How Employers Can Navigate the Quiet Quitting, Hiring, and Firing Trends
You may have noticed #QuietQuitting all over social media, or heard about a TikTok video by Zaid Khan, an engineer in his twenties, who discusses the trend of those who feel that life is more than the hustle of working long hours and going the extra mile. Instead, he expresses the view that it’s okay to show up and simply fulfill the requirements in your job description and then leave, as we aren’t defined by our work.
This philosophy isn’t just being adopted by twenty-year-olds and TikTokers, however. Over 50% of American workers could be called quiet quitters, according to Gallup, and though many are under 35, as many as 18% of workers of all ages are disengaged.
The quiet quitting trend started in 2021, after the pandemic and at the beginning of the great resignation. At the same time, quiet firing and hiring have risen.
What Are Quiet Quitting, Firing, and Hiring?
Quiet quitting is also sometimes called soft quitting. Though someone isn’t quitting, they begin putting in the minimum effort to be considered doing their job. They only attend mandatory meetings, don’t work late or on the weekends, and don’t reply to phone calls or emails in their off time. In other words, they aren’t putting in extra effort to be a team player and are unwilling to make personal sacrifices for their job.
Quiet firing is what happens on the other end, and may be a response to quiet quitting at times. A manager or company may create an environment or conditions that are unreasonable or overly taxing to try to get someone to quit, instead of just firing them outright. This can save them money or legal hassle, and be a more passive-aggressive tactic so that the employer still has leeway to deny their part.
Quiet hiring, on the other hand, is when a company tacks on responsibilities that go beyond employees job description. They could be given new types of projects, a new position, or be required to perform certain tasks that require them to learn a new set of skills. This saves the company, time, money, and resources that would otherwise be needed to hire someone to fulfill these responsibilities.
Why Are These Trending?
But why have these trends arisen? Like the TikTokers who advocate for quiet quitting, many are striving for a work-life balance, while others are dissatisfied with their job and work environment.
Many of these quiet quitters have similar motivations to those who have been actually quitting since 2021: low compensation, little growth or opportunities, and feeling undervalued or unappreciated.
These employees usually don’t set out to underachieve. Instead, they feel they are being expected to go beyond their job description and work outside their normal hours to an unhealthy extent, where it detracts from their rest time and personal life. In return, these employees don’t feel supported, respected, or rewarded for their efforts. It’s no wonder they feel the need to create firm boundaries.
Quiet hiring has arisen as organizational needs change. As a healthy company grows, new tasks or projects will naturally arise, and it can feel natural (and more efficient) to assign these to current employees instead of creating new jobs. This can be a smart business practice, but keep in mind the worker needs to see some kind of fruit of their labor: an increase in pay, a new title, more paid time off, or some other reward to feel that their extra work is being valued. Additionally, they need support to learn the new skills or to have the resources required to fulfill their new responsibilities with confidence and not get burnt out.
Quiet hiring can help an employee grow and learn, but be careful that their job isn’t straying too much from what they signed up for or feel comfortable and skilled to do.
How They Intersect
If organizations aren’t careful and they overly burden their employees with quiet hiring, it could lead to quiet quitting. And quiet quitting, as previously alluded to, can lead to quiet firing if leaders begin to feel their employees are underperforming.
How HR Can Help
HR can help to regulate job creep to prevent employees from getting burnt out.
Jim Cichanski, Founder & CHRO of Flex HR, a top HR outsourcing firm, shares some of the signs that HR can look for that signal an employee might be quiet quitting: taking time off, coming in late and or leaving early, underperforming, not going the extra mile like they used to do, cutting conversations short or avoiding conversation.
Phil Davis, Senior Vice President of Flex HR shares that senior leaders can help to prevent quiet quitting by holding monthly luncheons with a cross-section of employees to stay connected with employee needs.
Instead of quiet firing, Phil Davis advises that leaders “develop and institute a “discipline without punishment” program and stay positive and respectful in communications to employees. Frequent, frank, and constructive communications with employees with issues is always appropriate.”
Jim Cichanski similarly suggests a gentle “check-in with the disengaged employee by asking them what is going on. Try to get to the employee’s main concern and see if you can put them on a route back to working and being engaged: Perhaps a change in schedule or not working with a specific employee.”
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