Quiet quitting and quiet firing – are these new workplace trends?
Quiet quitting and quiet firing are two workplace trends that have received lots of coverage in recent weeks. But what are these terms and are they something to worry about? Business Leader investigates.
What does quiet quitting mean?
Quiet quitting is a term used to describe when an employee opts out of doing tasks that are beyond their assigned duties. So, whilst they continue to complete their primary responsibilities, they are less willing to stay late, arrive early or engage in other non-mandatory activities, such as answering emails outside of work hours. Essentially, quiet quitters do exactly what their job requires of them and nothing more.
Is quiet quitting a real thing?
Yes, it is. Global analytics and advice firm Gallup found that quiet quitters make up at least 50% of the workforce in the US. This is based on Gallup’s definition of being “not engaged” at work.
Bearing the previous point in mind, Gallup’s ‘State of the global workforce’ report also found that just 9% of UK workers felt enthused by their work and workplace in 2022, which could suggest that quiet quitting could be even more prominent in the UK.
In this survey, the UK ranked 33 out of 38 European countries when it came to employee engagement levels.
What are the effects of quiet quitting?
Employees might choose to engage in quiet quitting to better preserve their work-life balance, reducing the risk of burnout and stress, and allowing them to spend more time doing the things they enjoy.
However, Dominic Wade, the Co-founder of Wade Macdonald, warns that quiet quitting is more damaging than helpful to careers, especially for millennials and Gen Zs.
He says: “I believe Millennials and Gen Zs particularly have resorted to turning down the dial and ‘acting their wage’ and rejected the notion of ‘going above and beyond’.
“Why is this? I think it could be for a number of reasons, but not least a delayed response to the burnout caused by the pandemic as well as concerns over inflation and their salaries failing to keep up with the rising cost of living.
“But for whatever reason, behaving like this at the start or in the earlier years of your career could definitely be damaging. This is a critical time when talented workers should be grasping as much opportunity and gaining as much kudos as possible to set up a long and fruitful career.
“If you have this sort of attitude and work ethic this early on, it’ll be hard to bounce back from it.”
However, Philippa White, Founder and CEO of The International Exchange, is unsure whether quiet quitting is limited to younger generations and believes there are various factors creating unhappy and disengaged employees.
She says: “I’m not sure quiet quitting is limited to younger generations. I think the post-pandemic reboot or re-evaluation has left a lot of people with things to reflect on. The time at home, the flexible working, and the time with family woke people up from the monotony of the day-to-day grind. They had space and time to think about what is important to them. And what they are happy, and not happy, to put up with.
“I would say that the dehumanization of work, and the workplace, is probably a major factor creating unhappy and disengaged employees. The relentless commute to work, feeling like a cog in a machine, the daily stress, anxiety, and not feeling valued, or able to reach your full potential.
“Essentially, leadership seeing employees as consumers of jobs, rather than citizens of companies. Being more interested in the clients of the company, rather than first and foremost being worried about their employees’ well-being. And I’m not sure this is restricted to age.”
From an employers’ perspective, having employees that do not go above and beyond might mean a loss in overall productivity if you’re used to staff having to do this. If you’re an employer who has a competitive edge from staff going above and beyond, this could be especially problematic.
However, if you’re an employer that has created an environment where staff feel disengaged, can you be surprised if they refuse to work beyond what they’re contracted to do?
What is quiet firing?
Quiet firing has been described as the process where a company creates a hostile work environment, which eventually forces an employee to leave their job.
How an employer creates a hostile environment can vary, but there are various measures used, including:
- Denying promotions and salary rises
- An employer refusing to give credit for an employee’s successes
- An employer taking credit for an employee’s successes
- Demoting an employee from their current position or cutting their responsibilities
- Allowing an employee to be harassed by other members of staff
- Giving out all the hardest tasks to one member of staff and the easiest tasks to another, despite both staff members having the same job role
Is quiet firing a new thing?
One of the first mentions of quiet firing was from a Twitter post in August this year, but the concept behind it is not new. Many commentators have said that quiet firing is just another term for constructive dismissal.
Specifically, constructive dismissal describes when an employee is forced to leave their job against their will as a result of the employer’s conduct.