Quiet Quitting & Quiet Firing – Why is Everything So Quiet?

Quiet Quitting – You’ve certainly heard the phrase before. At its trending peak in 2022, thanks to viral Tik Tok videos, quiet quitting became the term du jour.  As a Gallup poll reveals, “quiet quitters make up at least 50 percent of the U.S. workforce, probably more.” While not new in practice, many employees are choosing to perform at a bare minimum level, doing just enough to meet expectations. 

Quiet firing, like quiet quitting, is also not new. In response to employees whose performance is seen as quiet quitting, some managers intentionally create a difficult work environment, pass over an employee for promotion/raise or initiate proceedings for termination. A LinkedIn News poll found that 83 percent of respondents reported having faced it themselves or seen it used in the workplace. In a market where retention and staffing shortages reign, it is more critical than ever for leaders to acknowledge and avoid the behavior. 

Now there’s quiet hiring which follows the previously mentioned workplace trends as an organization’s response to staffing shortages and skill gaps. Existing employees are assigned to new roles or have their responsibilities expanded. In addition, some organizations may hire temporary workers to perform specific tasks related to an acute business need. In any case, a company employing quiet hiring is not using traditional channels to openly advertise an open position but, in many cases, works internally to fill the gap. 

But why is everything so QUIET?  

These nonverbal disputes stem from failing employee/employer communications. In September 2022, ResumeBuilder.com surveyed 1,000 managers with at least one report and found that 1 in 3 managers responded to quiet quitting with passive-aggressive ‘quiet firing’ behaviors. In addition, 51% of managers reported that they hadn’t had a formal discussion with their report because they didn’t like confrontation. Communication is of paramount importance to properly establish a productive work environment and clear expectations. Listed below are five suggested ways managers can avoid quiet firing shared in a recent SHRM article: 

  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable. 
  • Get to know your staff. 
  • Conduct informal check-ins. Stay interviews 
  • Practice. Rehearse what you want to say 
  • Increase communication. 

Company culture and employee engagement play a key role as well. Quiet quitting can feed into quiet firing which is detrimental to positive company culture. Managerial issues related to remote and hybrid work arrangements (e.g., poor supervisor support, lack of accountability) can also negatively impact work culture. Organizational leaders must also recognize the cost associated with quiet firing, realized as lost employee performance and productivity.   

Coming out of the pandemic, employees have shifted their priorities and now place greater importance on work-life balance, rejecting the ‘hustle culture’. In response, companies, managers and leaders need to adapt and utilize clear communication to illustrate expectations and likely outcomes based on employee performance. 

In October 2021, The HR Source published a blog addressing The Great Resignation. Within this discussion we highlighted the importance of workplace culture for employee retention. Now, in 2023, HR departments in organizations large and small continue to grapple with upheaval in the workplace. What resonates LOUD and clear is being QUIET is not the answer. Active conversations foster employee engagement which supports a positive work culture.  

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