The Impact of “Going Quiet” on Recruiting and Retention! An Editorial Comment.  

Quiet quitting as been in the news since late 2020 to describe an employee’s decision to do the “bare minimum” to keep their job but minimizing their engagement in their work and their team.  At its roots, going quiet is actually not anything new as challenges with “employee engagement” have been around for a very long time.  A lack of engagement is considered a precursor to issues with turnover, ultimately creating issues with both retention and recruiting. .

Something not getting much attention is quiet firing which is where an employer,  either inadvertently or on purpose, quietly makes a “problem employee’s” work environment uncomfortable, hoping they’ll quit rather than have to face the prospect of firing.  Lately, quiet firing is often described in the context of the employers response to quiet quitting.

Quiet quitting and quiet firing have gained notoriety because of their link to so many other economic, social, and environmental issues.  Our POV is simple – both versions of going quiet are forms of passive-aggressive behaviors that leads to an unhealthy if not outright toxic dynamic between bosses and their employees and should be avoided at all costs.

What’s at the root of all this going quiet that is causing it to rear its ugly head now more than ever? 

Remote work arrangements have significantly impacted how employers, employees, and teammembers interact at work.   

The pandemic definitely created its share of changes in the workplace –  not the least of which was the shift to where employees worked and how they interacted with others.   And as we’ve seen, the large number of employees who are resisting a return to physical work locations, appears to have revealed the good, bad, and sometime ugly realities of remote work models.    Is this resistance a good thing, signaling that the return to the pre pandemic era is going to set us backward?  Or is it a sign that employee engagement is ebbing to a new low with results that no one wants or anticipates? We are yet to see.

For sure the opportunity to do work from home has meant that “old” systems of accountability either vanished altogether or became  seriously compromised.

For some employees. a new version of empowerment – the freedom to do what they wanted,  when they wanted outside the watchful eye of company supervision – represented a foundational shift in how they viewed work.   For some, the newly acquired freedom lead to increases in productivity – a freedom from the long drive to the office and the freedom to get more effectively integrate their work and personal lives, limiting the stressors of trying to do both within the confines of a 9-5 work schedule.  For others, freedom lead to a deterioration in productive work habits and lacking any visibility for what was or was not being done during the work day, lead to serious declines in productivity.

The tales of employees picking up “side gigs” all while supposedly “at work” have likely been exaggerated…but we know they’re there, rationalized by the need to pick up extra money to counteract inflation.

Bosses, on the other hand, have also played a significant role in productivity lapses by being negligent in their responsibility to define the results needed from each employee, or setting hard deadlines for work completions.  Even great employees will tend to misread an expectation when it isn’t clearly spelled out.


The Dynamics of Quiet!

We should not be surprised when both employees and employers have gone quiet as a way to cover up their disappointments about what isn’t working for them post pandemic.

For employees, quietly disengaging from work can be a way to deal with the pre pandemic burnout and elevated stress levels.  Employees who were able to take their foot off the gas during the pandemic, have seen a new version of work life balance that they don’t want to give up .

For others, it is a response to the low morale brought about by not receiving the expected recognition or even pay for a job well done, an issue that was there pre pandemic but exaggerated by a remote work environment.

While worker shortages have produced some noticeable increases in employee paychecks,  in most cases these increases have not offset the impact of inflation on rents, food, and gasoline.  For many employees the ROI for working hard just doesn’t make sense.

In some cases going quiet is motivated by a need to be heard and seen like in the “old days” …..” I need someone to notice that I am not my normal self”.

Quiet quitting happens becomes it can.  The understated problem is that the number of people participating in the workforce today is still down close to a million employees from where it was pre-pandemic.  This means that employers who were already challenged to find employees pre pandemic, are now faced with the fact that recruiting the right talent has become one of the  top 3 business issues of the 20s, even higher depending on who you are reading.  This means that up until recently employees knew there was little to no risk of losing  their jobs even when cutting back on their efforts.  Finding a replacement employee was just too risky or onerous.

And don’t forget that because so much of the hiring process done on line, an employee working remotely has a lot more time to conduct a job search – even while employed.

For a supervisor, quiet firing has a similar causation with an equally negative outcome – the vicious cycle of letting “issues” go unresolved. When a supervisor believes that employees doing only the bare minimum do not deserve the same praise, incentives, or promotions  that their fully contributing employees do, they are likely to go silent – in effect perpetuating the minimalist behaviors of the quiet quitters.  If a supervisor is either unable or unwilling to fire an employee outright, they will chose to go quiet but find other ways to get rid of employees who aren’t engaged.

Quiet firing is a way to straddle the fence – not clear how they should deal with a problematic employee, if they should re engage and not be successful.

And if they let them go, how do they know they will be successful in hiring their replacement.   No supervisor wants to take on the hiring and training responsibility of a new employee unless its an absolute must.

Others don’t have the skills or experience to deal with a  disengaged employee.    Should they coach or fire?  They don’t know  where to start so they go quiet!

Nobody Wins!

Quiet quitting and quiet firing are two sides of the same toxic coin and almost always results in a less productive work environment.

When an employee quietly quits or an employer quietly fires, nobody wins!

We all need to speak up!

Hope its clear by now that we are not fans of quiet anything.  We believe that ongoing and candid communication between employees and their bosses is the essential ingredient in all work environment that promotes engagement.  Employees who are engaged might quit, but they don’t do it quietly.  They let their employer know what’s troubling them and if the issue can be worked out, it will be.

There are many ways managers and supervisors can address an issue with a problem employee that is impacting their team.  Staying quiet is not an option; confronting the employee’s problematic performance is a must but it doesn’t have to be done confrontationally.  We have found that an employee who is going down the road of quietly quitting, can be dealt with by authentically and constructively sharing that you notice, that you care, and that you are genuinely interested in improving the status quo.

Once that cycle of communication is started, a quiet quitter will either turn themselves around or quit, for real.  Check out one of our recent blogs for some how tos… 

Contact Us

We’d love to have a great conversation with you on ways we can help you improve your hiring, firing and staffing outcomes.  We offer a full menu of staffing solutions from direct hire recruiting, temp to hire auditions, and all forms of traditional and strategic staffing.

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