Quiet quitting and quiet firing are suddenly having a major impact on the modern workplace.
Silent termination refers to employees who – for whatever reason – retire from work so that they are only doing enough to make ends meet – and certainly not “overdoing it” as some employers would like it to be . Silent dismissal is the employer’s version of this trend – disengaging from employees and not offering them any development opportunities, hoping they’ll get the message and leave.
Due to the silent nature of quiet quitting, it can be difficult for managers to recognize and address. For some employees, quitting quietly is a reaction to feeling overworked and having their work-life balance ignored by harassing managers. In other cases, employees may simply be struggling with the changing world of work and need more support to get back to work and find the work motivating and perhaps even enjoyable.
Jo Deal, Chief People Officer at GoTo, has some ideas for reducing the frequency of silent cessations in the workplace.
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One area to consider is how employers have treated their employees in recent years. Companies that provided the right support to their employees during this challenging time were likely to experience fewer quiet layoffs and fewer layoffs amid the Great Layoff.
“How much goodwill you’ve built and how you’ve reflected on COVID support, relief, time off, burnout, mental health and all the things that everyone’s been through,” says Deal. “I think for companies that have built more goodwill, they’re likely to see fewer quiet layoffs.”
DON’T: Allow your employees to neglect their personal lives in the name of work
Uncontrollable life factors often influence our everyday work, such as sick children or car problems. When employees find it difficult to deal with a personal emergency, the situation can leave them feeling drained and disrespected. Deal explains that it’s up to management to demonstrate these behaviors to their employees to show that sometimes leaving work to get something done is normal.
“You know what, that’s life,” says Deal. “So, leader [need] to the model: “I’m going to football practice with my child, I’ll be back later. That gives people permission to say, ‘That’s okay.'”
DO: Allow your employees to set boundaries when communicating at work
The lines between work and personal life have always been blurring, even before remote and hybrid working became the norm. Being able to take work with you wherever you go – and having colleagues you can reach out to 24/7 – can add to work stress.
This feeling is especially true for companies whose employees work in many time zones. Deal suggests companies should allow their employees to be very clear about when they will respond to colleagues, what communication methods are best for urgent situations, and what media are best when something can wait.
Encourage direct messaging platforms for informal but important messages and email for formal and less urgent messages. It’s also good for employees to snooze notifications after a certain amount of time and, for example, snooze Slack or other notifications during meetings to relieve the pressure to respond immediately.
“One thing, a very simple thing, people write in their email: ‘I can send things during this time, it doesn’t mean I expect a response,'” says Deal. “Be really clear with people. Because quitting quietly isn’t about quitting; it’s about doing a fair amount of work. Help people figure out what’s reasonable.”
DON’T: Lose contact with former employees
To understand the risk of silent termination for current employees, stay in touch with former employees and find out what made them leave the company. Your insights can help you improve the culture for current employees and reduce further layoffs. Deal suggests conducting thorough exit interviews with employees who are leaving the company and coming back six months later to assess their experience of their new job, if they have one.
For some employees, this six-month communication opportunity can be their way back to their former job. If an employee is dissatisfied with their new job and is interested in returning to your company, see what you can do for them.
Employees who left your company on good terms and wish to return to their old jobs later are known as boomerang employees and can greatly benefit your company. Boomerang employees cost less to onboard and train, and they are already equipped with the skills needed for the job.
But beware: some employees may be reluctant to reclaim their old jobs. They may fear a response from former colleagues who were dissatisfied when they left, or worry about an employee they disliked who is still with the company. But if you’re lucky, this is an opportunity to bring great talent back to your company.
DO: Offer flexible working hours
Of course, there are hours in the workday when employees are expected to attend meetings or collaborate with other employees, and employees should respect these hours. But if employees don’t have to work specific hours, let them focus on getting the job done and not putting in excessive hours. Deal suggests focusing on the work employees do rather than the hours they put in.
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Flexible working attracts talent, boosts employee morale, increases productivity and increases employee retention. These factors reduce the likelihood of quiet quits and, if managed well, make employees more engaged.
DON’T: Put the burden of quietly quitting on managers
Contrary to popular belief, resolving a silent termination in the workplace is not solely a matter for middle management. In fact, managers at your company are also likely to be silently resigning, and are just as likely as employees to quit their jobs. That means managers may also need more support, which is often forgotten.
At worst, unsupported managers ignore employees who are struggling, which means there is a simultaneous silent resignation and silent dismissal. This combination creates a miserable cycle that does not solve problems and creates new ones.
“Managers quit quietly, too,” says Deal. “It’s a bit dangerous to put that burden on managers to take care of for employees because you’re just overloading a group that’s also struggling.”
DO: Invest in corporate culture and new people initiatives
If your company is plagued by silent layoffs and constant layoffs, it’s time to revamp old HR practices and get creative with new ones. Corporate culture is the cement that connects employees to the company. Without a strong culture, employees feel less committed to company values.
This gap is especially true in hybrid and remote work environments where employees have fewer face-to-face interactions and fewer opportunities to connect with other employees.
Deal suggests investing in ways for employees to network outside of the office if they don’t live in office centers and increasing the budget for employee training. The increase in face-to-face meetings for employees not related to work can strengthen relationships, and creating a graduate hiring pipeline that can help drive new talent into the organization is also critical, not just to to replace those who leave the company, but to attract new ways of thinking into the organization.