Quiet quitting and quiet firing – a new truce in the workplace?

Posted on Wednesday, October 12, 2022 by EditorNo comments

In July this year, a video on Tik Tok went viral, that popularised the term ‘quiet quitting’.  Now with over 3.5 million views, @zkchillin explains in his video, ‘You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond.  You're still performing your duties, but you're no longer subscribing to the hustle-culture mentality that work has to be your life; the reality is it's not, and your worth as a person is not defined by your labour.’

Post pandemic and with the rising cost of living and turbulent global events, the sentiments seem to have captured the spirit of the times and extensive media coverage on the subject suggests that this is indeed a new phenomenon.

However, this has long been a practice in workplaces.  In the past it was referred to as disengagement, or withdrawal and even the prized ‘work-life balance’ embraced the phenomenon to a degree.  But with increasing recognition of, and conversations about, mental health, the idea of quiet quitting and focussing on personal well-being and leading more meaningful lives is really resonating with workers.

Employees that quietly quit aren’t necessarily bad employees.  They may have very genuine reasons why they can’t move on into other positions.  It might be that the benefits and flexibility they have worked hard to attain in their current role cannot be replicated elsewhere.  Or maybe in smaller communities the variety of opportunities just isn’t available.  And certainly, in today’s economic climate, we are seeing workers very reluctant to move.

 On the flip side, the practice of ‘encouraging’ workers to leave, rather than out right dismiss them, has come to be coined ‘quiet firing’.  Again, this is not a new tactic in the workplace.  You will probably have heard of managers being referred to as passive-aggressive.  As they withdraw from actively engaging with their employee, they remove their opportunities for progression.  It’s not a healthy way to manage staff, but I do understand why the quiet firing approach is often taken.

Where workers have violated their work contracts, the dismissal process is relatively straightforward.  However, the process of ending employment is a lot more muddy when we’re looking at workers who don’t quite fit the mould, or display mediocre performance.  Performance management plans can be a complex and drawn out process and the threat of potential litigation from a mis-handled dismissal can be a risk that some employers don’t want to take.  And where does the quiet quitter, doing just what’s needed, in a workplace culture of going above and beyond, fit in here?

I’m not suggesting in this short article that the quiet quitters of the workplace are one and the same as those being quietly fired.  But with so much instability in the current jobs market, it seems like we have a new status-quo between employers and employees to quietly co-exist, rather than face difficult emotions and conversations.

In my experience of assisting companies with difficult HR issues, not shying away from those conversations is invariably the best way forward for both parties.


Tim O’Brien

Director and Business Talent Scout

Jobs In Central Queensland

Connect with me for advice or assistance:

Email: tim@jobsincentralqueensland.net.au

Web: JobsInCQ.net.au


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