Quiet Quitting and Quiet Firing – Unproductive Workforce Trends

Quiet Quitting and Quiet Firing – Unproductive Workforce Trends

by Sara Bennett | October 20, 2022

0 Blog, INFO AND RESOURCES FOR EMPLOYERS employee, Hiring/Firing, quiet firing, Quite Quitting, Why Are Employees and Their Bosses Going Quiet?, workplace

Going QUIET – What’s it all about?

Quiet quitting is everywhere in the news – rearing its head as the newly coined phrase that describes employees who do the “bare minimum” – no longer going above and beyond their essential job duties.  It is not really a new trend but a new phrase to describe a cycle of “employee disengagement” that has been around for a very long time.

Something not getting much attention, on the other hand is quiet firing – again a relatively new phrase to describe something that has been around for a long time – employers who either deliberately or inadvertently make an employee’s work environment unpleasant – in many cases hoping “quietly” that the employee will quit.

Both are passive-aggressive tactics that oftentimes make up a highly toxic dynamic between bosses and their employees.  While all types of  missed communications are not really that new, the quiet quitting and quiet firing phraseology has gained momentum recently because of its link to so many other economic, social, and environmental issues.   The pandemic definitely created its share of workplace stressors, but its the  fact that they not dissipated as we get back to more normal versions of work, is what makes the news.

From our perspective, stress tends to impact lives gradually, then suddenly.  Going quiet is a normal and routine response to stress.

The work-from-home model has had a significant impact on how both employers and employees view and interact in the workplace.  For some employees the systems of accountability have all but evaporated.  Many feel empowered to do what they want to do,  when they want to do it, all outside the watchful eye of company supervision.  Unfortunately, this is a dynamic that often leads to a deterioration in productive work habits.  Some employees have picked up “side gigs” to earn the extra money they need to counteract issues with inflation.

Bosses, on the other hand, have also played a role in that many have been lapse in defining the results needed from each remote employee on their team or setting hard deadlines for work completions. Even great employees can misread an expectation when it isn’t clearly spelled out so we should not be surprised when both go quiet, a normal response to disappointment.

The Dynamics of Quiet!

So why are we going quiet?

For employees, quiet quitting can be a way to deal with burnout or elevated stress levels.  They take the foot off the gas to rebalance their life. For others, it is a response to the low morale brought about by not receiving the expected recognition for a job well done.  In some cases going quiet is motivated by a desire to be heard and seen like in the “old days” when we were all together in the same workplace.

While worker shortages have gained noticeable increases in employee paychecks,  in most cases not enough to offset the increases in the costs of rent, food, and gasoline.  The ROI of working hard no longer makes sense.

And don’t forget, quiet quitting happens becomes it can.  The number of people participating in the workforce today is still down close to a million employees from where it was pre-pandemic.  Employers who were already challenged to find employees before the pandemic, are now viewing the challenges with recruiting as a serious business issue.  Up until recently employees have definitely felt  empowered to cut back on their efforts, realizing the risk of being fired is not that great.  With so much of the hiring process done on line, and so many employees working without physically present supervision, its pretty easy to conduct a job search while still employed.

Quiet firing has a similar causation with an equally negative outcome – the vicious circle of a issue going unresolved.    Employers who believe  that employees doing only the bare minimum do not deserve the same praise, incentives, or promotions  that their fully contributing employees do, are likely to go silent – in effect perpetuating the minimalist behaviors of the quiet quitters.  If a supervisor is either unable or unwilling to fire an employee outright, they will chose to go quiet but find other ways to get rid of employees who aren’t engaged.

It is also a way to straddle the line between ‘this employee isn’t pulling their weight” and their fear of not being able to re engage, or having to go out into a scary employee marketplace for a replacement candidate.    No supervisor wants to take on the training responsibility of a new employee unless its an absolute must.  Some managers simply don’t have the skills or experience to deal with a disengaged employee – particularly if that employee is working remotely.   Should they coach or fire?  They don’t know where to start so they go quiet!

Nobody Wins!

Quiet quitting and quiet firing are two sides of the same toxic coin and almost always results in a less productive work environment that fails to meet its goals or deliver on its mission.  The company, the employee, and the boss all lose.

  •  A work environment that is either overtly or covertly adversarial will ultimately impact a company’s performance but even more importantly their reputation in the candidate marketplace and future hiring ability.
  • The employee who is quietly quitting loses access to the support important to their professional growth.  In the short term they are overlooked and unrewarded.  In the long term, they put themselves in the middle of the cycle of self destruction.  Even if they find a new role, the cycle is likely to continue.  They don’t create the support systems (i.e. fans) they need to advance their careers.
  • The supervisor who develops a pattern of not confronting issues on their team or coming up short on their ideas to reengage tired employees, is often a supervisor whose career as a leader will ultimately plateau.

When either the employee quietly quits or the employer quietly fires, nobody wins!

We all need to speak up!

Hope its clear by now that we are not fans of quiet anything.  We believe that ongoing and candid communication between employees and their bosses is the essential ingredient in all work environment that promotes engagement.  Employees who are engaged don’t quietly quit.

We also believe there is an orderly way that managers and supervisors can address an issue with employee engagement that is impacting their team.  Staying quiet is not an option; confronting the employees off target performance (i.e. their quiet quitting) is a must but it doesn’t have to be done confrontationally.  We have found that an employee who is going down the road of quietly quitting, can be dealt with by authentically and constructively sharing that you notice, that you care, and that you are genuinely interested in improving the status quo.   Once that cycle of communication is started, a quiet quitter will either turn themselves around or quit, for real.  Check out one of our recent blogs for some how tos… 

Contact Us

For additional information on how to improve your hiring, firing, and staffing outcomes, check us out.  PACE Staffing!   Take advantage of PACE’s network of recruiting and staffing professionals with solutions to fit your budget and needs.

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