Quiet firing reflects bad leadership, not bad employees! 

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By Caroline Gammon | 26th October 2022 | 4 min read

If you’ve been on social media over the last couple of months – especially LinkedIn and TikTok – you’ve probably seen the terms quiet quitting and quiet firing thrown around.

What started as an employee trend has resulted in retaliation from a number of employers, claiming they’re fighting fire with fire.

Let me say it outright: using quiet firing as a means to tackle quiet quitting is nothing more than toxic leadership, which punishes those who often have worked the hardest. 

What exactly are quiet quitting and quiet firing?

Originating from TikTok, quiet quitting refers to employees who have typically been going above and beyond but have reached a breaking point; perhaps compensation and promotions were promised but never came, or additional resources to support with workload were discussed but never implemented.

When an employee chooses to quiet quit, they essentially reside themselves to doing the bare minimum.

Declining additional work, contributing little to projects and not attending meetings are all common behaviours for someone who has quiet quit.

As quiet quitting gained popularity, especially among Millennials and Gen Z, some employers began to retaliate with a term of their own, quiet firing.

Quiet firing takes many forms, including frequent cancellations of one-to-ones and not giving someone the development opportunities they deserve in the hope that employees resign on their own accord.

Quiet firing: toxic leadership at its finest

HR professionals, please make it clear to your business leaders that quiet firing isn’t the way forward.

Firstly, quiet quitting is not insubordination – it’s signs of burnout and struggle within the workplace. 

If you find your shining stars are scaling back, punishment shouldn’t be your go-to; penalising employees who are struggling with burnout and stress shows that the management is less about work and more about control.

Those quiet quitting are often the people who have given the most to the business and simply don’t have any more to give – they need support.

Tackling quiet quitting: support, support, support

A Gallup report found that only 15% of people globally are actively engaged at work, with the number dropping even lower in the UK to 8%.

With quiet quitting gaining massive popularity, it’s clear that something has to be done.

Rather than demonstrating a culture of blame, I’d advise you to not panic – quiet quitting, in one form or another, will always be around in the workplace.

If you notice burnout and disengagement among workers, use it as an opportunity to find out what’s going on with individuals and teams.

Have an honest conversation, examine what can be done better and treat it as a chance to evolve and adapt your workplace.

Speak with employees to understand how they’re doing

Fostering a toxic environment where workers are constantly joining and leaving is expensive, terrible for morale and unsustainable with the current talent shortage.

If you’ve noticed certain employees starting to take a backseat and you’re concerned they’re quite quitting, simply speak with them.

Creating a safe space and having casual conversations is often the quickest way to find out why someone is struggling.

Employees knowing you’re there for them when they have too much on their plate or when they have external responsibilities such as childcare goes a long way in creating a mindful and positive culture.

For a softer approach, where employees can be anonymous, consider carrying out regular employee pulse surveys to get snapshots of how the company is feeling.

Adapting to generational demands

With the workforce’s generational dynamic becoming increasingly diverse, creating an environment that meets everyone’s needs is tough.

Take, for example, that a large portion of Gen Z rank stress as a primary reason for quitting their job, while Millennials are more likely to stay in a job if they feel it has meaning.

To ensure everyone feels happy, fulfilled and able to contribute, you can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach.

From the day-to-day work to employee benefits, each person will have their own desires; open up the conversation, find out what people want and use that information to create an accommodating culture.

New podcast: in our new podcast episode – Affordable ways to motivate staff – we delve further into adapting employee benefits for a multigenerational workforce: listen here.

Keep track of what’s happening

knowledge is power.

The more workforce insights you have, the easier it is to locate employees who are struggling and offer support.

This is where modern HR software helps; using the reporting functionality within HR software, you can locate trends, such as departments with high churn or employees/teams struggling with performance.

Access to these real-time insights makes it far easier for HR professionals and business owners to act quickly and effectively.

Perhaps managers need training on supporting a remote workforce, or a department is seriously under-resourced.

Compassion goes a long way

Start the conversation.

While you can’t be everywhere at once, taking time to check in with your people goes a long way in creating a happy and healthy work environment.

People will have different circumstances, but showing compassion and giving an open ear can make all the difference for those who are struggling.  

More content: check out our blog "Are you listening to your employees?" for a more in-depth look at employee listening,