Quiet Firing could be the worst thing an employer ever does. Don’t be that company. Don’t let your leaders be that boss.
This might seem like harsh, line-in-the-sand words coming from HRMorning. But Quiet Firing – when management intentionally distances employees from opportunities to grow and succeed – is the exact opposite of anything HR professionals and leadership teams want to do.
Unfortunately, this trend isn’t exactly new: Bad bosses have forced employees out for decades purposefully by denying raises, failing to offer guidance and limiting training.
“Quiet Firing has countless cultural repercussions,” says Joe Galvin, Chief Research Officer at Vistage. “The employee who is being ‘quietly fired’ will likely have a correlating slip in employee satisfaction, which can then spread like wildfire. When an employee is suddenly getting ignored by their manager and treated poorly … to get them to quit, other employees are likely to become caught in the crossfire and negativity. Quiet Firing also creates a sense of distrust. Other employees will see this tactic in play and fear the same thing happening to them without warning.”
Talk about far reaching negative effects! The fix can only be positive, proactive intervention.
HR professionals and front-line managers want to take steps now to prevent or stop Quiet Firing. Here are four strategies to stay ahead:
Keep expectations aligned
One of the biggest issues behind the firing – and its first cousin, Quiet Quitting – is misaligned expectations. Employees and their bosses often aren’t on the same page.
Why? They sometimes avoid deeper, complicated conversations that help with individual and team alignment.
“It is crucial managers have regular check ins and create an open line of communication and feedback with employees. Employees should have a real-time sense of their strengths and areas of improvement, and any issues they need to overcome,” says Galvin. “By creating this sense of trust and honesty, employees can feel empowered to speak with their managers about what they need to succeed, any personal life issues they may be having that could have an impact on their performance, and what their larger goals are.”
Give front-line managers tools to have expectation conversations – even if it’s just a list of questions to ask and actions for follow through. With practice, they’ll likely be able to manage the conversations without prepared tools.
“These candid conversations can uncover when a specific role isn’t a good fit for someone, but their skillset could be better utilized in a different function,” says Galvin.
Train managers to engage
Many front-line managers aren’t equipped to lead and engage their employees. They were promoted because they were outstanding individual contributors. And then they weren’t trained to lead.
“Managers especially need the training and tools to create an engaging and empowering environment for their teams, one in which they know that they are contributing with others toward a shared purpose,” says David Hassell, CEO and Co-founder of 15Five. “The manager-employee relationship is central to the employee experience, their likelihood for success in their roles, and ultimately the success of the entire organization.”
So, Hassell suggests creating or finding a first-time manager training program that builds “a set of skills that make for effective management – things like active and empathic listening, communicating to have a message received and to build trust, supporting goal completion, and providing feedback that improves performance.
“With Quiet Firing, you have what is likely the final mistake in a string of leadership failures. But when the … learned leadership skills are applied throughout an employee’s tenure, a manager should never get to the place where they are being deceitful, avoidant or retributive,” says Hassell.
Hold more ‘Stay Interviews’
Lily Valentin, Head of Operations for North America at Adzuna has shared these guidelines for Stay Interviews – the informal talk between an HR pro or direct boss and an employee. When you chat, focus on:
- what motivates employees to stay now
- what they like and don’t like about their role
- the part of their workplace experience they’d improve, and
- their career development goals.
Most importantly, managers want to follow up on what’s discovered. This conversation helps maintain the abovementioned alignment and engagement.
Improve HR transparency
Employees most often turn to you when they have a problem. Or they fear HR because they think you only connect with them when there is a problem.
Naturally, HR leaders want to build transparent relationships so employees don’t just look to you for a rescue or operate in fear of you.
“HR leaders should also create a sense of transparency. They should have a sense of what their people issues are and how they are being addressed,” says Galvin. “By encouraging employees of all levels to have a direct and honest line with HR, these sorts of issues can be spotted before they snowball and run rampant on a company’s culture.”
- State of business. Nearly everything has changed about business. When you’re considering changes in the employee experience – for instance, moving back on-site full-time – make it clear to employees early and often so they can plan.
- Your stance. While you don’t have to take sides on any social issues, employees appreciate it when employers are clear on whether leadership will speak up or not.
- Employment. As much as possible, show compassion with layoffs and terminations. Be honest about the possibility of separations or how employees could be affected in any difficult time.
“Both Quiet Quitting and Quiet Firing are part of a bigger conversation about the relationship between employers and employees,” Hassell says.