforce management application), reach out the employee and simply check-in on why the late starts are occurring.
“Together they can find a new solution on how to combat this — perhaps the employee needs to carpool with another employee in a different department who is scheduled for a later shift. Having this flexibility in scheduling could prove to be very beneficial for both the employee and the employer.”
How to identify if you’re quietly firing someone
According to Tarnacki, there are a few common signs managers should be aware of to avoid falling into a cycle of quiet firing, including:
1. Assigning easier tasks
“If a manager is only providing an employee opportunities to work on administrative type duties when they are at a level to take on more challenging projects, they are not allowing that individual to have the opportunity to showcase their strengths and abilities and grow.”
2. Isolating employees from development opportunities
“If an employer is deliberately isolating workers from leadership and development opportunities as a way to halt that person’s growth, this is a sign they’re participating in quiet firing.”
“Other signs include leaving an employee off company training emails or withholding invites to attend industry events and conferences, providing bare-minimum resources and support, or blatant discrimination instead of constructive criticism.”
3. Not giving raises or promotions
“If a manager does not provide an employee a raise or promotion for an extended period of time, or reasoning behind why, this will likely make that worker feel unvalued and unmotivated to do work that is being asked of them, causing a greater disconnection from the workplace.”
It’s clear, then, that the cycle of quiet quitting/firing can be intercepted and eliminated through conscious and clear communication on both sides.
Some people might be unaware of the fact that they are quietly firing someone.
That’s why it’s important for managers and employers to understand the signs and behaviors associated with it to become more self-aware and, ultimately, supportive of employees.
“If [quiet firing] is intentional it’s a completely different story. Candidly, this person should not be in a management role or overseeing the career development of others.
“Employers should be building their employees up and finding ways to create a better employee experience, not the opposite.
“There is a strong balance leaders need to find with their team members, but most importantly candid, open conversations need to be at the core of the relationship.”
Setting the precedent for a positive future of work
One way that employers can stem employee turnover is by building trust.
Needless to say, quiet firing is not conducive to trust, and organisations that allow it to take root and spread are more likely to experience quiet quitting and quick quitting—where employees quit their job in search of better benefits and conditions.
The antidote lies in connection, says Experiential Event Strategist, Robyn Duda. This includes face-to-face connection, which can be easily overlooked in a workplace culture in which remote communication is fast becoming the norm.
“Managers should be communicating the expectations of employees clearly. If an employee meets them, it can’t be considered ‘coasting’ or ‘doing the bare minimum’. This starts with employers properly training people managers.
“Building moments to connect deeper to the organization through retreats and offsites that tie back to the values of the organization and foster relationships greatly helps on both fronts — employers would have more empathy toward talent and employees would have more meaning in their roles,” says Duda.
“Happiness counts too,” adds Tarnacki.
“…And knowing how a team is feeling within their defined roles is part of that.”
Employers should check in regularly with employees to gauge their happiness levels and find out how they’re coping within their role. What would improve their work experience?
This might sound like more work for managers, but it can be facilitated, in part, by technology “that can alert managers of potential issues such as burnout, low levels of productivity, etc. Having this type of data and insight can lead to better morale and more productive check-ins to gauge the team’s engagement.”