Quiet-firing is the situation in which a manager does not provide any coaching, leadership or mentorship to an employee, and the employee eventually quits feeling disillusioned with the workplace. In a context like this, the employee sees no career development or growth opportunities and prefers to leave the organization.
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Quiet-firing is different from quiet-quitting. In the latter context, the employee feels disenchanted with the job and their own ability to maintain a good work-life balance. It is a psychological withdrawal and disinterest that the employee experiences. The employee does not leave the organization, but has stopped putting in their best.
In the absolute worst case, quiet-firing happens in a toxic manner. The manager vitiates the work environment and makes life difficult for the employee. Either too much work is given, or none at all, or the communication from the manager becomes abusive. When things happen this way, it must be understood as gaslighting in the workplace.
Such extreme behavior by managers sullies the organization’s reputation. It can eventually impact business performance when key employees quit and customers follow suit.
A large population of managers though have the right intentions. They are nice folks to hang out with. But they are so caught up with either organizational politics or their own life challenges, that they fail to lead their teams anymore. This results in employees feeling lost and uncared for. So, when managers are occupying key positions but are absent from engaging actively, employees working with them start looking outside for opportunities. There is nothing said between people. Yet, soon, people start quitting.
This is why quiet-firing is a silent killer. Each employee who is a victim of quiet-firing could have actually been a huge asset, a good performer, had the manager provided them leadership and mentorship. The employee’s exit from the organization could have been totally avoided.
Let’s look at the top situations that absent managers create and also understand how to avoid these situations.
Situation # 1: Managers are disinterested in their employees’ growth
A recent survey by Gallup revealed that only 1 in 3 employees surveyed feels that their manager has spoken to them about their career goals in the past six months. There is no review of the progress an employee is making and no performance feedback is shared either.
This apathetic attitude of managers affects employee morale in a big way.
On the other hand, when managers hold a weekly review and have meaningful chats with their employees, overall productivity on the team goes up. Employees are enthusiastic and they deliver more.
So, the solution is a simple one: Hold a weekly review with each employee who is reporting to you.
Situation # 2: Managers withhold development opportunities for employees
The Gallup survey reports that 37 % of managers feel that they have not contributed to the development of their employees. Also, 25 % of employees feel that their managers do not help them grow in their careers.
The way to deal with this situation is to work closely with the employee and draw up their career growth plan and build in review milestones into this plan. This will encourage employees to give in their best. It will motivate them and keep them energized.
The solution again is practical and simple: Draw up a career growth plan and commit to conducting periodic reviews.
Situation # 3: Managers don’t recognize employees’ contributions
Employees feel very demotivated when their managers don’t recognize their efforts. 37 % of the employees surveyed by Gallup felt unrecognized at their workplace.
This is tragic.
It is a basic human need to feel wanted and recognized. When this is not fulfilled, naturally, employees begin to feel unwanted.
Managers must make it a point to have a robust rewards and recognition program for their teams. This program must be executed efficiently and effectively at regular intervals.
The solution is this: Launch a rewards and recognition program that is both objective and consistent.
The key is to have conversations regularly
Leading people is not difficult. Yet, it is not something that can be deprioritized either.
The way managers can avoid quiet-firing is by holding frequent and meaningful conversations with employees. This way, managers can demonstrate their keen interest in supporting the growth of employees. They must build a detailed career development plan for each employee and conduct reviews periodically and systematically. And finally, they must recognize the contributions of their employees in a timely and efficient manner. Each of these steps involves having and sustaining conversations with employees.
This is how quiet-firing can be avoided and attrition rates can be managed.
Managers often feel that despite all their efforts employees don’t necessarily perform. Must they then quiet-fire or let such employees leave?
This is where a true managerial skill like objective evaluation comes into play. Managers must evaluate their employees’ potential. Is the employee likely to make use of the conversations and growth plan and deliver in the future? Is the employee having all the skills and resources that are required to perform? Or is the employee lacking the basic drive that is crucial for high-performance?
A good manager will have to reflect on these questions for each employee. It is a very private and confidential assessment that the manager has to do. This cannot be delegated.
Has the manager quiet-quit?
In some cases, the manager has lost interest in their role and job. They are in the zone of quiet-quitting. So, their disinterest levels are high. And this, in turn, leads to them quiet-firing their team members.
This is where the executive leadership team comes in. Members of this team must be vigilant to spot the symptoms of managers’ quiet-quitting. And they must then have conversations with managers who are displaying these symptoms.
Ultimately, quiet-firing is a reflection of an organization’s culture. If the culture is not vibrant, employees, across all levels, will not be enthused. This, in turn, will lead to several pockets of disengagement. Managers will quiet-fire. Or managers will quiet-quit. Or both scenarios will happen. And this will have a cascading impact all through the organization.
So, the CEO and the leadership team must stay vigilant. They must ensure that the culture of the organization is always encouraging meaningful conversations at all levels. They must champion living by the values of the organization. They must themselves walk the talk.
It is only when leadership teams are agile and engaged that a phenomenon like quiet-firing can be kept in check. This is how organizations can thrive and nurture high-performance teams.