Last week’s The Wall Street Journal article on Quiet Quitting and Quiet Firing includes observations from me on this popular topic. The very next day, Friday, I was interviewed by Fox26 Houston to provide advice to employees who find themselves being a victim of Quiet Firing. Over the weekend, others reached out to me to discuss the issue and ask for advice.
My advice to leaders and employees is not to overreact to the hype on social media. It’s foolish to punish quiet quitters in this small-growth economy.
This situation began when Gen Z and Millennials began posting videos on “Quiet Quitting,” typically on TikTok. Essentially, they spoke about how to avoid overworking after two years of Covid-19 and how to avoid the “hustle culture,” that requires excessive work hours to be promoted and earn bigger paychecks. Gallup reported a month ago that the number of disengaged employees (Gallup believes they are probably your Quiet Quitters) had reached a nine-year high, at 18 percent, (See below) adding evidence to the TikTok videos. Management became worried.
Then, articles about “Quiet Firing” started appearing in the news. Some consultants advised how executives could ‘get back’ at those who choose to cut back their hours or not volunteer for extra work by demoralizing them so they quit. The suggested tactics were often subtle: ignoring these employees, not inviting these employees to key meetings, assigning them worse tasks, lowering their pay increases and bonuses, and quietly look for replacements while they are still working for the company.
Can we all take a breath?
Organizations over the past decades have always had employees who choose not to climb the “corporate ladder” – as Quiet Quitting was once called. These employees wanted to limit their time at work to 40 hours per week. (After all, the average time worked among office workers in the US during 2021 was 40.2 hours, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.) These workers used to be called “B” players in executive circles and typically are reliable employees. Every organization needs “B” players. Please do not confuse them with poor performers.
Sometimes, employees, including your high potential employees or “A” players, ask to take a back seat from climbing the career ladder for a while due to life events, such as having a baby, providing care to elderly parents, illness, or other issues. If corporations want to retain these workers, honoring their life events makes perfect sense. Remember, we are in a labor shortage that I believe will last the decade. A small growth US Economy of about one percent, which many predict for 2023, won’t create an abundance of available employees.
My advice to leaders is the following:
1 – Build relationships with your employees.
Ask your managers to meet with each one individually to find out what they like about work, don’t like, what they could change if they had a magic wand, what job or career development they believe they need and what they want to be doing in three and five years. Then work with your employees to improve their experiences at work.
2 – Check in on managers
The report from Gallup I mentioned above dropped a bombshell about managers. Gallup reported that only one in three managers are engaged at work. That is incredible and alarming. If it is accurate or even remotely true in your organization, start meeting with your managers individually.
3 – Improve your culture so it thrives.
Researchers have found dating back to the 1990s that organizations with thriving cultures have higher growth, productivity, financial results, and innovation. These researchers include Harvard’s John Kotter, MIT, Booz&Co, and InnovationOne, LLC. (I am a managing partner of InnovationOne LLC.)
Improving culture is tangible and measurable. Executives can improve what they can measure. However, it takes time. Still, improving culture is better than overreacting to Quiet Quitting with harsh measures, such as requiring all remote workers to report to the office five days a week or using software to monitor your office employees on company computers (not proven by research to be effective). Improving culture is also better than the subtle tactics of Quiet Firing to demoralize employees.
My advice to employees who believe they are a target of Quiet Firing.
Don’t be a shrinking violet. Ask to speak with your manager and level with your manager. Remind your manager of your accomplishments and interest in the company’s success. Ask others to advocate for you.
Let’s not overreact to Quiet Quitting or Firing. We can all place nice in the sandbox and achieve the company’s strategies and provide great experiences for employees. It’s foolish to punish quiet quitters in this small-growth economy.
Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and managing partner of InnovationOne. He works with organizations to transform HR and recruiting, implement remote work, and develop extraordinary leaders, teams, and innovation cultures. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at www.VictorHRConsultant.com.