quiet firing needs a positive solution

Quiet Firing Needs a Positive Solution

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Alice Florence Orr
February 7, 2024
5 min read

If quiet quitting your job defined the workplace during the pandemic years, then quiet firing is signalling a new development in the workplace. In this article, we discuss the factors that lead to quiet quitting and why it needs a positive solution. Quiet quitting was defined by workers opting out of hustle culture, deliberately doing the bare minimum at work. It became popular with some younger millennials and Gen Z.

In recent years, organisations have come to reckon with poor strategy decisions made during the pandemic. The beginning of the decade was defined by an unusual economic situation, leading many companies to hire beyond their needs. As the market corrects itself, many hard-working employees find themselves being fired, with surviving workers struggling to rescue morale after company layoffs.

Firing employees is never easy. A recent viral video, filmed by a worker being let go after three months in a new role, is an extreme example of how this delicate process can go wrong. Companies are reducing numbers, but few are going about it positively.

Like quiet quitting, quiet firing results from a deliberate avoidance of transparency and communication; bad management of redundancies can quickly become endemic when not addressed. What exactly is quiet quitting and how do we ensure that redundancies are handled with a human-focused approach?

What is quiet firing?

Quiet firing is a method of attrition that some managers use to freeze out their employees in the hope that they will quit. It is a way of avoiding firing them. Harvard Business Review blames legal, psychological and financial costs as a central reason for the rise in quiet firing. Forcing someone out of a company can be expensive. For bad managers, quiet firing may seem like a more appealing option.

Quiet quitting and quiet firing can destabilise a company, leaving teams feeling alienated and confused. We know the value of building trust in the workplace. Without a positive company culture, productivity and engagement quickly deteriorates.

The quiet undermining of company values

What type of managers are prone to quiet firing? Those who aren’t confident with conflict resolution or their ability to help improve employee performance. And it is a problem that can affect all companies. Some have pointed to companies including Meta and Tesla as examples of quiet firing being used as a workforce reduction strategy.

Gallup reports that work actively engages only 13% of European employees, while 15% actively disengages. The 72% in the middle cite stress as a key factor in their lack of engagement. What can be more stressful than watching your colleagues being frozen out? Experiencing it yourself.

After breaking down demographics, there is little difference between generations or genders. Any employee can be affected by quiet firing.

What to do if you suspect quiet firing

Quiet firing can be a subtle problem. That’s why it’s best to support managers and team leaders in developing ways to ensure their teams are thriving. Here are a few ways to turn things around: 

1. Identify the issue: look for common signs of quiet firing

Quiet firing might look like many things:

  • Excluding employees from meetings
  • Overlooking workers for promotions
  • Failing to consider training or career development opportunities
  • Making them feel unheard and undervalued 

These things can and do happen accidentally; quiet firing is different because the process is intentional. This can be a very damaging process across the company, impacting staff morale and engagement overall. 

2. Create a culture of transparency 

Problems like quiet quitting and quiet firing thrive when people don’t feel safe or secure in expressing the reality of a given situation. When key information isn’t shared or is kept hidden, a culture of distrust will quickly crop up.

A JobSage survey found that the rise of quiet quitting has made one in four managers more suspicious of their employees. What’s more, 29% admitted that they had quietly fired an employee themselves. More transparency is needed on both sides of the table, alongside an effective communication strategy

3. Learn how to tackle difficult conversations 

Quiet firing is characterised by an avoidance of problem resolution. From productivity to performance, there are lots of topics of conversation that can be hard to broach in the workplace. 

No one likes talking about things that might hurt people’s feelings or make them feel vulnerable. However, leaving them unaddressed is never the solution. Learning how to have those difficult conversations means you can make sure to raise issues on time. This may reduce the need to fire someone in the first place. And even if you do have to, the process can be smoother with some much-needed straight talking.  

4. Create a healthy company culture 

One of the best ways to stop quiet firing is to foster a working environment that is human-centric. This means making the workplace an equitable place, where all employees feel respected and heard. It’s also essential for managers to practice what they preach. That means following their guidelines and modelling the kind of behaviours they expect. 

For example, work-life balance continues to be a rising factor in dissatisfaction. To ensure employees are performing at their best, we need to help them create and maintain sustainable habits. The best way to do this is to take your flexitime and share your own needs. Setting an example shows your team that it’s safe for them to do the same. 

5. Work on improving employee engagement

Low employee engagement is the key driver behind many of the problems that lead to quiet firing. So, it makes sense that improving it is an essential part of tackling the problem. Nurture your employees and ignite their enthusiasm and interest by recognising and rewarding their contributions to the business. 

The best employee engagement strategies are underpinned by a culture of recognition. It drives commitment, satisfaction and motivation – removing the need or temptation for managers to consider quiet firing in the first place. 

The positive solution to quiet firing

Quiet firing is a recipe for disaster. It may rid your company of one inefficient employee. However, it can sew seeds of discontent throughout entire teams. Clear, concise communication and the willingness to tackle difficult conversations is essential. Encourage managers to work on their transparency skills.

However, this should be a two-pronged attack. You should also be putting the focus on improving employee engagement and strengthening employee recognition. Address issues at the source, and there will be fewer firings – quiet or otherwise.  

Quiet Firing: Key Takeaways

  • Quiet firing is a recent phenomenon and a sign of poor management practices
  • The best way to avoid quiet firing is transparency, connection and empathy
  • Creating a better work culture within a company will reduce occurrences of firing quietly

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