Employee Relations, Human Resources, Leadership

“Quiet Quitting” and “Quiet Firing” Are Not New Trends

You may have heard the phrases “quiet quitting” and “quiet firing” lately in the news, as if its some new trend that has started up following the COVID pandemic but the basis behind each coined phrase now is not something that is new or started only recently.  There is just more of a focus on each because of a renewed focus on company culture.

Let’s start with: What is “quiet quitting”?

Zaid Khan, an engineer from New York, popularized this phrase with his viral Tiktok video in July 2022.  Quiet Quitting refers to employees that only engage in what is required of their daily duties and only during paid work hours.  They don’t take on additional tasks and they don’t make themselves available outside of work hours.  Some, not all, are also actively looking for new employment opportunities.  It’s a concept that has been going on for decades but now has a name attached to it.

Employers have undoubtedly been aware of this phenomenon for some time but may not have paid much attention to it in the past because they felt they could just easily find a replacement.  What changed after the pandemic to make this more of an issue is the fact that people of all generations learned and embraced that work-life balance is essential now, not just a hopeful consideration.  Gone are the days of people killing themselves working for a company in order to progress up the ladder. 

Why the uptick in urgency over this is the inability for companies to be able to quickly fill open roles these days.  Either because they complicate the hiring process or aren’t willing to embrace the changes necessary for retention, companies are having to disburse duties among those employees they do have on the payroll without any monetary benefit to the employee….and they are getting sick of it.

But, like I said, the basis behind “quiet quitting” or “I’m only going to do the job I was hired for” isn’t new.  My personal experience has seen this happen more often in smaller companies with less of a budget assigned to employee pay.

But what is “quiet firing” then?

You may be more familiar with the phrase “creating a hostile work environment” but Quiet Firing is when the employer knows they don’t have justification to fire an employee legally (“I don’t like their personality anymore” as an example) so they take steps to make the job so miserable that the employee will just quit.

Another practice that has been in play for decades but as employees are arming themselves with more knowledge around employment law and recognizing the signs.  In some cases, this is what leads to an employee “quiet quitting”….a test to see which side will cave first.

Whether its reducing hours or criticizing performance without basis, employers see it as a way to ride themselves of an employee they no longer desire and probably think that will keep them from an unemployment claim since “quitting” is a disqualifier.  But when employers are not careful it what or how they conduct themselves, these actions actually create a paper trail to prove that they were intentionally trying to force an employee to quit.

As a leader in your organization, what should you do?

It all comes back to communication

This is why “management” is more than just telling people what to do.  Do you have a relationship with your employees?  Do they trust you enough to let you know when they are not happy?  Let’s remember that time at work is only a part of an employee’s day.  They could be experiencing something at home that is causing them to change their attitude at work.  Some use work as an outlet to escape those problems and get too intense into the job.  That conversation may just turn things around and remind you both why you wanted to work there.

If things really aren’t a fit anymore or the employee really isn’t happy working there, find an honest solution – work out a strategy to help them find new employment. 

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