Quiet Firing vs Quiet Quitting

Employers find themselves grappling with a new predicament: quiet quitting, where employees silently disengage, is still prevalent, and now quiet firing is causing ripples, triggering discussions on fostering healthy workplace environments.

Quiet firing entails utilizing passive-aggressive strategies to prompt quiet quitters to voluntarily exit their positions, an approach gaining attention and fueling conversations surrounding nurturing positive organizational cultures.

Rather than viewing this emerging trend as a retaliatory response to quiet quitting, human resources (HR) departments should perceive it as a clarion call to enhance employee engagement and communication, fostering a harmonious workplace atmosphere.

Blatantly resorting to quiet firing for unwanted employees merely perpetuates a “culture of quiet quitting,” perpetuating an unending cycle. To effectively address this matter, employers must first grasp the ramifications associated with the practice of quiet firing.

Is ‘Quiet Firing’ an Effective Solution to Address ‘Quiet Quitting’?

A staggering statistic reveals that nearly 1 in 3 managers openly acknowledge engaging in quiet firing, while a significant 83% of employees have either witnessed or experienced it firsthand within their work environments.

Human resources (HR) and talent teams must recognize the challenges posed by the ongoing Great Resignation and the economic downturn, which have made sourcing new candidates increasingly challenging. If the practice of quiet firing is allowed to persist unchecked, it will undoubtedly have a detrimental impact on workplace culture and employee retention.

It is imperative to promptly identify and address this issue. To commence this process, let us examine some indicative signs associated with quiet firing.

Motives Behind Quiet Firing

According to a recent LinkedIn News poll, a striking 80% of over 20,000 participants have either personally experienced or witnessed instances of quiet firing. But what drives this phenomenon to occur so frequently?

Managers resort to the passive-aggressive tactic of quiet firing for several reasons. Firstly, they aim to avoid the costs associated with terminating an employee and providing severance packages. Secondly, managers may choose this approach to evade difficult conversations regarding poor performance or the need for improvement plans.

Identifying Quiet Firing in Your Organization

There are three key indicators that suggest a manager is utilizing quiet firing to encourage an employee to resign, particularly when these behaviors appear as a consistent pattern:

  1. Abrupt Closure of Communication Channels
  • Your manager ceases to provide feedback on your work.
  • Many of your emails go unanswered.
  • It becomes increasingly challenging to schedule one-on-one meetings with your manager.
  • You are excluded from crucial meetings.
  • Your input is not welcomed during the few meetings you do attend, and your contributions are disregarded.

Stagnation in Career Advancement

  • You are consistently overlooked for promotions.
  • Your salary remains frozen, or you receive a significantly smaller raise than expected.
  • New projects you were promised are put on hold, and you are consistently assigned monotonous tasks.
  • You are persistently assigned mundane, repetitive work or burdensome and undesirable assignments.

No one discusses your career progression with you.

  1. Social Ostracization In addition to professional exclusion, you may experience some form of social isolation. While not everyone seeks close friendships with their colleagues, we all have a fundamental need to belong, be acknowledged, and feel welcome.

Social ostracization manifests in subtle ways, ranging from mild to extreme. For instance:

  • You are no longer invited to impromptu team lunches or post-work drinks with colleagues.
  • Fewer people drop by your desk or engage in conversations or invite you for coffee.
  • You often find yourself initiating conversations with managers and colleagues instead of being approached.

Amira, a pseudonym for a recent client, shared her experience of being socially ostracized: “Something has changed in the office. Apart from being excluded from important email threads, there is an eerie silence surrounding me. I feel left out and ignored.”

She noticed a distinct shift in her colleagues’ body language. “Some of them avoid making eye contact in the hallway or break room. I miss the warmth – neither my boss nor my colleagues are unpleasant to me,” she explained, “but there is a noticeable change in tone, cooler and sometimes more formal. I noticed this from my boss a while ago, but I can’t understand why other employees are also behaving this way towards me.”

Why does this happen? While often unintentional, the manager’s behavior towards the employee can inadvertently influence other employees to distance themselves. Fearing for their own job security, colleagues may choose to avoid an employee who has fallen out of favor with the boss.

Drawing Lessons from Quiet Quitting Rather than Resorting to Quiet Firing

If leaders find themselves resorting to quiet firing, it indicates a lack of strong leadership skills. Instead of adopting an “ignore” approach, leaders can leverage the insights gained from quiet quitting and take proactive measures to cultivate a conducive work environment.

Here are some valuable pointers for managers and leaders to prevent the normalization of quiet firing in the workplace:

  1. Foster Healthy: Communication Quiet firing often emerges as a result of managers avoiding difficult conversations. Establishing a culture of regular check-ins and transparent feedback allows employees the opportunity to improve and learn from their peers. Creating a safe space for open communication enables employees to address work performance challenges and take corrective actions.
  2. Encourage Transparency: Stepping out of one’s comfort zone and practicing honesty and upfront communication is crucial. Instead of sidelining performance gaps, address them directly. Avoid letting assumptions guide decisions and keep your team informed about their strengths and areas needing improvement. Transparency helps keep employees engaged and informed.
  3. Embrace Informality: It’s essential to remember that employees are more than just their job titles. Recognize that life outside of work often competes with workplace priorities. Conduct informational discussions or even organize real-life meet-ups to understand your team members personally. Building meaningful relationships contributes to a positive work culture and transforms challenges into collaborative endeavors.

By incorporating these practices, leaders can foster a workplace culture where quiet quitting and quiet firing become obsolete. Instead, encourage open dialogue, initiate honest conversations, and create an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns.

Key Takeaways

Quiet firing is not a suitable response to quiet quitting.

The HR space can learn the importance of healthy workplace communication from both quiet firing and quiet quitting. Rather than resorting to passive-aggressive behaviors, leaders must strive to establish a meaningful and open organizational culture where employees do not feel compelled to engage in either quiet quitting or quiet firing. Having honest discussions, whether over a coffee or in other settings, about work, team dynamics, and workplace satisfaction is crucial. Building such open lines of communication can lead to a more positive and engaged workforce.

Next Steps